What to know about mastitis, the breastfeeding complication that sent ‘Bachelor’ alum Lauren Burnham to the hospital

·3 min read

Bachelor couple Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Lauren Burnham have had a tumultuous summer. Just six weeks after Burnham gave birth to twins Senna and Lux, the 29-year-old mom was hospitalized with a severe case of mastitis, an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes leads to infection. 

On his Instagram story, Luyendyk shared updates with his followers saying, "not good, mastitis getting worse even on antibiotics. hate this for her." Thankfully, Burnham was able to leave the hospital the next day, telling her fans on Instagram that she's feeling much better. She's far from the first celebrity to open up about the breastfeeding complication.

Kristen Bell shared her experience with mastitis on her YouTube channel, telling Scandal actor Katie Lowes that she developed the condition three times. The third round occurred when she was traveling and required the help of her husband Dax Shepard. "We couldn't call a doctor and this was right after the baby stopped nursing," Bell said. "I said to my husband, 'I'm going to need you to suck this out." Kristen Cavallari revealed a near-identical scenario with now ex-husband Jay Cutler on her reality show in 2019.

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Although the condition may sound alarming, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls it "one of the most common complications associated with breastfeeding." The most important way to manage it, the organization writes, is "frequent and effective milk removal during the treatment." To help get a clearer understanding of what mastitis is and what signs to look for, Yahoo Life spoke with Dr. Sherry Ross, an ob-gyn, health expert and author of She-ology. Here's what you need to know. 

Yahoo Life: What causes mastitis?

Dr. Sherry Ross: Mastitis is a breast infection occurring as a result of a clogged milk duct unable to drain properly causing harmful bacteria to build up. Other ways to get mastitis are from bacteria on your skin or baby’s mouth entering the milk ducts and from stagnant milk that attracts dangerous bacteria. Mastitis can also occur in women who are not lactating or breastfeeding as a result of breast trauma, diabetes, steroid use or excessive smoking.

What symptoms should new moms be looking out for when they're breastfeeding?

If you have ever had mastitis when breastfeeding it is a memorable experience. Symptoms of mastitis include fever, muscle aches and fatigue — similar to having the flu. The breast affected will be extremely tender, painful and swollen. A warm red rash often in a wedge-shaped pattern may also be seen on the affected breast. Breastfeeding mastitis only affects one breast.

Are there recommendations to lower the risk of infection?

Ways to prevent mastitis are to avoid breast engorgement and long intervals between feedings or pumping. Learn the best techniques for emptying your breasts, avoid cracked nipples, wear a supportive and tightfitting bra, eat a healthy diet, drink adequate amounts of water, avoid stress and get plenty of rest.

What's the typical prognosis for this condition?

Once mastitis is diagnosed, the prognosis is excellent! Treatment involves using a warm compress to the affected breast, pumping regularly and taking an effective antibiotic. The good news is you can still breastfeed with mastitis as long as the antibiotic is safe with nursing.

Is antibiotic-resistant mastitis an increasing concern in the ob-gyn world?

Once antibiotics and ibuprofen are started the signs and symptoms of mastitis will improve within 24 hours. It is not common for a woman to be hospitalized to treat a typical or uncomplicated mastitis. If the mastitis isn’t properly treated, done so in a timely manner or a breast abscess develops, surgical drainage and intravenous antibiotics may be necessary. When any of the above symptoms happen it’s best to notify your health care provider sooner than later.