Nipple Vasospasm or Raynaud's Phenomena is a condition where small blood vessels constrict or narrow and this reduces blood flow to the effected area. Raynaud’s most commonly effects fingers and toes but can also affect other peripheral parts of the body such as the nipples, the ears and the nose. This exaggerated response of the blood vessels is most often triggered by cold, or emotional stress.
Raynaud's is common, 5% to 15% of the population may experience it at some point in their lives and it is more common in women.
If you are breastfeeding and have Raynaud’s you may experience pain in the nipples and breast after feeds or between feeds. You may notice that the pain occurs when you come out of the shower, when you move from a warmer room to a cooler room, in the freezer aisle at the supermarket, in the car if the air-conditioner is on, or when you open the fridge. You may notice colour changes in the nipple when you have the pain, most commonly the nipples become pale and then dusky.
Raynaud’s may also be aggravated by trauma, so you may be more prone to experience the symptoms if the nipples are being damaged. Emotional stress and fatigue can also bring it on.
Raynaud’s is often called Nipple Vasospasm in breastfeeding women. Women with some other medical problems such as Thyroid disease and other auto-immune diseases are more likely to experience Raynaud symptoms.
Treatment for Raynaud's Phenomena includes:
Work on improving attachment if necessary to reduce nipple trauma
Keep your house well heated and feed in a warm room during the day and at night
Wear warm clothing
Avoid situations that you know will trigger the symptoms
Use local heat with a wheat bag (warm not hot) when you have the symptoms
Make sure you are getting enough sleep and support.
If you have tried all of this and the symptoms are severe there is a medication that dilates the blood vessels called Nifedipine (brand name Adalat) which may be used. The slow release form of this medication is used, in the lowest dose that is effective. There are potential side effects such as flushing or headache. Topical treatments (which are sometimes advised) are not suitable for the treatment of this condition.
If you have the symptoms of Raynaud's and simple measures are not improving the situation a we can assess and manage the situation at a Mother Baby Clinic appointment.