“Oh, it hurts!” That was Kate’s expression when the doctor tried to examine her breast. She just couldn’t understand why her breasts would cause so much pain now that she had just delivered.
First, breast pain is common and sometimes normal for women. Second, it occurs during puberty for some, especially during their menstrual cycle. In addition, most women experience this pain during lactation.
In this article, you’d find out about breast engorgement during breastfeeding; the causes, symptoms, and 10 simple ways to relieve the pain.
What Is Breast Engorgement?
Breast engorgement is a breast swelling that results in a tender, painful breast. It’s a sign that the breast is painfully overfilled with milk. It usually occurs during lactation.
Engorgement During Pregnancy
Breast engorgement may happen before childbirth as the body prepares for nursing. The breast milk builds up in anticipation of a baby that’s yet to arrive, leading to breast engorgement.
Causes of Breast Engorgement During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, breast engorgement is caused mainly by a surge and imbalance in certain hormones. Usually, these hormones are oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Engorgement
The symptoms of breast engorgement are unique to each woman. However, the general symptoms include:
- Swelling, which may be contained to one or both breasts. It may also extend up towards the armpit
- Oedema (retention of fluid) in the affected breast
- Hardness or tightness of the affected breast which may lead to noticeable veins beneath the breast skin
- Warm on touch
- Feeling heavy or full
- Breast may appear shiny or transparent
- Nipple may become stretched and flattened
- Low-grade fever
- Lump on the affected breast.
10 Ways to Relieve Breast Engorgement
- Cold cabbage leaf compresses. This helps to relieve pain. Cabbage also contains anti-inflammatory substances which help to relieve inflammation (swelling).
- Use a cold compress or ice packs to ease swelling. Place a towel over your breast and apply an ice pack to the area. It helps to relieve swelling.
- Take warm baths. If you don’t get relieved after using applying a cold compress, you can try taking a warm bath. The heat can help to ease the tension by relaxing the surrounding muscles.
- Drink more water. This is a good way to relieve breast engorgement. Drinking excess water during the day will help to flush out excess hormones and fluids. If you like, you can add lemon or ginger to your water because they relieve soreness and pain.
- Take pain medication approved by your doctor. If the pain is becoming too much, you can take a pain relief drug but ensure that your doctor prescribes it. If the pain continues, you may need to see your doctor to check your breast in order to rule out any infection.
- Wear a more supportive bra. You need a supportive bra to keep your breast firm and avoid it making any significant movement. You can try out an exercise bra or a maternity bra. Avoid under-wire bras because they can make you very uncomfortable.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight, fitted clothes may make you feel uncomfortable if you have breast soreness. Loose clothes won’t irritate you, making them a better option.
- Reduce contacts with your breast. Avoid touching your breast as much as possible. If your seatbelt is uncomfortable, you can adjust the straps so that it runs between your breast and not on top of one of them. The same goes for your purses and bags. Don’t allow their straps to pass over your breast. A backpack may be a better option.
- Try wearing a breast pad. A breast pad shields your nipples from the inside of your bra. They also help to protect your clothes in case your breast is leaking.
- Diet modification. Adding foods rich in vitamins and minerals can help to reduce pain in the breast during pregnancy. Reduce the quantity of salt you take because of the sodium it contains. Temporary reduction in ingested sodium helps manage breast pain. But before you make any modification to your diet, you should consult your doctor to know if a salt reduction is good for you.
A breast infection may be mistaken for breast engorgement just because it’s happening after pregnancy. Therefore, it’s safer to report any major changes to your doctor.
Also, do not self-medicate.
This can harm you and your baby. Finally, use the drugs prescribed by a doctor and everything is going to work out fine.
- Sereshti M., Nahidi F., Simbar M., Bakhtiari M., and Zayeri F. (2016). “An Exploration of the Maternal Experiences of Breast Engorgement and Milk Leakage after Perinatal Loss”. Global Journal of Health Science. Accessed on 3rd October, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064060/
- Lindeka Mangesi and Therese Dowswell (2010). “Treatments for breast engorgement during lactation.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online). Accessed on 3rd October, 2020 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46171557_Treatments_for_breast_engorgement_during_lactation
- Ruth A. Lawrence, Eleanor Hüttel, (2015). “Breast Engorgement: Alternative remedies, vitamins, and minerals.” Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation (Third Edition). Accessed on 3rd October, 2020 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/breast-engorgement