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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;(9):CD005937. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005937.pub3.

Treatments for suppression of lactation.

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Maternal and Fetal Health Research Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Obafemi Awolowo College of Health Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sagamu, Ogun State, Nigeria.



Various pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions have been used to suppress lactation after childbirth and relieve associated symptoms. Despite the large volume of literature on the subject, there is currently no universal guideline on the most appropriate approach for suppressing lactation in postpartum women.


To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of interventions used for suppression of lactation in postpartum women (who have not breastfed or expressed breastmilk) to determine which approach has the greatest comparative benefits with least risk.


We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 June 2012).


Randomised trials evaluating the effectiveness of treatments used for suppression of postpartum lactation.


Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data.


We included 62 trials (6428 women). Twenty-two trials did not contribute data to the meta-analyses. The trials were generally small and of limited quality. Three trials (107 women) indicated that bromocriptine significantly reduced the proportion of women lactating compared with no treatment at or within seven days postpartum (three trials, 107 women; risk ratio (RR) 0.36, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.24 to 0.54). Seven trials involving oestrogen preparations (diethylstilbestrol, quinestrol, chlorotrianisene, hexestrol) suggested that they significantly reduced the proportion of lactating women compared with no treatment at or within seven days postpartum (RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.56). We found no trials comparing non-pharmacologic methods with no treatment. Trials comparing bromocriptine with other pharmacologic agents such as methergoline, prostaglandins, pyridoxine, carbegoline, diethylstilbestrol and cyclofenil suggested similarity in their effectiveness. Side effects were poorly reported in the trials and no case of thromboembolism was recorded in the four trials that reported it as an outcome.


There is weak evidence that some pharmacologic treatments (most of which are currently unavailable to the public) are better than no treatment for suppressing lactation symptoms in the first postpartum week. No evidence currently exists to indicate whether non-pharmacologic approaches are more effective than no treatment. Presently, there is insufficient evidence to address the side effects of methods employed for suppressing lactation. When women desire treatment, bromocriptine may be considered where it is registered for lactation suppression in those without predisposition to its major side effects of public concerns. Many trials did not contribute data that could be included in analyses. Large randomised trials are needed to compare the effectiveness of pharmacologic (especially bromocriptine) and non-pharmacologic methods with no treatment. Such trials should consider the acceptability of the intervention and lactation symptoms of concern to women and be large enough to detect clinically important differences in major side effects between comparison groups.

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