Treating mastitis with antibiotics is often not required, leading women’s health physiotherapist, Melinda Cooper, said today.
Antibiotics are designed to treat infection, however new mothers can have the symptoms of mastitis - including fever, swelling and pain – and have no infection, so antibiotics are not always required, Ms Cooper said.
'Pain doesn’t always mean infection and antibiotics transfer to babies through the breast milk, sometimes giving babies’ tummy pains, so it’s important to have alternatives that are safe and effective for mothers and their babies,' she said.
'Pain and inflammation is nature’s way of saying that something is not right and to get help .'
Ms Cooper said that most new mums might not be aware that physiotherapy – including therapeutic ultrasound – can successfully treat mastitis with immediate reduction in pain, redness and swelling.
'It is unfortunate that with lactation and breastfeeding, there is a lot of advice that is not tested in studies and symptoms can get worse quickly if it is not treated properly,' Ms Cooper said.
'Women are also being advised to massage the breast firmly to decrease swelling, redness and pain but in many cases this will actually increase pain and can make symptoms worse.
'You wouldn’t massage a swollen ankle or put it in a hot bath as that would hurt; the same applies with the breast, but even more so.
'There is no strong evidence from good quality research that shows that firm ‘massage’ and hot baths and showers work to relieve pain and swelling in the breast it is possible that they can do more harm than good.'
Ms Cooper said it’s important to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist as soon as any of the main symptoms of mastitis are experienced; including breast pain, redness, swelling, and fever.
'Women need to understand that their breast pain is serious and it needs urgent treatment before it gets worse,' she said.
You don’t need to have all of the symptoms to have mastitis and new mothers should seek help if they have just one of the symptoms.
Ms Cooper formally trains Women’s Health Physiotherapists and other healthcare providers in research-based management of mastitis. She is a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and is involved with research into physiotherapy treatments for mastitis (Monash University, Victoria and Curtin University, WA).
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