Groundbreaking study finds major breastfeeding health benefit's for mothers
[Aug 7, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]
A new South Australian study sheds light on a surprising health benefit for mothers who breastfeed for six months or longer. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)
In an era where motherhood and healthcare take center stage, a new South Australian study sheds light on a surprising health benefit for mothers who breastfeed for six months or longer. This groundbreaking research, conducted by experts from the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, suggests a lower risk of cardiovascular complications for these mothers for at least three years after childbirth.
The surprising discovery revolves around the cardio-metabolic advantages maternal health reaps from extended breastfeeding. This is especially significant for mothers who had complicated pregnancies. Such complications have long been associated with a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) later in life.
The fresh data, published in the esteemed International Breastfeeding Journal, offers hope to this demographic.
Drawn from a meticulous long-term study, the researchers monitored the health of 160 breastfeeding mothers following the birth of their children. A clear pattern emerged: women who breastfed their babies for a minimum of six months exhibited improved blood pressure rates and better body-weight recovery (reflected in their BMI) for up to three years post-childbirth.
Expert Insights: The Broader Implications
Senior researcher, Professor Claire Roberts, the brains behind the Pregnancy Health and Beyond (PHaB Lab) research group at Flinders University, articulated the significance of these findings. Roberts observed the positive impact particularly on women who had faced pregnancy complications. This group exhibited "lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol measures at three years postpartum."
In an interview, Professor Roberts, a distinguished member of the Flinders College of Medicine and Public Health, highlighted the broader implications of the findings. “Breastfeeding improves women’s cardio-metabolic risk factors. This is excellent news for new mothers potentially at risk of future cardiovascular and metabolic ailments,” she stated.
She further explained the gravity of the situation, “Pregnancy complications are intertwined with a heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases later on. The offspring of these mothers also face potential metabolic health challenges earlier in life.”
Flow chart of follow-up participant selection for the STOP three year follow-up study. (CREDIT: International Breastfeeding Journal)
It's noteworthy that breastfeeding’s benefits aren't limited to mothers. Emphasizing the comprehensive advantages, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. This practice not only offers neurological perks for babies but also, when continued beyond 12 months, significantly reduces chronic hypertension and diabetes in mothers.
This monumental study was spearheaded by University of Adelaide's PhD, Dr. Maleesa Pathirana. The research was a collaborative effort involving the Robinson Research Institute, the cardiology department of Lyell McEwin Hospital, and Flinders University. The team meticulously followed up on 280 women and their offspring from the 'Screening Tests to Predict Outcomes of Pregnancy' (STOP) study spanning from 2018 to 2021.
Dr. Pathirana, elucidating on the research's findings, mentioned, “Women who breastfed for at least six months showcased significantly improved metrics, including lower BMI, reduced blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and central blood pressure when compared to those who refrained.”
She emphasized the significant findings concerning mothers who faced major pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and gestational diabetes. “For women facing these complications, breastfeeding for six months or more led to considerably reduced blood pressure, enhanced cholesterol profiles, and lowered insulin levels in contrast to those who didn't breastfeed for the same duration. This points towards a holistic improvement in cardiovascular health."
Researchers aim to encourage and enable more mothers, especially those who've experienced complicated pregnancies, to breastfeed and potentially reduce their long-term risk of cardiovascular diseases. (Creative Commons)
While the results are promising, the South Australian researchers believe there's more work to be done. They advocate for more expansive studies involving a larger sample size to further validate their findings. This would entail comparing the health metrics of breastfeeding mothers against those who opt not to breastfeed.
Furthermore, recognizing the socio-economic disparities that often hinder the practice of breastfeeding, the researchers have called for increased interventions. They stress the need for more robust support mechanisms in disadvantaged or low socioeconomic regions. Their aim? To encourage and enable more mothers, especially those who've experienced complicated pregnancies, to breastfeed and potentially reduce their long-term risk of cardiovascular diseases.
In conclusion, while several factors play a role in a woman’s postpartum health, this South Australian study underscores the profound protective influence of breastfeeding against cardiovascular risks. For mothers worldwide, this research offers both reassurance and a clear path toward safeguarding their future health.
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