Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From the File Marked 'Duh'

I have a feeling this will be an ongoing series.

The topic for today, a succinct, to-the-point article from the BBC: "[D]rugs used during labor, such as those given to prevent hemorrhaging after birth, could lower the rate of breastfeeding." The specific culprits identified in this study, examining over 48,000 women, included drugs used to treat hemorrhaging, like our good old buddy synthetic oxytocin as well as ergometrine. Pain medication was also a factor: "The Swansea University team also confirmed high doses of painkilling drugs have a similar effect." The impact of these effects on mothers and children in Great Britain:

They found use of the drugs oxytocin or ergometrine to cut the risk of haemorrhage was associated with an overall 7% decline in the proportion who started breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth. Among women who were not given the drugs, two-thirds (65.5%) started breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth. But among those given a shot of oxytocin the breastfeeding rate was 59.1%, and among those who were given an additional injection of ergometrine the rate fell to just 56.4%.

This could mean that their initial attempts to breastfeed may end in frustration, and that many give up rather than persevering. The link between painkilling drugs and lower rates of breastfeeding has already been established, and has led to revised NHS guidance on the use of epidurals in labour. Lead researcher Dr Sue Jordan said more research was required, but based on the study's findings use of the clotting drugs could lead to up to 50,000 fewer British babies being breastfed every year. She calculated that this could mean an extra 1,000 children becoming clinically obese, and 3,000 developing childhood asthma . . .

Rosemary Dodds, policy research officer for the National Childbirth Trust, said women needed more support to start breastfeeding. She said: "A lot of women are not given enough information about the medications that might be given to them during childbirth, and women at low risk of bleeding may not need to take these drugs. It is important that women understand the risks and can give their informed consent before they go into labour."

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad this study came out. But is it really all that surprising, given everything we now know about the intricate hormonal process that is normal physiological labor, one component affecting the next, and in turn the next, and then the next, all in an incredible biofeedback system. Dr Michel Odent in particular has waxed positively rhapsodical about these miraculous mechanisms and the resulting "love cocktail" of hormones we are meant to be born into, and rightly so. From pain to endorphin to oxytocin to prolactin, it's all interconnected. How can we possibly think that interfering with even one of these could NOT have an impact on everything else that follows?

I again quote my favorite onscreen heroine of all time:

"Does the word 'duh' mean anything to you?"


  1. And I just have to point out that the actress who played Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, serendipitously just had her first baby days ago! Cosmic.

  2. I had no idea Sarah Michelle Gellar was pregnant. I, too, love Buffy.
    I was given some pain killers after my natural (drug-free) birth because I had some pain (duh!) and was no longer concerned about the effects of the drugs on my daughter or the birth progression. I wasn't told until days later that the meds were passed in my breastmilk and would make her too sleepy to try to eat. No more meds for mommy.

  3. Yikes! I'm glad you found out relatively quickly, but man, I wish they had told you upfront!