The Side Effects of Flaxseed Oil While Breastfeeding

Flax oil is a dietary supplement commonly utilized for its high essential fatty-acid content. Flax oil has benefits for many conditions; however, its use by breastfeeding women has not been well studied to date. While the general consensus by childcare and lactation experts is that flax oil is safe, some major medical institutions are not ready to recommend its use by breastfeeding women.

Flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and a wood scooper. (Image: humonia/iStock/Getty Images)

Flax Oil Safety

Unfortunately, no consensus has been made on whether flax oil is safe for breastfeeding women. Few studies to date have reviewed its safety for nursing mothers or their babies. MayoClinic.com notes that animal studies on flax oil and breastfeeding revealed possible health risks, though they do not explain what these health risks actually are. While this may apply more to pregnant women who may be vulnerable to the potential hormonal changes caused by ingesting flax oil, MayoClinic.com does not recommend lactating women use the supplement while they are actively breastfeeding.

Increased Milk Supply?

In contrast to MayoClinic.com, Kellymom.com -- a leading online resource for breastfeeding mothers -- reports that flaxseed oil is indeed safe for breastfeeding moms. In fact, some women take it to increase their milk supply. Flax oil has some of the properties of a galactagogue: an herbal remedy that boosts milk production in lactating women. You should always check with your doctor before trying any supplement, especially when you are breastfeeding. However, some women whose milk supply is impacted by the lack of fatty acids in their diet may notice an increase in production if they use flax oil regularly. Even if your doctor gives approval to take a supplement, be sure to watch your infant for any unusual signs or symptoms.

Effect on Health Conditions

Some women should not use flaxseed oil, whether they are breastfeeding or not. This group includes women with high triglycerides and diabetes. MayoClinic.com notes that animal studies have demonstrated a link between flax oil intake and triglyceride levels, and flax oil has the potential to cause elevated blood-sugar levels in diabetics. However, most other health considerations, including digestive upsets and hormonal changes, are not caused by flaxseed oil but by the whole or ground flaxseeds themselves.

Excessive Bleeding

The term "excessive bleeding" refers not to menstruation but to the bleeding that occurs after an injury. Any woman who uses flax oil may experience blood thinning while on the supplement, whether she is breastfeeding or not. People who take blood thinners should avoid flax oil, because it can enhance the effects of these medications. This can be dangerous in the case of injury, when the blood would clot less easily. While the side effects of flax oil are rare, and mostly reported in animal cases, it is still best to check with your doctor before using flax oil. The safety concerns for flax oil may affect not only your own health but also that of your infant.

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