Spontaneous lactation: help me figure out what's going on?
March 16, 2010 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm absolutely not pregnant, but I seem to be lactating a little bit. What gives? (probably NSFW)

For the past month or so, I've noticed that sometimes, when I put a small amount of pressure on my nipples (through squeezing/pulling/sucking), they'll express a small amount of opaque, creamy white fluid. Usually just a few drops. My breasts haven't been at all painful or swollen during this time, and the phenomenon is exactly the same on both sides -- i.e., it's never the case that I'll squeeze both breasts and only one will express fluid -- which makes me think that it probably isn't related to mastitis or breast cancer.

I'm 22, of average height and healthy weight, and I don't have any other symptoms.

After googling and reading up on possible causes, I think I can safely rule out:
- Pregnancy. I've been celibate for 18 months.
- Side-effects of hormonal birth control or opiates. I don't take any drugs, prescription or otherwise.
- Overstimulation. I don't touch my breasts very often at all, and when I do, I don't stimulate them roughly or for extended periods of time.

So, does anyone have experience with something of this nature, or other ideas as to what could be causing it? I don't have health insurance, so I'd rather not rush to the doctor unless the hivemind thinks this is really alarming.

Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't want to alarm you unduly, but please do go see a doctor. There are some tumors that cause lactation. Look up Prolactinoma for more information.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:27 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

What sciencegeek said. The first symptom of my hyperprolactinemia was lactating.
posted by headspace at 2:29 PM on March 16, 2010

This is totally normal.

From the Mayo Clinic:

"Sometimes, nipple discharge is just a normal (physiological) part of your breast's function. If that's the case, the discharge might resolve on its own.

Most often, nipple discharge stems from a noncancerous (benign) condition. However, breast cancer is a possibility, especially if:

* You are over age 40
* You have a lump in your breast
* The discharge contains blood
* Only one breast is affected

Possible causes of nipple discharge include:

* Abscess
* Breast cancer
* Breast infection
* Excessive breast stimulation
* Fibroadenoma
* Fibrocystic breasts
* Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
* Galactorrhea
* Hormone imbalance
* Injury or trauma to the breast
* Intraductal papilloma
* Mammary duct ectasia
* Medication use
* Paget's disease of the breast
* Pregnancy
* Prolactinoma
posted by Sophie1 at 2:30 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agreed with sciencegeek. I have one of these tumors. It is NO BIG DEAL. But it would be if it got bigger. Some grow, some don't. So I have to get it checked out regularly. Usually what happens is you'll get a blood test that will look at your hormone levels. If they're in certain ranges, they may have you get an MRI to double check. These tumors are not that unusual, and they are often easily treatable but they can affect your fertility [i.e. it's possible if you had one of these you might need to take hormones in order to be able to conceive] or your vision if something goes screwy with them, so it's a good idea to get it looked at. The other usual suspects are the things you've listed. There are probably a host of other possibilities but this is the one I'm familiar with. Feel free to MeMail me for more info.
posted by jessamyn at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2010

I have 'experience with something of this nature' and it was meaningless and short-lived. FWIW, as a counterpoint to anything alarming.
posted by kmennie at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2010

Uh. I don't want to say "don't see a doctor", but mine do this... and I've always considered it to be normal. (Possibly I should go see a doctor.) Note that it only happens when they're actually squeezed, etc.
posted by anaelith at 3:21 PM on March 16, 2010

I have had this for at least 6 years. My doctors have run repeated blood tests and all is normal. I have a friend who lactates even more than I do (she can actually squirt, neat party trick) and all her blood tests are also normal. I now consider it a superpower.

That said, some blood tests might not be a bad idea.
posted by bedhead at 7:36 PM on March 16, 2010

Some anti-depressants and supplements can do this. I think prozac might be one that does... and the herbal supplement fenugreek does for sure.
posted by taff at 7:51 PM on March 16, 2010

Nthing going to a doctor.

Please not a homeopathic one. Something is either medicinal or it isn't. There are plenty of interesting assertions from the 'alternative medicine' camp that I will whole-heartedly embrace once they've been tested with double-blind peer-reviewed experiments that demonstrate which ones actually have healthful effects, and which ones are failed hypotheses. Until then, they are untested and unproven ideas promoted without standards or safeguards for the general public.
posted by Lifeson at 8:51 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I experienced exactly this when I was 16. Two different doctors blew it off as "just hormones". A few years later, I stopped menstruating. Bloodwork revealed a prolactinoma, a tumour on my pituitary gland that stops the production of prolactin. Prolactinoma aren't life-threatening unless they get pretty big, and you'd first see your menstrual cycle stop (at which point you would be infertile, but your fertility can be restored with treatment). You should go ahead and see your gynaecologist as soon as possible; a simple blood test can confirm or rule out a prolactinoma, and there are several medications (the most popular is Cabergoline) that can treat it.
posted by transporter accident amy at 2:32 AM on March 17, 2010

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