Breastfeeding and pregnancy could lower risk of early menopause

Woman breastfeeding baby.

Breastfeeding can offer many health benefits for women and their babies. Now there’s another potential one.

A recent study found that women who breastfeed may have a lower risk of early menopause. Early menopause—menopause before age 45— can lead to faster bone loss, cognitive decline, and heart disease.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that women who breastfed exclusively for seven to 12 months had a 28% lower risk of early menopause than those who breastfed for less than a month. Women who breastfed for a total of 25 months or more had a 26% lower risk.

The study’s results also suggest that pregnancy itself may reduce the risk of early menopause. Compared with women who had never been pregnant or who had been pregnant for less than six months, those who had a full-term pregnancy had an 8% lower risk of early menopause. Those who had two pregnancies had a 16% lower risk, and those who had three pregnancies had a 22% lower risk.

Researchers theorize that reproductive events that slow or halt ovulation, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding, may be associated with delayed menopause.

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