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I have just come across a study by Swansea University, catchily-named Associations of drugs routinely given in labour with Breastfeeding at 48hrs: analysis of the Cardiff births survey that has found that routine use of synthetic hormones during the third stage of labour appears to reduce the chances of successful breastfeeding.

Once again, the report doesn’t take the common-sense option of recommending that the use of the synthetic hormones be restricted to those cases where they are shown to be necessary.  Instead they insist that universal managed third stage should continue but that health professionals should be aware of this evidence and provide more breastfeeding support.

Considering that the hormones can be given if the mother appears to be bleeding too much, and that ‘too much’ is defined as 1litre in France and 500ml here (so what does that make you think about our 500ml limit?) and that there are other undesirable side effects to the drugs this advice doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

The study found that the universal administration of synthetic hormones in the third stage reduces the rate of breastfeeding by 6-8%!  This amounts to up to 50,000 babies who are not breastfed every YEAR in the UK alone.  For those 50,000 babies who would potentially be breastfed the cases of adult obesity would reduce by 1000, the cases of asthma in the first 9 years of life would reduce by 2-3000, and the cases of breast cancer in those mothers would also be reduced.

So the fact is that only a tiny minority of these women would have experienced a PPH, and those women could havebeen given the injection of synthetic hormones at that point then the real health benefits of increasing the number of breastfed babies are being jeopardised by the supposed benefits of universal managed third stage.

More information about PPH generally, but also specifically in relation to home births can be found here on the homebirth.org website.

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