Positive Effects of Breast Feeding on the Risks of Endometriosis

Breastfeeding is not only good for your baby. Research proves that the act can reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack, postmenopausal osteoporosis, obesity and many more. Endometriosis is added to that list: A new study finds a relation between breastfeeding and decreased risk of the chronic disorder. A new study shows women who nurse their babies are less likely to get attacked by endometriosis, and the longer they breastfeed, the lower their risk.

Dr. Leslie V. Farland of Harvard Medical School in Boston, one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health in a telephone interview that- For women who are interested in reducing their risk for endometriosis, breastfeeding is one potential modifiable way that women can reduce their risk. I think the research builds off of what we already know, that breastfeeding can be beneficial for both mother and child.

This endometriosis risk is a condition where in which the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus, grows outside it. It has no cure. 10% of women in the U.S. have endometriosis. It causes chronic pain and can lead to fertility problems. Pain medication, hormone therapy, surgery to remove the misplaced uterine tissue and in some cases total hysterectomy are cure for this endometriosis.

Retrograde menstruation is a case in which menstrual blood “backs up” through the uterus into the fallopian tubes and out into the abdomen, could eventually lead to endometriosis. This is because many women stop menstruating while they are breastfeeding, being exposed to lesser periods could thus have a rescuing effect.

Dr. Farland and her team looked at 72,394 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study who had been pregnant for at least six months. No one in the participants is affected by endometriosis during his period. 3,296 were diagnosed with endometriosis during follow-up. Women who had breast-fed during their reproductive years for at least 3 years have 40% less possibility to get affected by endometriosis than those who breastfeed for less than a month.

“Given the chronic nature of endometriosis and that very few modifiable risk factors are currently known, breast-feeding may be an important modifiable behavior to reduce the risk of endometriosis among women after pregnancy,” Farland said in a hospital news release.

It is not totally confirmed if women who breast-feed are less likely to get attacked by endometriosis or if they are just less likely to become symptomatic and seek out a surgical evaluation to confirm the diagnosis.
Dr. Farland and her colleagues suggest that the hormonal changes women experience during breastfeeding, including higher oxytocin levels and lower estrogen levels, could also play a role.

Our results aren’t generalizable to women who have endometriosis before pregnancy. – Dr Farland said.
While this study only included women who were diagnosed with endometriosis in the postpartum period, researchers are curious as to whether breastfeeding could reduce symptoms in those who were diagnosed before getting pregnant.
Further studies must come to a conclusion whether breastfeeding could reduce symptoms in these women and clarify the mechanism responsible for breastfeeding’s protective effect.

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