Breast Health Problems Are Rare in Both HIV-Infected and HIV-Uninfected Women Who Receive Counseling and Support for Breast-Feeding in South Africa


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Abstract

Background.Breast problems, including mastitis, can interfere with the duration and exclusivity of breast-feeding. However, there are no large prospective studies documenting the prevalence, duration, and timing of such problems in breast-feeding women, particularly those who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).Methods.Women enrolled prenatally underwent a breast-feeding counseling intervention until 6 months after delivery. Breast health problems were documented per breast for 180 days after delivery, with 14-day recall histories.Results.Breast health problems were rare, and there were no significant differences between HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women for any of the following conditions: engorgement, 39 HIV-infected women (3.5%) versus 33 HIV-uninfected women (2.7%; P = .30); breast thrush, 17 (1.5%) versus 12 (1.0%; P = .25); bleeding nipple, 6 (0.5%) versus 4 (0.3%; P = .45); and mastitis/abscess, 11 (1.0%) versus 6 (0.5%; P = .17). Most problems occurred during the first month after birth, with few additional mothers experiencing problems after this point: at 1 and 6 months, 13% and 17% of all mothers, respectively, had experienced a minor or major breast health problem, including sore nipples. Women who had not exclusively breast-fed their infants were more likely to experience any of the breast health problems than were women who had exclusively breast-fed their infants (time-dependent variable; adjusted odds ratio, 1.46; 95% confidence interval, 1.13-1.87; P = .003). HIV-infected women who experienced any serious breast health problem (i.e., bleeding nipple, pus oozing from a nipple or breast, or mastitis/abscess) were 3.55 times (95% confidence interval, 0.86-14.78 times; P = .08) more likely to transmit HIV postnatally to their infant.Conclusions.With encouragement to exclusively breast-feed, women experienced few breast health problems. When those problems did occur, HIV-infected women with bleeding nipple, pus oozing from a nipple or breast, or mastitis/abscess were more likely to transmit HIV to their infants.

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