Breastfeeding for >12 months was found to be associated with a reduced risk for hypertension and diabetes, according to results of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Network Open.
Lactation has been associated with reduced rates of postpartum diabetes and hypertension, however, sample sizes from studies in which those associations were examined had small sample sizes. In this review, researchers searched the Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL, and CINAHL databases to identify studies in which primary hypertension and diabetes were examined in adult women who had breastfed their children for ≥12 months. The researchers followed reporting guidelines from the Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology and the American Heart Association.
A total of 1558 studies were identified in this search, 6 of which met the inclusion criteria for the association between breastfeeding and diabetes and/or hypertension. The meta-analysis was conducted on 4 and 5 studies for the association between lactation and diabetes (n=206,204) and between lactation and hypertension (n=255,271), respectively.
Breastfeeding for >12 months was associated with a relative risk reduction of 30% for diabetes (pooled odds ratio: 0.70; 95% CI, 0.62-0.78; P <.001) and a relative risk reduction of 13% for hypertension (pooled odds ratio: 0.87; 95% CI, 0.78-0.97; P =.01).
Study limitations include the lack of inclusion of randomized clinical trials in the meta-analysis, which may have led to confounding bias, and the fact that lactation history was often self-reported years after patients had given birth, which may have led to recall bias.
“The prenatal and antenatal period is an important opportunity to educate women about lifestyle interventions that may protect their health in the future,” noted the study authors. “In addition to weight loss, smoking cessation, and exercise, breastfeeding should also be recommended owing to its benefits for the mother.”
Rameez RM, Sadana D, Kaur S, et al. Association of maternal lactation with diabetes and hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis [published online October 16, 2019]. JAMA Netw Open. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13401