Puerperal Mastitis

by Carol Gomes

Mastitis refers to the inflammation of the breast caused by a clogged or infected milk duct. Puerperal means at the time of childbirth or the period immediately following childbirth and puerperal mastitis therefore refers to the condition that may develop during this period.

There are two main types of puerperal mastitis – epidemic mastitis or sporadic puerperal mastitis. Epidemic puerperal mastitis develops several days after childbirth and is caused by an infection acquired in the hospital. Infants at childbirth are inoculated with the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and in turn transmit these bacteria to their breastfeeding mothers. One way of preventing such mastitis to occur is by maintaining high levels of hygiene in the hospital. In developed countries where hand washing and improved nursery hygiene is mandatory, epidemic puerperal mastitis is very rare. Sporadic puerperal mastitis on the other hand, refers to an infection of the milk duct and can result in a breast abscess if not treated in time. This type of mastitis can occur anytime while breastfeeding and is usually caused by the same Staphylococcus aureus. This time however the bacteria is transmitted from child to mother via the cracked or sore nipples that may develop when breastfeeding. Early antibiotic treatment can successfully cure the condition and prevent the formation of an abscess. If you have been diagnosed with sporadic puerperal mastitis, it is extremely important that you continue breastfeeding. Even if you are on antibiotics, there are no side effects in infants who continue to nurse. Continued nursing is essential to prevent breast engorgement and further blockages. In cases where the infection is acute, the condition is referred to as sporadic acute puerperal mastitis. This type of mastitis also responds well to antibiotic treatment. Finally non-puerperal mastitis refers to mastitis that occurs in women who are not breastfeeding. This type of mastitis can develop between 2 to 6 years after breastfeeding stops and is usually related to an autoimmune reactions against certain milk proteins and an incomplete cessation of milk secretion post weaning.


In most cases a blocked or infected milk duct causes puerperal mastitis. If you breastfeed at irregular intervals or allow your breasts to get engorged due to improper feeding techniques, there are chances that the milk within the breasts will thicken and clog the ducts.


Puerperal mastitis often starts off as a feeling of malaise. You may complain of body aches and feeling unwell before the pain and soreness of the breast becomes evident. In cases of an infection, high fever and chills also accompany mastitis symptoms. Other symptoms include a red or streaky looking breast that is lumpy and sore. Breastfeeding may be very painful during this time as a result.


One of the best ways to treat any type of mastitis is to continue breastfeeding. By nursing your baby, you encourage the flow of milk and prevent engorgement and further aggravation of the kingdom. If nursing is not possible, then express the milk to relieve pain and soreness. Warm and cold compresses also help relieve pain and inflammation.


Regular feeding and proper breastfeeding techniques are essential in order to prevent mastitis. When nursing make sure you switch between breasts to ensure that both are emptied. Rest often to prevent exhaustion and a weaker immune system. If your breasts are sore and painful, massage gently while in the shower to relieve the inflammation and reduce lumps. Wear a loose fitting bra during the day and no bra at night to prevent compression of the breast. Painkillers can be safely taken to reduce soreness and discomfort even if you are breastfeeding.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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