New European research suggests that breastfeeding after a caesarean section could help women reduce the pain experienced after the operation.

Around a quarter of all births in the U.K., U.S., and Canada are carried out by C-section, with chronic pain -- pain lasting for more than 3 months -- after the procedure affecting around 1 in 5 mothers.

Although it is well known that breast milk is the most important and suitable nutrition for infants in early life, up until now little has been known about the potential effect of breastfeeding on a mother's experience of chronic pain after C-section.

To investigate further, the new study, carried out by a team from Hospital Universitario Nuestra Señora de Valme in Sevilla, Spain, looked at 185 mothers who underwent a C-section at the hospital between January 2015 and December 2016.

The researchers interviewed the mothers about their breastfeeding habits and the level of chronic pain at the surgical site in the first 24 and 72 hours after C-section, and again four months later.

The team also looked at other factors that could affect chronic pain, including surgical technique, pain in the first 24-72 hours, maternal education and occupation, and anxiety during breastfeeding.

The results showed that almost all of the mothers (87 per cent) breastfed their babies, with 58 per cent reporting that they breastfed for two months or longer.

From those who breastfed for at least two months, just 8 per cent still experienced chronic pain in the surgical site four months post-op, compared to 23 per cent of those who breastfed for two months or less.

The differences still held even after the team had taken into account the mother's age.

The team also found that mothers with a university education were much less likely to experience persistent pain compared to those with a lower level of education.

Other findings from the study included over half (54 per cent) of mothers who breastfed reported suffering from anxiety, with the team's current research also finding that anxiety is associated with chronic post-caesarean pain in a statistically significant way.

The findings were presented over the weekend at this year's Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva (3-5 June).