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Breastfeeding/lactation

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Related Terms
  • Abrasions, anal fissure, autolytic debridement, bed sore, Clostridium sp., collagen, collagen matrix, cuts, debridement, decubitus ulcer, diabetic ulcers, electrotherapy, epithelial, epithelialization phase, extravasation, gangrene, gas gangrene, human growth factors, hydrocolloid, hyperbaric oxygen, incision wounds, incontinence, infected surgical wounds, infectious arthritis, inflammatory phase, injuries, laceration, macrophages, mechanical debridement, microvascular, minor injuries, myonecrosis, necrotizing fasciitis, pressure ulcers/wound care, proliferative phase, puncture wound, remodeling phase, scrapes, scratches, sepsis, septic arthritis, skin damage caused by incontinence, skin graft healing (split thickness), skin ulcer, surgical skin flap ischemia, skin wounds, squamous, stitches, superficial, suture, vulnerary, wound care, wound healing.

Background
  • A wound is a break in the outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis. Wounds are usually caused by cuts or scrapes. Different kinds of wounds may be treated differently from one another, depending upon how they happened and how serious they are. Other wounds include puncture wounds, lacerations (cuts), pressure sores, anal fissures, extravasations (a drug accidentally going outside of a vein causing tissue damage), skin damage caused by incontinence (lack of bladder control), skin graft healing (split thickness), diabetic ulcers, and surgical skin flap ischemia (lack of blood flow to surgically attached skin).
  • Healing is a response to the injury that sets into motion a sequence of events. With the exception of bone, all tissues heal with some external scarring. The object of proper care is to minimize the possibility of infection and scarring.
  • There are basically four phases to the healing process: the inflammatory phase, proliferative phase, remodeling phase, and epithelialization phase.
  • The inflammatory phase begins with the injury itself. In the inflammatory phase, there is bleeding, immediate narrowing of the blood vessels, clot formation, and release of various chemical substances into the wound that will begin the healing process. Specialized cells (macrophages) clear the wound of debris over the course of several days.
  • Next is the proliferative phase in which a matrix or latticework of cells forms. On this matrix, new skin cells and blood vessels will form. It is the new small blood vessels (known as capillaries) that give a healing wound its pink or purple-red appearance. These new blood vessels will supply the rebuilding cells with oxygen and nutrients to sustain the growth of the new cells and support the production of proteins (primarily collagen). The collagen acts as the framework upon which the new tissues build. Collagen is the dominant substance in the final scar.
  • The remodeling phase begins after 2-3 weeks. The framework (collagen) becomes more organized making the tissue stronger. The blood vessel density becomes less, and the wound begins to lose its pinkish color. Over the course of six months, the area increases in strength, eventually reaching 70% of the strength of uninjured skin.
  • Epithelialization is the process of laying down new skin, or epithelial, cells. The skin forms a protective barrier between the outer environment and the body. Its primary purpose is to protect against excessive water loss and bacteria. Reconstruction of this layer begins within a few hours of the injury and is complete within 24-48 hours in a clean, sutured (stitched) wound. Open wounds may take 7-10 days because the inflammatory process is prolonged, which contributes to scarring. Scarring occurs when the injury extends beyond the deep layer of the skin (into the dermis, which is the second layer of skin).

Complications
  • Complications from a lack of wound care can lead to other health problems.
  • Cellulitis: Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection of the skin. Cellulitis appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender, and it may spread rapidly. Skin on the face or lower legs is most commonly affected by this infection, though cellulitis can occur on any part of the body. Cellulitis may only affect the surface of the skin. However, cellulitis may also affect the tissues underlying skin and can spread to lymph nodes and the bloodstream. Left untreated, the spreading bacterial infection may rapidly turn into a life-threatening condition.
  • Bone and joint infections: Bone and joint infections develop when the infection from a bedsore burrows deep into the joints and bones. Joint infections (called septic or infectious arthritis) can damage cartilage and tissue within days, whereas bone infections (osteomyelitis) may develop over years if not treated. Eventually, bone infections can lead to bone death, reduced function of the joints and limbs, and amputation.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis: Necrotizing fasciitis is a rapidly spreading infection that destroys the layers of tissue that surround the muscles. Initial signs and symptoms include fever, pain, and massive swelling. Without treatment, death can occur in as little as 12-24 hours.
