Hypogalactia is insufficient milk production in the mammary gland of a new mother. This underproduction is often the cause of incorrect breastfeeding processes. In such a case, treatment is guidance on proper breastfeeding.
What is hypogalactia?
The individual symptoms of hypogalactia depend primarily on the cause. The lack of milk usually becomes noticeable as soon as the baby is about to be breastfed. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Hypogalactia.
The terms hypogalactia, hypergalactia and agalactia describe abnormalities in milk production after pregnancy. Milk production and milk secretion are hormonally controlled and therefore dependent on the pituitary hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Both the formation of milk and the secretion of milk from the mammary glands are stimulated by the interaction between mother and child.
Mechanoreceptors are located in the maternal breast. These receptors register sucking movements of the newborn. The registration of the sucking touches stimulates the hormonal secretion, which in turn conditions the milk production and finally the secretion of the milk. In hypogalactia, the mother’s breast does not appear to produce enough milk to adequately breastfeed the child. The absolute absence of milk production, on the other hand, is referred to as agalactia. Hypergalactic is over-produced.
The cause of a hypogalactia is usually not organic. In the majority of cases, errors in breastfeeding are the real problem. Under certain circumstances, such errors can, for example, cause a engorgement that gives the impression of a hypogalactia. In only about five percent of all cases, hypogalactia is actually based on a physiological problem.
In most of these cases, the physiological cause of hypogalactia corresponds to a deficiency in the hormones oxytocin and prolactin. Both hormones are produced in the pituitary gland. A lack of these hormones occurs especially when tumors have affected the pituitary gland.
In this context, most tumors are benign tumors of the pituitary gland, which can primarily disrupt the formation of prolactin and thus result in reduced production of milk in the maternal breast. A second physical cause of hypogalactia may be Sheehan syndrome.
This syndrome corresponds to a postpartum complication of childbirth that manifests as partial or global hypopituitarism and, due to high blood loss, induces hypovolemic shock at delivery. The shock reduces blood flow to the pituitary gland, which can result in tissue necrosis.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The individual symptoms of hypogalactia depend primarily on the cause. The lack of milk usually becomes noticeable as soon as the baby is about to be breastfed. The deficiency symptom caused by engorgement does not have to occur on both breasts, but can also occur unilaterally. If there is a physical cause such as Sheehan syndrome or a lack of hormone production, there is usually bilateral milk deficiency.
As a rule, there is only talk of hypogalactia if there is a lack of milk despite breastfeeding intervals. Accompanying symptoms, many of the affected mothers mainly develop psychological problems and feel insufficiently able to do justice to their role as mothers. Such psychological problems can aggravate a lack of milk production. A vicious circle can develop. Hypogalactia is usually not associated with pain.
Diagnosis & course of disease
The doctor mainly uses the anamnesis to diagnose hypogalactia and, above all, to assess its cause. If, for example, birth complications such as Sheehan’s syndrome are known, the doctor will be able to identify the cause of the hypogalactia within a very short time. Under certain circumstances, imaging of the pituitary gland is ordered to rule out a causative tumor disease.
If neither necrosis nor any other change in the pituitary gland can be detected and the laboratory shows that the hormone level in the mother’s blood is normal, breastfeeding errors are probably responsible for the apparent lack of milk. The prognosis of hypogalactia is usually considered to be extremely favorable, since the phenomenon is usually not a disease.
As a rule, hypogalactia causes clear symptoms, so that treatment can be carried out quickly and at an early stage. The mother cannot produce enough milk for the newborn child, resulting in an undersupply of breast milk for the child. However, there are no further complications for the child itself, since the nutrients can also be absorbed in other ways.
In many cases, however, the mother suffers from psychological problems or depression and inferiority complexes. As a result, the quality of life is restricted, and the negative mental state sometimes intensifies the symptoms. However, the patients do not suffer from pain.
In the worst case, hypogalactia can be caused by a tumor that has to be removed. Hypogalactia is not always treated. In most cases, the disease can be solved by breastfeeding properly, so that the symptoms disappear quickly and no further complications arise.
The child is then bottle-fed to avoid nutrient deficiencies. In the case of psychological complaints, treatment is also provided by a psychologist. The life expectancy of the mother and the child is not affected.
