Effect of epidural vs. general anesthesia on breastfeeding

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1988;67(3):207-9. doi: 10.3109/00016348809004203.


In a prospective interview study, two groups each consisting of 28 sectio caesarea patients were compared concerning the course of breastfeeding. The women in the two groups were delivered under either epidural analgesia or general anesthesia. The two groups were identical with respect to age, parity, participation in antenatal preparatory courses and former breastfeeding. A significantly higher breastfeeding frequency and longer breastfeeding periods were were found after epidural analgesia than after general anesthesia.

PIP: Researchers interviewed 56 cesarean section patients, divided into 2 groups of 28 each by the type of anesthesia used, concerning breastfeeding. These 2 groups (average age of 27.8 years) were compared to each other and a control group of 28 patients who delivered vaginally. Each study group included 17 (61%) primigravidae and 11 (39%) 2nd gravidae who breast fed their 1st infant. An uncomplicated postpartum period existed for 82% of the patients administered epidural anesthesia (EA) and 79% for general anesthesia (GA) patients. Skin contact immediately following birth was reported to occur in 82% of EA patients and did not occur in the GA group. In terms of eye contact immediately following birth, it occurred in 21% of EA patients and not at all with GA patients. All EA patients had experienced physical bonding with their infants within 8 hours of birth, while physical bonding did not occur until 12 hours after birth for GA patients. 96% of EA patients established breastfeeding by the 7th day, whereas 89% of GA patients did so. Significantly more EA patients continued to breastfeed after discharge and maintained it longer than did those in the GA group. After 3 months, 89% of the EA patients breastfed their infants, and only 61% of the GA patients breastfed (p.025). By 6 months the percentage of EA patients breastfeeding decreased to 71%, while the percentage of GA patients decreased to 39% (p.025). In the control group of vaginal deliveries, the breastfeeding frequencies were similar to the EA group. Based on these findings, EA is recommended as the preferred anesthesia for cesarean sections in women who wish to breastfeed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural*
  • Anesthesia, General*
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies