Susan a dynamic and result oriented career woman was left red faced when a wet patch appeared on her shirt front, bang in the middle of an important power point presentation. Susan a new mother was leaking breast milk. Leakage of excessive breast milk immediately after delivery is a common phenomenon. In fact, many women notice breast milk leakage in the third trimester of their pregnancy. Few women may also complain of leaking breasts around the time of menopause. However, leaking breast milk when a woman is neither pregnant nor breastfeeding an infant is an unusual occurrence, and one which calls for medical scrutiny.
Causes for Leaking Breasts
A woman’s breasts are hormonally regulated, highly branched glandular tissues. The human breasts contain hundreds of milk secreting lobules. A woman’s breasts go through specific developmental cycles which not only regulates the growth of milk ducts but also controls the production of milk during lactation.
Nipple discharge which can range from clear discharge, to milk or even a bloody secretion – especially when a woman is not breastfeeding an infant – may or may not be an indicator of a more serious underlying and often life threatening health condition. Some possible causes behind leaking breasts have been revealed in this article.
The most obvious cause for leaking breasts is pregnancy. In fact, many women notice breast milk leakage in the early stages of their pregnancy – sometimes as early as the twelfth week of pregnancy.
The sticky fluid that is discharged from the nipples during the early stages of pregnancy is referred to as colostrum. Secretion of the thick, yellow colored colostrum during the early stages of pregnancy should not be a cause for undue concern.
2. Excessive Production of Prolactin
Prolactin is a female hormone. During the late stages of pregnancy and lactation, there is a sudden spurt in the levels of this female hormone. Overproduction of prolactin can lead to breast milk leakage. However, under certain specific conditions other than pregnancy and lactation, the levels of this hormone tend to rise significantly.
The levels of the hormone prolactin can rise sharply because of hormonal imbalances or due to frequent breast self examinations. Thyroid disease, kidney disease or tumors of the pituitary gland can cause a significant spurt in the levels of the prolactin hormone. Taking certain type of herbal medication, wanton abuse of street drugs or prolonged usage of birth control pills can also cause the levels of this female hormone to rise sharply.
Certain type of breast infections can cause discharge or leakage of fluids from one breast. Breast infections like mastitis, a common infection seen among breast feeding women, can cause one or both breasts to become engorged and painful to the touch. When women contracts mastitis, discharge of pus from one or both their nipples can be observed. The best way to combat mastitis is to take a course of antibiotics.
4. Breast Tumors
Fluids leaking from the breast may be an indicator of the presence of non cancerous tumors inside the breast tissues. Sometimes malignant breast tumors can also cause excessive fluid leakage from one breast. The fluids which leak from the breast will typically have a bloody, watery or a clear appearance.