  • Gas gangrene (myonecrosis): Gas gangrene is a rare and severe form of gangrene. Gas gangrene develops suddenly and dramatically and spreads so rapidly that changes in tissue are noticeable within minutes. The bacteria responsible for gas gangrene (Clostridium sp.) produce toxins that completely destroy affected muscle tissue and cause potentially fatal systemic problems.
  • Sepsis: Sepsis (a whole body response to an infection) can occur from a wound such as advanced pressure sores. Sepsis occurs when bacteria from a massive infection enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Sepsis is a rapidly progressing, life-threatening condition that can cause shock and organ failure.
  • Skin cancer: Cancer resulting from poor wound healing may occur. This type of cancer is usually an aggressive carcinoma affecting the skin's squamous cells.
  • Fistulas: A fistula is an abnormal connection between an organ, vessel, or intestine and another structure. Fistulas are usually the result of a wound from an injury or surgery. They may also result from infection or inflammation.

Integrative therapies
  • Unclear or conflicting scientific evidence:
  • Aloe: Transparent gel from the pulp of the meaty leaves of Aloe vera has been used topically for thousands of years to treat wounds, skin infections, burns, and numerous other dermatologic conditions. Study results of aloe on wound healing are mixed with some studies reporting positive results and others showing no benefit or potential worsening of the condition. Early studies suggest that aloe may help heal skin ulcers. High-quality studies comparing aloe alone with placebo are needed.
  • Avoid if allergic to aloe or other plants of the Liliaceae family (garlic, onions, tulips). Avoid injecting aloe. Do not apply to open skin, surgical wounds or pressure ulcers. Avoid taking by mouth with diarrhea, bowel blockage, intestinal diseases, bloody stools or hepatitis. Avoid with a history of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), electrolyte imbalances, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease. Avoid taking by mouth if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) may reduce tissue damage that is often caused by long-term exposure to high levels of oxygen. While early studies are promising, more research is needed to fully understand how ALA might work for wound healing in patients undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
  • Avoid if allergic to alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). Use cautiously with diabetes and thyroid diseases. Avoid with thiamine deficiency or alcoholism. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Arginine: Arginine, or L-arginine, is considered a semi-essential amino acid, because although it is normally synthesized in sufficient amounts by the body, supplementation is sometimes required (for example, due to inborn errors of urea synthesis, protein malnutrition, excess ammonia production, excessive lysine intake, burns, infection, peritoneal dialysis, rapid growth, or sepsis). Arginine has been suggested to improve the rate of wound healing in elderly individuals. A randomized, controlled clinical trial reported improved wound healing after surgery in head and neck cancer patients, following the use of an enteral diet supplemented with arginine and fiber. Arginine has also been used topically (on the skin) to attempt to improve wound healing. Early studies suggest that arginine may also help treat chronic anal fissures. Additional studies are needed.
  • Avoid if allergic to arginine, or with a history of stroke, liver, or kidney disease. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Use caution if taking blood-thinning drugs (like warfarin or Coumadin®) and blood pressure drugs or herbs or supplements with similar effects. Blood potassium levels should be monitored. L-arginine may worsen symptoms of sickle cell disease. Caution is advised in patients taking prescription drugs to control sugar levels.
  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is a technique in which essential oils from plants are used with the intention of preventing or treating illness, reducing stress, or enhancing well-being. Preliminary data from one small study suggests aromatherapy may contribute to reduced pain intensity during dressing changes in wound care. Data are insufficient for forming any opinion for or against this application.
  • Essential oils should only be used on the skin in areas without irritation. Essential oils should be administered in a carrier oil to avoid toxicity. Avoid with a history of allergic dermatitis. Use cautiously if driving or operating heavy machinery. Avoid consuming essential oils. Avoid direct contact of undiluted oils with mucous membranes. Use cautiously if pregnant.