When should you go to the doctor?
In the event of hypogalactia, a doctor must be consulted in any case. If the child is not adequately breastfed, this can lead to severe damage and restrictions in the further development, which can also have a negative impact on the life expectancy of the child. For this reason, hypogalactia should always be treated. As a rule, the complaint is very easy for the mother to recognize, as there is an insufficient production of breast milk.
A hospital or a gynecologist should be consulted to avoid further complications and symptoms. Pain does not usually occur with hypogalactia. Furthermore, hypogalactia can also lead to psychological complaints and upsets. If these symptoms occur, a visit to a psychologist is also highly advisable, since psychological symptoms can also increase hypogalactia. In most cases, the disease can be treated and limited relatively well, so that there are no particular complications. The child can also be fed artificially.
Treatment & Therapy
If hypogalactia has no underlying physical cause, therapy consists solely of guidance on appropriate breastfeeding. The mother is instructed not to give her infant formula too often between breast feeds. Because the infant uses a different technique when sucking on the bottle than is necessary for the breast, its suction capacity is reduced when breastfeeding.
This combination is the most common cause of engorgement with apparent hypogalactia. Infrequent breastfeeding is also not recommended, since breastfeeding stimulates maternal milk production in the first place. Mothers are therefore advised to adapt breastfeeding times to the needs of the infant. In addition, they should avoid adapted milk during a growth phase so that their breasts can get used to a higher secretion.
If psychological stress inhibits milk production, patients with hypogalactia receive additional psychotherapeutic care. The correct handling of the stress factors can be evaluated as a causal treatment of a hypogalactia triggered in this way. Other therapeutic steps are required in the case of physiologically caused hypogalactia. Pituitary gland tumors are surgically removed.
This causal treatment usually leads to normal hormone production and the hypogalactia regresses. For a cause such as pituitary necrosis, surgery must be done to remove the necrotic tissue. If, despite this, the pituitary gland does not secrete enough hormones, hormone replacement can take place.
Hypogalactia can be prevented in more than 90 percent of all cases if the mother of a newborn follows breastfeeding recommendations.
A hypogalactia without a physical cause can be remedied by special instructions. This shows mothers how to properly breastfeed their child. In the follow-up phase, they deal intensively with appropriate breastfeeding and the well-founded recommendations of doctors and midwives. Frequent switching between breast feedings and bottled milk is rather counterproductive.
The sucking ability of the infant deteriorates due to the alternating techniques, which in turn has a negative effect on milk production. A visit to the doctor is usually not necessary. It is often sufficient to obtain information on correct breastfeeding. The infant should be breastfed whenever he wants to.
In fact, more milk is formed when the child asks for it. That is why mothers should also breastfeed their children at night or at least let them suckle in order to establish close physical contact. Changing the sides of the breast also has a positive effect on milk production and breastfeeding success.
In order to stimulate the baby’s sucking power, it should not have a pacifier in its mouth before breastfeeding. For longer follow-up care for breastfeeding problems, there are special teas that stimulate milk production. Natural remedies from the drugstore can also help. Other stimulating measures include breast massages with oil and warm, moist compresses.
You can do that yourself
Hypogalactia does not necessarily require a doctor’s consultation. Milk production can usually be stimulated by simple measures. First of all, it is important to breastfeed the baby as often and for as long as it wants, because the more milk the child asks for, the more milk is produced. That’s why breastfeeding should also be done at night, even if the baby just wants to suckle. In addition, both breasts should always be offered and the side of the breast should be changed several times.
To ensure that the child sucks vigorously, it should not be given a pacifier or bottle before breastfeeding. Special breastfeeding teas also stimulate milk production. Likewise malt beer and natural preparations from the drugstore. Normally, it is sufficient for the mother to drink a large glass of water before breastfeeding. Massages also help. The most effective are gentle, circular breast massages with nursing oil from the pharmacy. Warm, moist compresses can be placed on the breasts before breastfeeding.
If these measures are combined with sufficient rest and a lot of physical contact with the baby, the hypogalactia should subside quickly. Otherwise, a gynecologist must clarify the symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatment.