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Rheumatoid arthritis tied to less breastfeeding, earlier cessation

08 Sep 2019

Rheumatoid arthritis appears to contribute to lower proportions of women breastfeeding their offspring and earlier cessation compared with the general population, a study has shown.

“A considerable number of patients discontinued breastfeeding so that they could start medication, even though many of the medications are considered safe to use during lactation,” the authors said.

This study, which was embedded in the nationwide prospective cohort PARA* study, sought to compare breastfeeding frequencies and time of cessation between women with RA and the general population, and to identify why patients with RA discontinued breastfeeding.

The authors followed a total of 249 pregnancies from pregnancy until 6 months postpartum from 2002 to 2008 and collected data on lactation and medication use. Percentages of breastfeeding between the study population and the general/reference population were compared using proportion tests.

Of the RA patients, 43 percent breastfed their offspring at 4–6 weeks postpartum, 26 percent at 12 weeks and 9 percent at 26 weeks compared with 63 percent, 46 percent and 41 percent in the general population, respectively (p<0.001).

Women discontinued breastfeeding primarily due to the restart of their medication (n=129; 57.8 percent). Of note, >40 percent of these patients restarted medication that was considered safe for breastfeeding.

“Using the results of this study, intervention strategies supporting RA patients who wish to breastfeed may be developed,” the authors said.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants until the age of 6 months, the authors noted.

*Pregnancy-induced Amelioration of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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