  • Ayurveda: There is some evidence that a traditional Ayurvedic treatment using specially prepared alkaline threads (ksharasutra or Ayurvedic setons) to achieve gradual cauterization may provide an effective alternative to surgery in patients being treated for anal fissures. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
  • Ayurvedic herbs should be used cautiously. Some herbs imported from India have been reported to contain high levels of toxic metals. Ayurvedic herbs can interact with other herbs, foods and drugs. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before taking. Use guggul cautiously with peptic ulcer disease. User should avoid sour food, alcohol and heavy exercise. Mahayograj guggul should not be taken for long periods of time. Pippali (Piper longum) should be taken with milk and avoided with asthma. Avoid sweet flag, and avoid amlaki (Emblica officinalis) at bedtime. Avoid Terminalia hebula (harda) if pregnant. Avoid Ayurveda with traumatic injuries, acute pain, advanced disease stages and medical conditions that require surgery.
  • Bovine cartilage: Reduction in inflammation and edema (swelling) and enhancement of the healing of wounds were effects that appeared in the medical literature of bovine cartilage during the 1950s and 1960s. In a preliminary comparison of potential wound healing effects with a commercially available ointment of 10% powdered bovine cartilage (Catrix® 10 Ointment) or Aquaphor® original formula in post-operative facial skin care with a laser resurfacing agent, Catrix® 10 Ointment was better. However, this study was a pilot study so its results need confirmation by follow-up clinical studies that clearly have the appropriate randomization and are double-blinded, given that such were in absence in this study. Also lacking in this study was a definition of primary outcome that therapeutically differentiated Catrix® 10 Ointment.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to bovine cartilage or any of its constituents. Use cautiously with cancer, renal (kidney) failure, or hepatic (liver) failure. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Calendula: Calendula (Calendula officinalis), also known as pot marigold, has been widely used on the skin to treat minor wounds, skin infections, burns, bee stings, sunburn, warts, and cancer. Calendula is commonly used topically (on the skin) to treat minor skin wounds. Reliable human research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn regarding the use of calendula for wound healing.
  • Avoid if allergic to plants in the Aster/Compositae family, such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Use cautiously in patients taking sedatives, blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, blood sugar-altering agents, and immunomodulators. Use cautiously with diabetes and in children. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile) has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and is widely used in Europe. There is promising preliminary evidence supporting the topical use of chamomile for wound healing. However, the available literature is not adequate to support the use of chamomile for this indication.
  • Avoid if allergic to chamomile. Anaphylaxis, throat swelling, skin allergic reactions and shortness of breath have been reported. Chamomile eyewash can cause allergic conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Stop use two weeks before surgery/dental/diagnostic procedures with bleeding risk, and do not use immediately after these procedures. Use cautiously if driving or operating machinery. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Chitosan: There is limited evidence on the effects of chitosan in wound healing. Better studies are needed.
  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to chitosan or shellfish. Use cautiously with diabetes or bleeding disorders. Use cautiously if taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood sugar or increase the risk of bleeding. Chitosan may decrease absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins from foods. Chitosan is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO): Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) is a sulfur-containing organic compound. DMSO occurs naturally in vegetables, fruits, grains, and animal products. DMSO applied to the skin may prevent tissue death after extravasation of anticancer agents. It can be applied alone or with steroids. Limited available study also suggests that DSMO improves lack of blood flow in surgical skin flap ischemia. Currently, there is not enough scientific evidence available for the use of topical DMSO for diabetic ulcers.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to DMSO. Use caution with urinary tract cancer or liver and kidney dysfunction. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil contains 70-85% 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol), which is also present in other plant oils. Limited evidence suggests that eucalyptus essential oil may be beneficial for patients with skin ulcers when combined with antibiotics. More studies are needed to confirm these early findings.
  • Case reports describe allergic rash after exposure to eucalyptus oil, either alone or as an ingredient in creams. Avoid if allergic to eucalyptus oil or with a history of seizure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, intestinal disorders, liver disease, kidney disease, or lung disease. Use caution if driving or operating machinery. Avoid with a history of acute intermittent porphyria. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. A strain of bacteria found on eucalyptus may cause infection. Toxicity has been reported with oral and inhaled use.
