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Raised cholesterol and breastfeeding

When I was working as an independent pharmacist prescriber my main role was to look at primary prevention of cardio vascular disease – identifying factors which raised the risk of people to have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. I used an online calculator using various data like BMI, smoking status, blood pressure and cholesterol ( https://qrisk.org/three/). I didnt see many breastfeeding patients and we concentrated on the over 50s. But in the process I learned a lot about managing weight and encouraging a healthy diet and portion size, smoking cessation and control of cholesterol. In many cases we managed to reduce the risk with lifetyle changes.

It seems that mothers may now have their cholesterol measure and advised that it is too high. I had 20 -30 minute appoitments to encourage lifestyle change. This isnt possible for GPs with pressures on appointments so often the mothers are offered medication to reduce cholesterol. Until recently the only drug compatible with breastfeeding was cholestryamine. This is fine if there isnt a history of familial hypercholesterolaemia and a much higher risk of a cardio vascular event.

A colleague pointed me to some data on elactancia which had a very different list of references and information on cholesterol in standard artificial formula. Thus began a journey to this factsheet over the past couple of months. It isnt a recommendation, as there are currently no studies on the use of statins during breastfeeding nor the effect on the baby . However, it looks at an evidence base which can prompt discussion with clinicians. I hope it helps.

My thanks to Sam Morris and Amanda Da Costa for their knowledge and support as pharmacists and breastfeeding helpers on the BfN Drugs in Breastmilk Information Service

Raised cholesterol and breastfeeding factsheet