Me and Mastitis – Kristins Story

Kristin shares her story.

~~~ Me and Mastitis ~~~

I had heard of mastitis.  My sister had had it.  But no one had ever told me that you could get it when you weren’t breastfeeding.

I was introduced to it one morning in my 31st week of pregnancy.   I woke up and my right breast (which had been fine when I went to sleep) was red and sore and hot.  The only thing I could think of was mastitis, but surely that couldn’t be right?  The midwife came around to see me, and confirmed that it was.  She told me to massage the breast and have a hot shower and lots of rest etc but by the afternoon I had a fever and was getting worse.  The midwife prescribed me a course of Flucloxocillin which saw me right in just a couple of days.    I was then rather nervous at the thought of what could happen to my breasts once I actually started breastfeeding!

Everything then went OK with the rest of the pregnancy.  My beautiful daughter arrived 11 days late by Caesarean Section, after a long labour.  She had a good strong suck, and was learning to latch well, when, 6 days post-partum, I again began to have symptoms of mastitis in my right breast.  I tried treating with homeopathies, but the next day I developed a fever and so began another course of flucloxicillin.  Again the flu-like symptoms were gone in just a couple of days.  The lump took a little longer to resolve, but was gone in about a week.

About 2 weeks post-partum I developed an infection in my caesarean wound.  I was prescribed a course of Amoxicillin, which had little effect.  About this time I developed another lump, again in my right breast.  I mentioned it to the midwife, who gave advice on draining the breast etc.  I tried massage, and different feeding positions, and hot water bottles, but nothing worked.  I still had no symptoms of infection so didn’t let the midwife know it was still persisting.  I also had a course of Augmentin.  Towards the end of this course of antibiotic, there still didn’t seem to be any improvement in the wound, so I went to a Neurolink practitioner, who treated a viral infection in my spleen.  He said this should treat the bacterial infection in my wound and also help my breasts to drain properly.

About 4 weeks post-partum the infection in my wound was clear, but the breast lump flared up into another full blown mastitis.  By this point I was feeling like it was never going to end.  Both baby and I were suffering from thrush, thanks to the constant antibiotics.  I didn’t want to take another course, so against the advice of my midwife I stuck to just homeopathics and went back to Neurolink.  Still had no results, so gave in and had another course of Flucloxocillin.  The Fluclox treated fever and flu-like symptoms, but the lump still persisted.  I had a visit from a lactation consultant and went through what other options of treatment there were.   I tried treating it with cabbage leaves, with lecithin supplements and more homeopathics, hot water bottle before feeding.  My midwife came and helped me to feed baby with her chin pointing towards the lump.  This was really difficult as the lump was in the top of my breast!  I found it awkward, and baby hated it and screamed.   Worst of all, each time we tried it, there was only very minimal improvement in the lump.

The Lactation Consultant came to visit again and pulled some strings to get me into middlemore radiology the same day.  I went in and had an ultrasound scan.  Both she and my midwife were expecting the report to say that I had an abscess, and I was told to pack a bag, just in case they decided to operate and drain the abscess.  I was really worried about it, but the radiologists report said that I had an inflammatory mass, about 4cm x 5cm.  I was then quite confused about what was supposed to happen.  How we were supposed to get rid of this lump.  It was recommended to me that I go to see a breast surgeon, but I really didn’t want to go.  I was worried that my insurance wouldn’t cover it, about how much it would cost.  And I really didn’t see the point, if it wasn’t an abscess I was scared they would just want to do a lumpectomy.   I felt like the only way to get rid of the lump would be to chop it out, and it was huge!

In a last ditch effort to move the lump I started going to a physio (about 6-7 weeks post partum) who treated me with massage and therapeutic ultrasound.  I had three sessions, and then on the 4th the physio refused to treat me, as she felt that the lump was worsening again.  The next day I also felt that it was starting to get sore and red again, so I started taking herbal-homeopathics again.  This seemed to arrest the progression of the infection, but didn’t make any improvement.  I went to my GP who sent me into Middlemore emergency dept.  This was a Thursday.