  • Gotu kola: Gotu kola, Centella asiatica (formerly known as Hydrocotyle asiatica), has a long history of use, dating back to ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Preliminary study has demonstrated the ability of Centella asiatica extracts to promote wound healing, possibly through the stimulation of collagen synthesis. However, additional human study is needed in this area.
  • Avoid if allergic to gotu kola, asiaticoside, asiatic acid, or madecassic acid. Avoid with a history of high cholesterol, cancer, or diabetes. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Honey: Honey is a sweet, viscid fluid produced by honeybees (Apis melliflera) from the nectar of flowers. The primary studied use of honey is for wound management, particularly in promoting rapid wound healing, deodorizing, and debriding necrotic tissue. The types of wounds studied are varied; most are non-healing wounds such as chronic ulcers, postoperative wounds, and burns. Currently, there is insufficient human evidence to support the use of honey for skin graft healing. Although honey has apparent antibacterial effects, more human study is needed in this area.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to honey, pollen, celery, or bees. Honey is generally considered safe in recommended doses. Avoid honey from the genus Rhododendron because it may cause a toxic reaction. Avoid in infants younger than 12 months of age. Use cautiously with antibiotics. Potentially harmful contaminants (like C. botulinum or grayanotoxins) can be found in some types of honey and should be used cautiously in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is broadly defined as the external application of water in any form or temperature (hot, cold, steam, liquid, ice) for healing purposes. It may include immersion in a bath or body of water (such as the ocean or a pool), use of water jets, douches, application of wet towels to the skin, or water birth. These approaches have been used for the relief of various diseases and injuries, or for general well being. Hydrotherapy has been used in patients with pressure ulcers, and preliminary research suggests that daily whirlpool baths may reduce the time for wound healing. Better research is necessary in this area before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
  • There is a risk of infection from contaminated water if sanitary conditions are not maintained. Avoid sudden or prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures in baths, wraps, saunas, or other forms of hydrotherapy, particularly with heart disease, lung disease, or if pregnant. Avoid with implanted medical devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, or hepatic (liver) infusion pumps. Vigorous use of water jets should be avoided with fractures, known blood clots, bleeding disorders, severe osteoporosis, open wounds, or during pregnancy. Use cautiously with Raynaud's disease, chilblains, acrocyanosis, erythrocyanosis, and impaired temperature sensitivity, such as neuropathy. Use cautiously if pregnant or breastfeeding. Hydrotherapy should not delay the time to diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques or therapies, and should not be used as the sole approach to illnesses. Patients with known illnesses should consult their physician(s) before starting hydrotherapy.
  • Iodine: It is not clear if healing of wounds or skin ulcers is improved with the application of topical iodine solutions. Iodine solutions may assist with sterilization as a part of a larger approach to the wound healing process.
  • Reactions can be severe, and deaths have occurred with exposure to iodine. Avoid iodine-based products if allergic or hypersensitive to iodine. Do no use for more than 14 days. Avoid Lugol solution and saturated solution of potassium iodide (SSKI, PIMA) with hyperkalemia (high amounts of potassium in the blood), pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), bronchitis, or tuberculosis. Use cautiously when applying to the skin because it may irritate/burn tissues. Use sodium iodide cautiously with kidney failure. Avoid sodium iodide with gastrointestinal obstruction. Iodine is safe in recommended doses for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Avoid povidone-iodine for perianal preparation during delivery or postpartum antisepsis.
  • Magnet therapy: The use of magnets to treat illness has been described historically in many civilizations. In modern times, magnetic fields play an important role in Western medicine, including use for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), pulsed electromagnetic fields, and experimental magnetic stimulatory techniques. Early scientific evidence suggests that the time to heal wounds, including ulcers, may decrease with the use of static magnets. Better quality studies are needed before a firm recommendation can be made for wound healing.
  • Avoid with implantable medical devices, such as heart pacemakers, defibrillators, insulin pumps, or hepatic artery infusion pumps. Avoid with myasthenia gravis or bleeding disorders. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Magnet therapy is not advised as the sole treatment for potentially serious medical conditions, and it should not delay the time to diagnosis or treatment with more proven methods. Patients are advised to discuss magnet therapy with a qualified healthcare provider before starting treatment.
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is essential to all life and is a component of Coenzyme A (CoA), a molecule that is necessary for numerous vital chemical reactions to occur in cells. Pantothenic acid is essential to the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, as well as for the synthesis of hormones and cholesterol. In animal research, oral and topical pantothenic acid has been associated with accelerated skin wound healing. However early human study results conflict. Additional evidence is necessary before a clear conclusion can be reached regarding this use of pantothenic acid or dexpanthenol.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to pantothenic acid or dexpanthenol. Avoid with gastrointestinal blockage. Pantothenic acid is generally considered safe in pregnant and breastfeeding women when taken at recommended doses.
  • Papain: Papain is an enzyme that breaks protein bonds and has been used in Africa for treating burns. In standard western medical care, papain-containing debridement agents are commonly used to remove necrotic tissue and slough in burns, postoperative wounds, pilonidal cyst wounds, carbuncles, trauma wounds, infected wounds, and chronic lesions, such as pressure ulcers, and varicose and diabetic ulcers. According to reviews and clinical trials, papain may be very useful for wound debridement and for stimulating wound healing. More high-quality research is needed in this area.
  • Use cautiously in patients sensitive to papain. Use cautiously in patients being treated for prostatitis. Use Wobenzym®, which contains papain, cautiously, especially in those with bleeding disorders or taking anticoagulants or antiplatelets. Use cautiously as an adjuvant to radiation therapy. Avoid in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Avoid in patients using immunosuppressive therapy.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy techniques, such as laser treatment, have been used to clean and heal wounds. Early evidence also suggests that high voltage stimulation or pulsed electrical stimulation may speed the healing of some types of skin ulcers. More research with similar outcome measures is needed to better understand the role of physical therapy for wound care.
  • Not all physical therapy programs are suited for everyone, and patients should discuss their medical history with a qualified healthcare professional before beginning any treatments. Physical therapy may aggravate pre-existing conditions. Persistent pain and fractures of unknown origin have been reported. Physical therapy may increase the duration of pain or cause limitation of motion. Pain and anxiety may occur during the rehabilitation of patients with burns. Both morning stiffness and bone erosion have been reported in the literature although causality is unclear. Erectile dysfunction has also been reported. Physical therapy has been used in pregnancy and although reports of major adverse effects are lacking in the available literature, caution is advised nonetheless. All therapies during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be discussed with a licensed obstetrician/gynecologist before initiation.
  • Psyllium: Psyllium, also referred to as ispaghula, is derived from the husks of the seeds of Plantago ovata. Psyllium contains a high level of soluble dietary fiber, and is the chief ingredient in many commonly used bulk laxatives. Results from human study suggest that psyllium may reduce the number of surgeries necessary to heal anal fissures. Further evidence is necessary.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to psyllium, ispaghula, or English plantains (Plantago lanceolata). Avoid in patients with esophageal disorders, gastrointestinal atony, fecal impaction, gastrointestinal tract narrowing, swallowing difficulties, and previous bowel surgery. Avoid ingestion of psyllium-containing products in individuals with repeated or prolonged psyllium exposure who have not manifested allergic or hypersensitive symptoms. Prescription drugs should be taken one hour before or two hours after psyllium. Adequate fluid intake is required when taking psyllium-containing products. Use cautiously with blood thinners, antidiabetic agents, carbamazepine, lithium, potassium-sparing diuretics, salicylates, tetracyclines, nitrofurantoin, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, other laxatives, tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, doxepin, and imipramine), antigout agents, anti-inflammatory agents, hydrophilic agents, and chitosan. Use cautiously with diabetes and kidney dysfunction. Use cautiously if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Rose hip: Rose hips are the fruits that develop from the blossoms of the wild rose (Rosa spp.). They are typically orange to red in color, but some species may be purple or black. When applied topically, the volatile oils of aromatic plants may have physiological effects that will facilitate wound healing. Rose hips contain several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, and carotenoids, which could potentially promote wound healing when applied to the skin. Much larger and high quality clinical trials are needed to establish the therapeutic efficacy of rose hip and rose oil preparations in the topical treatment of surgical wounds and ulcers.
  • Use cautiously in patients who are avoiding immune system stimulants. Use cautiously in patients who are taking anticoagulant or anti-platelet aggregating agents, antibiotics, antineoplastics, antiretrovirals, anti-inflammatory agents, "Long-Life CiLi", antilipemics, aluminum-containing antacids, salicylates, or laxatives. Avoid in patients who are allergic to rose hips, rose pollen, its constituents, or members of the Rosaceae family.
  • TENS: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive technique in which a low-voltage electrical current is delivered through wires from a small power unit to electrodes located on the skin. Electrodes are temporarily attached with paste in various patterns, depending on the specific condition and treatment goals. TENS is often used to treat pain, as an alternative or addition to pain medications. Therapy sessions may last from minutes to hours. TENS is often used in conjunction with acupuncture therapy. TENS has been tested for its effects on blood flow to skin flaps used in plastic surgery procedures such as breast reconstruction. TENS has also been evaluated in patients with skin ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, and chronic ulcers of various causes. More research is needed in this area.
  • Avoid with implantable devices, like defibrillators, pacemakers, intravenous infusion pumps, or hepatic artery infusion pumps. Use cautiously with decreased sensation, like neuropathy, and with seizure disorders. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Therapeutic touch: Although some studies report an improvement in wound healing with therapeutic touch, others show no benefits.
  • Therapeutic touch is believed to be safe for most people. Therapeutic touch should not be used for potentially serious conditions in place of more proven therapies. Avoid with fever or inflammation, and on body areas with cancer.
  • Vitamin A: In preliminary study, retinol palmitate significantly reduced rectal symptoms of radiation proctopathy, perhaps because of wound healing effects. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to vitamin A. Vitamin A toxicity can occur if taken at high dosages. Use cautiously with liver disease or alcoholism. Smokers who consume alcohol and beta-carotene may be at an increased risk for lung cancer or heart disease. Vitamin A appears to be safe in pregnant women if taken at recommended doses; however, vitamin A excess, as well as deficiency, has been associated with birth defects. Excessive doses of vitamin A have been associated with central nervous system malformations. Use cautiously if breastfeeding because the benefits or dangers to nursing infants are not clearly established.
  • Zinc: Although zinc is frequently cited as having beneficial effects on healing of incision wounds, few studies have investigated this use. Further research is needed. There are conflicting findings regarding the potential benefit of zinc for healing leg ulcers. Available studies reported no or few adverse effects.
  • Preliminary evidence suggests that topical zinc oxide oil may help manage perianal and buttock skin damage in incontinent patients. Further research is needed to better understand the role of zinc for treatment of skin damage caused by incontinence.
  • Zinc is generally considered to be safe when taken at the recommended dosages. Avoid zinc chloride since studies have not been done on its safety or effectiveness. Avoid with kidney disease. Use cautiously if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Fair negative scientific evidence:
  • Aloe: A well-designed human trial found no benefit of topical acemannan hydrogel (a component of aloe gel) in the treatment of pressure ulcers.
  • Avoid if allergic to aloe or other plants of the Liliaceae family (garlic, onions, tulips). Avoid injecting aloe. Do not apply to open skin, surgical wounds or pressure ulcers. Avoid taking by mouth with diarrhea, bowel blockage, intestinal diseases, bloody stools or hepatitis. Avoid with a history of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), electrolyte imbalances, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease. Avoid taking by mouth if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
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  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. .
  3. Arnold M, Barbul A. Nutrition and wound healing. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2006;117(7 Suppl):42S-58S.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
  5. Dini V, Bertone M, Romanelli M. Prevention and management of pressure ulcers. Dermatol Ther. 2006;19(6):356-64.
  6. Langemo D, Anderson J, Hanson D, et al. Nutritional considerations in wound care. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2006;19(6):297-8, 300, 303.
