Research matters, and a small group of scientists in Norway is keenly interested in Diastasis Symphysis Pubis. Lucky for all of us, a longitudinal study of thousands of Norwegian women has provided data for them to mine. A study released in October in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, concludes that women who sustain Pelvic Girdle Pain and continue to breastfeed actually improve more than those who don’t.
I haven’t been able to track down the full study yet, it’s in route to me through my local library. But I found the abstract. I can’t tell from the abstract what the average symphysis gap is for the women in question, but because they have been diagnosed with PGP they are experiencing symptoms such as pain, limited mobility and the like. The results of the study showed no link between breastfeeding and pain at five months and at 18 months, those who were still breastfeeding were experiencing fewer symptoms. The researchers concluded that “breastfeeding was associated with a small beneficial effect on the recovery process of pelvic girdle pain in women with a body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2. Among women with pelvic girdle pain, breastfeeding should be encouraged in accordance with the existing child-feeding recommendations.” If your health care provider needs to be convinced, share this citation: Bjelland EK, Owe KM, Stuge B, Vangen S, Eberhard-Gran M. Breastfeeding and pelvic girdle pain: a follow-up study of 10 603 women 18 months after delivery. BJOG 2014; DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.13118.
Why is this important? Because many care providers, if they’ve heard about PGP and DSP at all, think that the hormone Relaxin, which stays active in your body longer if you breastfeed, is a culprit in the pain you’re feeling. Because of that assumption, purported in lots of older research, they’re likely to advise you to stop breastfeeding.
That’s what happened in my case. I believe my provider did his best to research, and everything he found discussed the role of Relaxin in limited recovery. He brought an article to our appointment, in fact. I didn’t know anything that would contradict that, so it made sense when my surgeon said I had to be prepared to wean my son beginning just after surgery. My son received about eight-months of breast milk, but deserved more. Cutting that time with my son short had its own challenges. Had I known this then, I would have been able to have a deeper conversation with my provider. But knowing only what we did, my husband and I decided our son needed a health, mobile mom who could care for him more than he needed breast milk. Turns out, he should have had both.
According to guidance from the World Health Organization, “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
I really don’t think you can apply this study to your own situation. First of all, you had a traumatic diastasis, which we don’t know if ANY of these women had. Most likely they did not, because mingling them with regular PGP would have had too disparate results to study. Secondly, the association between short breastfeeding and increased pain was only found in women with a BMI above 25 (i.e. overweight women). One of my healthcare providers treats dozens of DSP women at a time, and maintains that every single one of them sees a benefit in pelvic stability (measuring stability, not pain relief) when they wean. I haven’t weaned yet (18 mos pp), but am looking forward to things hopefully tightening up a bit when I do. You may regret weaning when you did, but it was a choice made with the best information you had at the time.