Pregnancy, Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Early Menopause, Study Suggests

Mother nurses baby.

Women who breastfed their infants exclusively for 7 to 12 months may have a lower risk of early menopause, study finds.

Photo: Tuned_In/iStock

Women who breastfed their infants exclusively for 7 to 12 months may have a significantly lower risk of early menopause than their peers who breastfed their infants for less than a month, according to an analysis funded by NIH. The study also suggests that pregnancy can reduce the risk of early menopause.

The study was conducted by Christine Langton of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and colleagues. It appears in JAMA Network Open. Funding was provided by NICHD and NCI.

“The study results provide the strongest evidence to date that exclusive breastfeeding may reduce the risk of early menopause,” said Dr. Lisa Halvorson of the NICHD Gynecological Health and Disease Branch, which oversaw the research.

Previous studies have suggested that menopause before age 45 (early menopause) increases the risk of early death, cognitive decline, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Smaller studies have found evidence linking pregnancy and breastfeeding with later menopause, but because of their size and other limitations, the results are inconclusive. Moreover, the earlier studies focused on timing of menopause and not on the risk of early menopause.