Could Breastfeeding Reduce the Pain You Feel After a C-Section?

According to new research, breastfeeding may be able to protect against the chronic pain many women experience after giving birth by C-section.

Breastfeeding and C-Section Pain Dmytro Mykhailov/Shutterstock
It's no secret that breastfeeding offers up benefits for both mothers and their babies—but new research supports the idea that C-section moms may reap one additional benefit from the act.

C-sections come with their fair share of pain, and dealing with this can be incredibly tough for new moms who are working through the discomfort to care for their children—but one aspect of childcare may actually decrease that pain. Moms who breastfeed for at least two months are three times less likely to experience prolonged pain after C-section deliveries, according to research presented at the Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva.

In the context of this study, chronic pain after C-section refers to pain that persists for longer than three months after birth, and about 1 in 5 women who deliver this way report feeling pain in this timeframe. Authors discovered the link to breastfeeding after interviewing 185 mothers who gave birth via C-section about their nursing habits and levels of pain. 

Even when they accounted for variables that could affect pain levels  (like surgical technique, maternal education, age and anxiety levels), they identified this relationship: Just 8 percent of the mothers who breastfed for two months or longer experienced chronic pain four months after delivery, while 1 in 4 of the women who breastfed two months or less reported persistent pain.

Researchers also identified two surprising findings: That over half of the mothers surveyed experienced anxiety, and that the college-educated women were less likely to feel chronic pain.

"These preliminary results suggest that breastfeeding for more than two months protects against chronic post-caesarean pain, with a three-fold increase in the risk of chronic pain if breastfeeding is only maintained for two months or less," the study's authors said, according to a release for the news. "Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed. It's possible that anxiety during breastfeeding could influence the likelihood of pain at the surgical site 4 months after the operation."