An Unusual Situation

During the twentieth week of my pregnancy I noticed a yellowish discharge from my breasts. Since this was my first pregnancy I was a little worried, as I thought colostrum appeared much later. At my next doctor's appointment, I asked about it. My obstetrician chuckled and remarked "That's great...it's colostrum, your early milk. It's a good sign. If it was blood, that's another story."

I went home relieved, only to find I had a bloody discharge the next day. I waited about two weeks before contacting my doctor as I felt like a hypochondriac, as if the power of suggestion had caused the bleeding, not my own body. But finally I knew it was real and I needed answers. I was told to come in immediately.

None of the staff had ever seen the amount of blood I could express from my breasts and I was referred to my surgeon for a visit. This surgeon was familiar with me, as I had seen him for fibrocystic breast problems.

At the visit to the surgeon's office, two smears were taken for lab tests. When, during the course of the visit, the words "rarely is this condition cancerous" were spoken, I went numb. I had been scared of cancer before with fibrocystic lumps, but honestly had not even envisioned this to be cancer. For some reason I was expecting the doctor to say something like "You're taking too much iron" or a diet-related problem...not cancer. He explained that it was possibly a condition called intraductal papillomas, benign polyps in the milk ducts that are irritated by the high levels of estrogen that are normal during pregnancy. A reasonable conclusion, but I barely heard it and left in a fog.

That next week I read everything I could find pertaining to breast discharges and papillomas. I felt better with more information but still scared. I wondered if it turned out to be cancer how this would affect my pregnancy. Would the bleeding stop when my milk came in? I wished I knew someone to talk to, who had had this problem or knew of it. That was when I went to my first La Leche League meeting. While none of the Leaders had any firsthand experience with this dilemma, one of the Leaders called me later that week and read an excerpt from a book on special circumstances in which there were two accounts of bleeding from the breasts during pregnancy. Both times the bleeding did not interfere with nursing and all was fine. I was encouraged and thankful for the information.

Unfortunately we had to re-do the smears but finally the prognosis was "benign," and although there were some atypical cells, all the experts agreed that the cells and bleeding were related to the pregnancy and not a problem. The doctor assured me that the volume of blood in my milk would be insignificant, and the baby would not be affected. I relaxed and accepted the issue and with the help of La Leche League, concentrated on learning the art of breastfeeding and prepared for the birth. I felt that when the baby was born, my estrogen levels would drop and the irritation would cease, along with the bleeding. In any event I was determined to nurse.

Surprisingly, at thirty-seven weeks the bleeding stopped. At five days past my due date, my son, Andrew Edward, was born. I've been nursing him for the past six months with no sign of bleeding. We are enjoying our nursing relationship to the fullest! At six months and close to nineteen pounds, he has obviously prospered -- not to mention the comfort and love he has been given through nursing.

I love nursing and have been encouraging all my expectant friends to breastfeed. I feel like a missionary for breastfeeding and La Leche League but I do find that most women, given the true facts, are eager to nurse and do the right thing for their babies. They are also excited to hear of a warm, friendly support group. I am thankful for the information and confidence that La Leche League gave me.

Sharyn Lawler

Massachusetts

La Leche League International, Inc.

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By Sharyn Lawler

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