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Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding anaphylaxis

12/07/2006

Question:

With my first born son, I breastfed and became engorged when my milk came in on day 2 or 3. I went into severe anaphylactic shock and was a complete hive from head to toe. It started out with just a little on my arm and then consumed my whole body. I passed out and my viens colapsed. The doctors had a terrible time adminestreing medicine and i thought I was going to die. I could hardly breath and felt like I was on fire.

At the time they did not know what had caused this. I was sent for testing but nothing was found. They pretty much thought it was food allergies. Well then it happened again after my next child. And again after my final child. They have tried to look it up in books and the internet but found only one other case. I wish they could find out more.

Answer:

The hormone, oxytocin, which is the letdown hormone, sometimes causes severe reactions, although rarely, to some women. These can include headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These may be milder manifestations of allergy to this hormone. However, anaphylaxis caused by this hormone would be extremely rare.

The only other possibility I can think of is an allergy to a narcotic analgesic that you may have received for labor or postpartum pain. Many women need benadryl, for example, after morphine derivatives.

If you did not receive any such meds, I suspect the oxytocin may be the culprit. It is produced by your own pituitary gland. Only an allergist would know how to skin test you safely for this possibility. If you do not plan on having any more children, however, this may not be necessary.

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Response by:

Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM
Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati