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Call for breastfeeding data collection to measure medicine impact

2 August 2022

[Swansea University press release]

A new paper from Swansea University in collaboration with ConcePTION (opens in new tab), an Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has called for breastfeeding data to be routinely collected in healthcare databases so that the long-term impacts of medicines taken by women during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, can be better understood.

In the paper, (opens in new tab) which has been published in the International Breastfeeding Journal, researchers argue that the lack of data collection on breastfeeding represents a significant ‘blind spot’ leading to an ‘information desert’ in understanding the impact that taking medicines during and after pregnancy, has on breastfeeding rates and long-term infant development.

Researchers recommend that it should now be a priority that data on breastfeeding and medicines used by women during and after pregnancy and in labour are included in population databases along with data on subsequent child neurodevelopment, so that meaningful research can take place into the benefits and harms of medicines.

The authors report that population databases should link data on three factors: medicine exposure; breastfeeding and infant development. It notes that across Europe, few population databases hold data on all three together, and there is little uniformity in outcomes, definitions, methods and timing of assessments.

Professor Sue Jordan (opens in new tab) of the university’s Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Science, who led the research said: “Currently there is poorly standardised recording of breastfeeding in most population databases and it is this that hampers analysis and understanding of the complex relationships between medicine, pregnancy, breastfeeding and infant and maternal health.

Professor Christine Damase-Michel, Pharmacologist at the Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital of Toulouse (INSERM CERPOP) said: “There is an urgent need to have high-quality linked data on medicines, long term childhood outcomes and modifiable risk factors, including breastfeeding so that robust analyses of medicine-related benefits and harms can take place, which will ultimately allow women to take informed decisions when making choices on their own medical treatment, and breastfeeding.”

The ConcePTION project (opens in new tab) was initiated because we believe that we have an important societal obligation to radically and rapidly reduce uncertainty about the effects of medication used during pregnancy and breastfeeding to benefit women in making informed decisions about medications used before, during and after pregnancy.