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What are the risks and discomforts associated with breastfeeding during pregnancy?

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By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary
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Breastfeeding during pregnancy can present risks of contractions, premature birth and low birth weight. Some discomfort may also occur including nausea, fatigue and sore nipples.

Low birth weight

Breastfeeding during pregnancy particularly increases the nutritional needs of the mother. She therefore needs to eat well in order to meet her energy, vitamin and mineral needs. Otherwise, the mother exposes the fetus to a risk of low birth weight.

Weight gain during pregnancy remains a good indicator: if the weight gain during pregnancy is correct, it means that the needs of the mother and fetus are met, preventing the risk of low birth weight. To learn more about weight gain during pregnancy, click here.

Contractions and premature birth

During the feeding, there is production of a hormone called oxytocin, associated with uterine contractions. These contractions are experienced during breastfeeding, even when there is no pregnancy, and are often mild and are rather closer to false contractions. The contractions caused by oxytocin on their own cannot initiate labor and would not be associated with a risk of miscarriage or premature labor.

If the mother has strong contractions while breastfeeding, it is best to stop the breastfeeding session and note if the contractions continue. If strong contractions are felt near term, the doctor will most likely stop recommending breastfeeding.

Nausea

Nausea is a common discomfort associated with pregnancy and hormonal changes. However, when breastfeeding during pregnancy, the nausea may intensify, especially during a feeding. This discomfort may cause the mother to stop breastfeeding. For more information on how to relieve nausea, see the following article here.

Fatigue

Pregnancy and lactation each require lots of energy from the mom. Fatigue is therefore not unusual. Breastfeeding can be a time of rest for some mothers. To make this a relaxing activity, it is possible for example to breastfeed in a reclining position to be more stress-free.

Nipple pain

Nipple pain is often reported by lactating women during pregnancy. This pain is associated with the hormonal changes of pregnancy. It is then possible to reduce the number, duration and intensity of feedings. To ensure that the needs of the breastfeeding baby are still met, see the following article here.

These drawbacks are felt differently from mother to mother and can influence their choice of whether to continue breastfeeding or not. For a mother who wants to continue breastfeeding despite the presence of discomfort, it would be beneficial to consult a lactation consultant to get tools adapted to the situation that will help optimize the experience. To help you decide whether a lactation consultant is necessary, click here.

References

  • Allard, M. et Desrochers, A. (2010). Bien vivre l'allaitement. Montréal : Éditions Hurtubise HMH.
  • Ishii, H. (2009). Does breastfeeding induce spontaneous abortion? Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. 45(5), 864-868.
  • Kellymom. A new look at the safety of breastfeeding during pregnancy. http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-preg/bfpregnancy_safety/
  • La leche league. (2016). I’m pregnant and still nursing my toddler, must I wean now?. http://www.lalecheleague.org/faq/bfpregnant.html
  • Mohrbacher, N. et Stock, J. (2003). The breastfeeding answer book (3e éd). Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche League International.
  • Moscone, S. et Moore, J. (1993). Breastfeeding during pregnancy. Journal of Human Lactation, 9(2), 83-88.
  • Riordan, J. (2005). Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (3e éd.). Jones and Bartlett Publishers: Sudbury.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada has contributed financially to the production of Nurturing Life.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.