When our blood vessels contract or become smaller in diameter, it is called “vasospasm”. Vasospasm can happen with exposure to cold or emotional stress, but in some people, it can be quite severe and cause pain. During breastfeeding, the blood vessels in the nipple can contract or spasm. This is called “nipple vasospasm”.
Nipple vasospasm can cause mild to severe nipple or breast pain during or between feeds. The pain could be light itching, a burning sensation, a deep numbness or throbbing pain or a sharp, stabbing pain. The pain can last from a few seconds to hours. Your pain may get worse when your nipples are exposed to cold, when you step out of a hot shower or bath or if you go outside in cold weather, for example.Your nipples change color
Your nipples can change to white (also known as “blanching”) after a feed. They may also change to blue, purple or dark red. These color changes are a sign of nipple vasospasm and indicate that your blood vessels are contracting.Compression of the nipple
If your nipple is compressed, it may be a different shape after feeding your baby. Your nipple may look creased, folded or more pointed in general or on one side of the nipple. Blood flowing back to the nipple can cause a burning sensation, throbbing or shooting pain. Nipple compression, caused by a shallow latch or the baby pressing into the nipple to slow a fast milk flow, is a common cause of nipple vasospasm.What causes nipple vasospasm?
It is important to note that nipple vasospasm may sometimes feel like a thrush infection of the nipple or breast. If you are prescribed Fluconazole/Diflucan for thrush, but your real problem is nipple vasospasm, this treatment may make your vasospasm worse.What can I do to avoid and treat nipple vasospasm?
If your nipple vasospasms continue, despite taking these practical steps, it is important to seek help from your health care professional as soon as possible. This is so that they can investigate and rule out or treat any potential underlying condition, such as Raynaud’s disease or thrush (yeast). If either of these is causing your nipple vasospasm, specialized treatment will be required and your physician will be able to help and advise you accordingly.