When it comes to women’s health studies, breastfeeding is at the forefront of many positive effects on the female body. Yet another study now shows that breastfeeding may reduce risk of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and irreparable condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. It is marked by pain and excessive bleeding during menstruation, painful sexual intercourse and intermittent pelvic pain. Approximately 10% of women in the U.S. suffer from endometriosis. The medical community is unsure what causes the condition and little is known about how to reduce risk factors, until now.
A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital concludes that breastfeeding may be one of the few known ways to reduce a woman’s risk factor for endometriosis. And the longer lifetime total time spent breastfeeding, and breastfeeding exclusively, decreases a new mom’s risk of the condition.
Of the thousands of women in the 20-year study, moms who breastfed for a year or more had 32% lower risk of developing endometriosis after pregnancy. Each additional three months spent nursing reduced risk even further, by 8% per 3-month span. The benefit was even greater for mothers who exclusively breastfed.
One reason researchers believe that breastfeeding may reduced risk of endometriosis is that lactation usually pauses menstrual cycles after childbirth. However, that is only part of the story. The hormones involved in lactation also have an impact on developing endometriosis.
The study included over 70,000 women over a 20-year span who self-reported their breastfeeding duration. Also, researchers acknowledge that some women may be living with endometriosis unknowingly because the pain may not have warranted a surgical diagnosis. Further research includes determining whether breastfeeding reduces symptoms of endometriosis for women who were diagnosed prior to pregnancy.
This incredible benefit is yet another win for breastfeeding and further contributes to public health initiatives aimed at increasing breastfeeding awareness. The benefits for mothers and babies are undeniable and the list keeps growing.
Sources: NY Times and Science Daily