Medical professionals are studying the long-term effects of breastfeeding
Does Breastfeeding Really Benefit Mothers? Researchers found that the health benefits of breastfeeding affect both mother and child and can last for decades. Breastfeeding in mothers reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes by almost a fifth.
In their investigation, the scientists from the internationally recognized University of Oxford found that breastfeeding protects mothers from heart attacks and strokes in the long term. The doctors published the results of their study in the medical journal "Journal of the American Heart Association".
Breastfeeding reduces fat deposits during pregnancy
The very large international study found that women who breastfeed their babies reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke by almost a fifth. The current study has shown that breastfeeding helps the female body to adjust properly after pregnancy. The metabolism of women changes drastically during pregnancy. For example, the female body accumulates fat to drive the baby's growth. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the faster and more completely such fat deposits are broken down, explains Dr. Peters from the University of Oxford. Without breastfeeding, these metabolic changes persist and can even have long-term health effects.
How does breastfeeding affect in the long term?
For their study, the doctors examined almost 300,000 Chinese women between the ages of 30 and 79. The participants were medically monitored for a period of eight years. When women were breastfeeding, the likelihood of heart disease was reduced by 9 percent, the risk of stroke decreased by 8 percent compared to women who were not breastfeeding, the scientists explain.
More breastfeeding leads to more benefits
If the women breastfeed more, the benefits will be greater. The women who had breast-fed their child for at least two years showed an approximately 18 percent lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Every additional six months of breastfeeding corresponded to a reduced risk of heart disease of 4 percent, the researchers say.
Women who live healthy also benefit from breastfeeding
The study also took physiological factors such as smoking, drinking, obesity, diabetes and blood pressure into account. In addition, the income and level of education were also taken into account, the researchers say. These factors changed the results only minimally. This suggests that very healthy women could also benefit from breastfeeding, explains Dr. Peters.
Previous studies have shown conflicting results
The current investigation was only a so-called observational study. Thus, it does not prove that breastfeeding has actively led to the identified benefits, experts from the University of Oxford say. However, the study carried out is the largest of about a dozen studies that examined the effects of breastfeeding on the future health of mothers. Some of these studies have had somewhat conflicting results. For example, some indicated that the identified benefits only take about two years to emerge. There have also been studies that claim that prolonged breastfeeding can be counterproductive, the authors say.
Women in developing countries seem to particularly benefit from the effects
The new study had a huge sample size and the detailed amount of data gave extra weight to the findings, say the experts. Longer breastfeeding could therefore particularly benefit maternal health in developing countries, where general breastfeeding is higher than in western countries. (as)