Nipple Vasospasms During Breastfeeding

What Are Nipple Vasospasms?
Nipple vasospasms are intense, painful sensations that affect some women during breastfeeding. Nipple vasospasms occur when veins within the breast contract, causing pain. The amount of pain experiencesd varies depending on the woman, ranging from mild to intense.

Jennifer, a mother of three, describes the feeling of nipple vasospasms for her as "a horrible pain that feels like you are being stabbed through your breast to your back." Despite several wrong diagnoses, Jennifer was finally correctly diagnosed as having nipple vasospasms and was treated, which allowed her to continue breastfeeding.

Nipple vasospasms have been linked to Raynaud�s Phenomenon, a disorder that is typified by episodes of vasospastic attacks in the fingers and toes and sometimes the nose and earlobes. Raynaud�s Phenomenon affects between 5 and 10% of the general population and it�s estimated that up to 20% of breastfeeding women experience nipple vasospasms.

Although nipple vasospasms affect a large portion of breastfeeding women, there is surprisingly little literature on the phenomenon and too many wrong diagnoses made by lactation consultants. Unfortunately for many women, the intense pain and the lack of awareness in the medical profession put an end to their breastfeeding experience.

If You Have Nipple Vasospasms, You�re Not Alone
Many women turn to their doctor, midwife or lactation consultant when nipple vasospasm pains begin, eager to solve the problem that is making breastfeeding difficult for them. Frequently, the symptoms are overlooked or misdiagnosed as symptoms of a yeast infection or plugged ducts.

Nipple Vasospasms Causes and Symptoms
How do you know if you have nipple vasospasms? Having Raynaud�s Phenomenon is one indication that the pain you�re experiencing may be nipple vasospasms. If you are experiencing breast pains and you�re not sure what�s causing them, take a look at the symptoms of nipple vasospasms:


  • nipples will change color from white to purple in between breastfeedings
  • stabbing, stinging or burning pain throughout the chest, back and shoulders
  • having circulatory problems that intensify in cold weather or under emotional stress

    Nipple Vasospasm Treatment
    The good news is that there are many methods of relieving nipple vasospasms. One strategy is to reduce the stressors in your life. Many women also find relief by keeping warm during breastfeeding � try placing a heating pad on whichever breast is not currently feeding your infant.

    The drug Nifedipine is prescribed for very painful nipple vasospasms and many women find it to be the most effective treatment choice. Nifedipine works by widening your blood vessels, thereby bringing relief to nipple vasospasms. Please note that while being treated with Nifedipine, you should not ingest any grapefruit products; the interaction has dangerous effects. Nifedipine does pass into your breast milk, so please do consult with your doctor before you begin taking the drug. Please also alert your doctor if you have liver, kidney or other heart or blood vessel disorders before starting Nifedipine.

    Remember, nipple vasospasms don�t have to stop you from breastfeeding your baby. For Jennifer, the answer lies in making other nursing mothers aware � "I just don�t want women to quit breastfeeding because of a wrong diagnosis. The medicine does not make the pain stop immediately, but you are more likely to put up with the pain if you know it will stop hurting soon."

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