Can Breastfeeding Lower Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Although women are at greater risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to men, there may be something they can do to reduce their chances of developing this painful disease: breastfeeding.

Renowned for its health benefits to children, breastfeeding is also linked with lowering a woman’s risk for postpartum depression, Type 2 diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer, according to federal health authorities. Now, a new study gives women another reason to try breastfeeding their babies. In a recent study of women in China, researchers found that those who breastfed were about half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared to women who did not breastfeed.

Additionally, the longer a woman breastfed her children, the study found, the more her risk dropped.

It’s important to note that the study does not prove a cause-and-effect link but simply shows an association between breastfeeding and lowering the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

The study included data from more than 7,300 women who were 50 years of age or older. More than 95 percent of those with children said they had breastfed for at least one month. The study was published online in the journal Rheumatology.

Rheumatoid arthritis is different than other forms of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease that causes severe pain, swelling and stiffness. It can eventually mean loss of function in the joints.

Doctors cannot say what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Many believe it is affected by genetics, hormones and environmental issues, according to federal health authorities.

Source: Oxford University Press news release, National Institutes of Health

+ Learn about Magic Hour at Bon Secours, a special program that encourages bonding between a mother and her newborn after delivery.

+ Read more about the many benefits of breastfeeding.

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