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Anita Moorhead does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Late in their pregnancies, some women notice colostrum early milk leaking from their nipples. Some hospitals are advising women to collect this milk in the last weeks of pregnancy, ready to give to their newborn baby, if needed.
Midwives, doctors and lactation consultants may suggest this in particular to women with diabetes in pregnancy. Although collecting colostrum before giving birth is not new, it is now more widely promoted. Yet there has been little research on the practice.
And some people are concerned that collecting it when pregnant could bring on labour early, potentially increasing the risk to mother and baby. So is it safe for women to collect their own colostrum while pregnant?
And are there some situations that are more risky than others? The amount women collect varies from nothing, to a few drops, to a teaspoonful or more. They collect it in a syringe or small sterile jar, which they store in the freezer at home. They then bring it still frozen to the hospital when they give birth, where it is thawed if needed to give to the newborn baby while he or she is one or two days old.
Before birth, all babies receive a continuous supply of food in the form of glucose from their mother. This stops suddenly at birth and as babies transition to life outside the womb they have a period of low blood sugar hypoglycaemia. However, this adaptation to outside life takes longer for babies of mothers with diabetes. About one in four or five of these babies develop hypoglycaemia soon after birth.
If untreated, this could cause seizures or brain damage. So babies of women with diabetes are more likely to be admitted to a special care nursery for treatment.
But if the mother has a small supply of breast milk ready to feed the baby — a few millilitres in a syringe or spoon — they could avoid this. If the mother has collected colostrum before birth, the newborn baby may also be less likely to need infant formula, which has a of risks to the immature gut. Other women may want to express milk before giving birth because they had a low milk supply with a baby or they know their baby has a medical condition that might make it hard to breastfeed well, like a heart condition.
While there can be short-term benefits to newborn babies from being fed colostrum expressed before birth, no one has studied if there are any longer-term benefits.Watch Dr. C. S. Indra Mohan, Consultant General Surgeon, talk about Breast nipple discharge
By stimulating their nipples and expressing milk while pregnancy, women could bring on regular contractions of the womb and give birth early. This is because nipple stimulation le to an increase in the hormone oxytocinwhich plays a role in both milk let-down and contraction of the womb. Another concern is that stimulating the nipple and the increased contractions could reduce blood flow to the womb. So, expressing while pregnant is not recommended when the foetus is not growing well, or has other medical conditions such as macrosomia excessive weightor there is too much fluid in the womb.
Our studypublished today in The Lancet, found that expressing while pregnant is safe for women with diabetes in low-risk pregnancies in late pregnancy from around 36 weeks.
After studying over women, we found no increase in early births or admissions to neonatal intensive care. Before our trial, researchers had only run three small studies of expressing colostrum while pregnant, and no randomised trials for women without diabetes. So, our advice to women with questions about expressing while pregnant is to ask their health care professional about their individual situation.
They are best placed to discuss the risks and benefits. Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Some women, especially with diabetes, are recommended to express milk while still pregnant and to save it for their newborn.Chat with girls have milky boobs
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