Middlemore was horrible with a little baby, and I spent all morning waiting to be seen.  When I finally was seen, the first Dr was certain that I had an abscess, and started prepping me for surgery.  Then the house surgeon came and said she wasn’t sure.  She wanted to stick a needle in and see if she got any pus out, but I was scared of the needle so talked her into sending me to radiology for another ultrasound instead.  In the mean time, they started me on Flucloxocillin, and put an IV in my elbow.  I specifically asked for it to be put in my arm, as it makes looking after my baby really tricky and painful, but I have lousy veins, and so it went in my elbow.  I then got to go to the surgical floor to wait for the ultrasound and the surgery.  I was really hungry but I wasn’t allowed to eat in case it was an abscess and I had to go for surgery.  Finally late afternoon I got to the ultrasound.  Once again I was told it was not an abscess but simply an inflammatory mass now about 7cm x 7cm.  All night I got different stories about whether they were going to operate or not, but was told not to eat or drink just in case.  Meanwhile they changed me to IV Augmentin.  In the morning they finally told me that no, they weren’t going to operate, but I had to stay in hospital for 4 days on IV antibiotics.

By Monday I had shown some improvement.  I didn’t think it was very much, but they decided to send me home with oral antibiotics anyway.  I had enough to last until Friday.  They told me to book an appointment with the breast clinic in Manukau in 6 weeks time to check up on how it was doing.  I couldn’t believe it, six weeks???    My breast was going to explode before then!  I asked them if I shouldn’t make the appointment sooner if they could squeeze me in, but they said no, it needed the time to settle.  So I asked what I was supposed to do when it started to flare up again (as I knew it would) and they said just to come in for more antibiotics.  I just wanted to sit there and cry; I felt like I was going to be on antibiotics forever!

By Friday I was getting worse again.  The redness was getting worse, and the pain and heat coming back with a vengeance.   I didn’t know what to do.  I did not want to go back to middlemore and have more IV’s stuck in my elbow!  I went to visit my Lactation Consultant at the breastfeeding clinic, and was more worried than ever when I saw how concerned she and her colleagues were.  She really wanted me to go and see a breast surgeon.  By then I had had enough that I didn’t really care about the cost any more.  I don’t think I even cared if he wanted to chop half my boob off!  I just wanted it all to stop!  My baby was 8 weeks now, and I’d been having trouble almost the whole time!  She  made a call to Trevor Smith and talked so nicely to his secretary that they stayed late to see me.

When I got to Trevor Smith’s office I couldn’t believe how nice it was.  Trevor and his secretary Lynn were so lovely, and didn’t seem to mind at all that they were staying late to see me.

Trevor went thru my history, and had a look with his own ultrasound.  Then with the ultrasound guiding the needle, proceeded to drain 120mls of thick, greenish pus from the wound.   Immediately there was a great big dent in my breast where the lump had been.  I was absolutely amazed!  Trevor said it was the biggest abscess he had drained.  I went back on Monday, and he drained 60mls.  On Wednesday I almost skipped into the hospital.  For the first time in months I felt like I had some energy.  Trevor drained another 40mls, and said that was probably OK now, but to come back on Friday just in case.  On Friday there was only 20mls, and Trevor said it was so thin and just milky that it probably didn’t need to be drained again.

A few weeks later I had my appointment with the breast clinic.  Their ultrasound showed that there was still a lump, but it was quite small.

6 weeks later I had another scan which showed normal lactating tissues.  I was so relieved that it’s finally all over!

Through it all everybody was amazed that I hadn’t given up breastfeeding.  But the lump hurt less when it wasn’t full of milk, so I just kept feeding off it.  Besides that, all of the lactation consultants etc kept on stressing that I should keep feeding from that side, and that draining it fully was the best way to get rid of the infection.

Now I am so glad I kept on persevering.  Breastfeeding is a joy, and a lovely time to share with my daughter.  I’m just so grateful that I had it fixed in such a simple (relatively) painless manner.  Even though it cost $1,255, (because my insurance excludes matters related to obstetrics) I would have drained every penny from my savings and still have felt it was worth it to have such an immediate relief.