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Motherhood after spinal cord injury: lactation, breastfeeding, and autonomic dysreflexia.

Funder: Craig H Neilsen Foundation

Funding period
USD 79 K
Funding amount
Motherhood after Spinal Cord Injury: lactation, breastfeeding, and autonomic dysreflexia

This project will address the knowledge gap in understanding the underlying reasons for lactation and breastfeeding challenges among women with spinal cord injury (SCI). Although the female population is small among SCI persons, the majority of women are of child-bearing age. Consequently reproductive health is a significant factor for their quality of life (QOL) and an important part of their SCI management. Since fertility is not affected after SCI, most women with SCI are capable of giving birth to healthy children. However, women with SCI are often treated by health care providers who lack specific knowledge on managing pregnancy and postpartum in SCI patients. Obstetricians report limited awareness in this area. It was reported that only 10% of women with SCI found that the information given by obstetricians and other health personnel was adequate.

It is important to understand barriers that women with SCI face during lactation and breastfeeding and potential solutions. Our preliminary study, “Impact of Spinal Cord Injury on the Ability to Breastfeed,” focused on experiences of women with SCI and the potential impact of SCI on their lactation and breastfeeding ability. Up to 77.8% of surveyed women reported either lactation problems (insufficient milk production or ejection) or other difficulties with breastfeeding (child positioning, engorged breasts and sleep deprivation). The difference in exclusive breastfeeding duration for women with high SCI (3.3 months) and women with low SCI (6.5 months) is significant and alarming. Additionally, autonomic dysreflexia (AD), a complication following SCI, is much more common among women with SCI during breastfeeding (39% of women with high level SCI) than existing literature would suggest and is often not discussed in postpartum care. We intend to expand our previously used questionnaire and conduct a cross-sectional retrospective survey based on recollection regarding breastfeeding and complications of breastfeeding by females with SCI by three collaborating centers in Canada, Sweden, and the USA.

The outcomes of this project will improve the QOL of women with SCI during their postpartum period, specifically their experiences with lactation and breastfeeding as this will assist them to fully experience motherhood, to be independent, and to live in the communities of their choices. This project will serve as a foundation for future interventions, including education of consumers and service providers. The results from this project could serve as evidence-based support for obstetricians, midwifes and lactation consultants when discussing breastfeeding with new SCI mothers. Additionally, the prevalence of AD in breastfeeding SCI mothers is also a finding of clinical importance, as it may pose a serious threat to the well-being of mothers with SCI and such knowledge needs to be properly distributed.
(CHN: COandI chn:wdg)
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    1117 Public Health and Health Services

  • RCDC

    Injury (total) Accidents/Adverse Effects

  • RCDC

    Injury - Trauma - (Head and Spine)

  • RCDC


  • RCDC


  • RCDC

    Spinal Cord Injury

  • RCDC


  • RCDC



    Reproductive Health and Childbirth

  • Health Research Areas


  • Broad Research Areas

    Public Health