BreastfeedingPuerperal mastitis: symptoms, causes and treatment

Puerperal mastitis: symptoms, causes and treatment

Puerperal mastitis is a very common type of mastitis during breastfeeding. What are its symptoms and what causes it? We discover everything you need to know about it.

The mastitis is basically the inflammation of the mammary gland, which can actually be affected by a wide variety of causes, many of them wildly different, but very often usually associated with breastfeeding.

But obviously it is not the only one: for example, the massive production of the hormone prolactin (which stimulates the production of breast milk), or even the presence of a mastopathy (benign breast alteration), can cause an inflammation of the mammary gland of the woman. And only in rare cases can it be caused by breast cancer or certain types of tumors.

For this reason, given that mastitis outside the breastfeeding period is considered rare, at the slightest symptom it is advisable to go to the doctor, who will probably ask for certain tests that help in the diagnosis: such as ultrasound scans, mammograms and blood tests. In fact, in general, this type of inflammation tends to become chronic, and is also recurrent.

We can find ourselves before a bacterial or infectious mastitis. In these cases, the main “culprit” is a bacterium known by the name of Staphylococcus aureus (considered in fact to be the most common prototype of the species causing acute mastitis), although it is not the only one. It can also be caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis.

The mastitis is one of the conditions that besides the sore or cracked nipples breasts can suffer when the baby is breastfed. It is an infection that occurs in the ducts through which breast milk circulates.

From a medical point of view, as we briefly indicated at the beginning of this note, mastitis consists of inflammation of the mammary gland, which occurs as a result of an obstruction of the milk ducts. For this reason, mastitis is also known by the names of ductal ectasiaperiductal inflammation or subareolar abscess.

In case mastitis occurs during the breastfeeding period (during which the mother is actually breastfeeding the baby), it is known by the medical name of puerperal mastitis, or also by the names of postpartum mastitis or mastitis infectious. This occurs when it occurs in lactating mothers, so that non-puerperal mastitis is the one that occurs in the rest of the cases.

Symptoms of puerperal mastitis

The symptoms that can alert you that you could be affected by mastitis are the following:

  • Symptoms similar to when you have a cold, tiredness, chills.
  • Fever.
  • Localized pain
  • Sensation of excessive heat in the breasts, in both or only one (where mastitis has occurred).
  • Redness in the breast.
  • Palpable and diffuse masses of variable size in the breasts.
  • Abscesses

That is, the most common symptom is severe pain and inflammatory signs, such as redness, induration, and swelling. The pain tends to feel like “pricks”, and areas of induration and cracks may appear.

In the presence of any of these symptoms, it is necessary to go to the doctor to make the pertinent review and prescribe the appropriate medication.

What are the causes of puerperal mastitis?

If the mastitis has not been caused by an infection, in the case of puerperal mastitis it is caused by two reasons: either by the accumulation of milk in the breasts, or by plugged milk ducts.

When there is puerperal mastitis, infection can also occur. In these cases it is due to the above, or in turn to the existence of germs that invade the breast tissue through fissures or cracks in the nipples (so common during breastfeeding).

Treatment of puerperal mastitis

When the existence of an infection is confirmed, antibiotics are usually used, in addition to prolactin inhibitors. Likewise, the consumption of paracetamol or ibuprofen helps reduce and relieve pain.

On the other hand, medical specialists advise the application of warm, wet wipes directly on the breasts. In addition, contrary to what is erroneously thought, it is advisable to breastfeed your baby more frequently, always in greater quantity from the affected breast.


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