According to the CDC, 32% of 2015 births in the United States were done by cesarean delivery. While pain is par for the course when recovering from major surgery, approximately one-fourth of mothers report chronic pain, or pain lasting several months or more at the scar site.
Researchers at the Hospital Universitario Nuestra Senora de Valme, located in Sevilla, Spain, compiled data on 185 women who delivered by C-section. Women were asked to determine their pain levels post-surgery both 24 and 72 hours after the procedure as well as four months post-procedure. Researchers also gathered data on each woman's breastfeeding habits and routines.
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87% of the mothers chose to breastfeed; of these mothers, 58% breastfed for two months or more. The data revealed that the longer a mother breastfeeds, the less she experiences pain at the surgical site. The study found that 22.8% of mothers who breastfed for under two months still reported chronic pain four months after giving birth. Only 8.3% of mothers who breastfed longer than two months reported chronic pain.
The team additionally compiled data on anxiety; mothers evaluated their feelings of anxiety post-surgery and researchers found that 53.8% of mothers who breastfed reported anxiety or its symptoms. Authors of the study suggested that feelings of anxiety may affect pain levels related to the surgical site four months post-delivery. Reducing anxiety levels may result in less pain as well.
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In the study's abstract, researchers concluded that "Preliminary results suggest that breastfeeding for more than two months protects against the chronicity of postcesarean pain in a statistically significant way with a risk three-fold increase in CPCP (chronic post-cesarean pain) if breastfeeding is maintained for only two months or less."
While the study has yet to be peer-reviewed, it does hold promise for the quarter of women who give birth by C-section every year. Researchers called for more study into this potentially positive aspect of breastfeeding.