  7. de Laat EH, Schoonhoven L, Pickkers P, et al. Epidemiology, risk and prevention of pressure ulcers in critically ill patients: a literature review. J Wound Care. 2006;15(6):269-75.
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Causes of lactation
  • General: Starting in the fourth month of pregnancy, the system in a woman's breast begins to develop. Milk production is affected by several hormones, namely prolactin and oxytocin.
  • Progesterone: Progesterone levels are increased during pregnancy and drop after birth. This triggers copious milk production by the glands (called alveoli) in the breast lobe (lactating gland) that produces milk.
  • Estrogen: Estrogen stimulates the milk duct system to mature. Estrogen levels also drop at delivery and remain low for the first several months of breastfeeding. Healthcare professionals recommend that breastfeeding mothers avoid estrogen-based birth control methods, as a spike in exogenous (from outside the body) estrogen levels may reduce a mother's milk supply.
  • Prolactin: Prolactin contributes to the increased growth of the alveoli during pregnancy.
  • Oxytocin: Oxytocin causes smooth muscle contraction and causes the uterus to contract around the time of birth. Oxytocin causes the smooth muscle layer of band-like cells surrounding the alveoli to squeeze the newly-produced milk into the duct system. Oxytocin is necessary for the milk ejection reflex and for milk expression to occur.
  • Human placental lactogen: Human placental lactogen (HPL) is released by the placenta during the second month of pregnancy. HPL appears to aid in breast, nipple, and areola growth before birth.
  • By the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, the breasts are ready to produce milk. It is also possible to induce lactation without pregnancy through chemical methods using certain drugs.
  • Lactogenesis: The process of milk production is called lactogenesis, which is divided into three stages.
  • Lactogenesis I: During the latter part of pregnancy, the woman's breasts enter into the lactogenesis I stage. This is when the breasts make colostrum (the first milk produced by the mother after birth). At this stage, high levels of progesterone inhibit most milk production. It is not a medical concern if a pregnant woman leaks colostrum before her baby's birth, nor is it an indication of future milk production.
  • Lactogenesis II: At birth, prolactin levels remain high, while the delivery of the placenta results in a sudden drop in progesterone, estrogen, and HPL levels. This abrupt withdrawal of progesterone in the presence of high prolactin levels stimulates the copious milk production of lactogenesis II.
  • When the breasts are stimulated, prolactin levels in the blood rise, peak after about 45 minutes, and return to the pre-breastfeeding state about three hours later. The release of prolactin triggers the cells in the alveoli to make milk. Some research indicates that prolactin in milk is higher at times during the milk production process, and that the highest levels tend to occur between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Other hormones, notably insulin, thyroxine (thyroid hormone), and cortisol (the stress hormone), are also produced during lac II, but their roles are not yet well understood. Although biochemical markers indicate that lactogenesis II begins within 30-40 hours of birth, mothers do not typically begin feeling increased breast fullness until two to three days after birth.
  • Colostrum is the first milk secreted or produced by the breast. It contains higher amounts of white blood cells and antibodies than mature milk. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses, in the body. Colostrum is especially high in immunoglobulin A (IgA) class of antibodies. These antibodies coat the lining of the baby's immature intestines and help prevent germs from invading the baby's system. Secretory IgA also helps prevent food allergies. During the first two weeks after the birth, colostrum production slowly gives way to mature breast milk.
  • Lactogenesis III: The hormonal endocrine control system aids in milk production during pregnancy and the first few days after the birth. When the milk supply is more firmly established, the autocrine (or local) control system begins. This stage is called lactogenesis III. During this stage, the more that milk is removed from the breasts, the more the breast will produce milk. Draining the breasts more fully also increases the rate of milk production, thus the milk supply is strongly influenced by how often the baby feeds and how well the mother is able to transfer milk from the breast. Low milk supply can often be traced to: not feeding or pumping often enough; inability of the infant to transfer milk effectively caused by jaw or mouth structure deficits or poor latching technique; rare maternal endocrine disorders; hypoplastic breast tissue; a metabolic or digestive inability in the infant, making the baby unable to digest the milk he/she receives; and inadequate calorie intake or malnutrition of the mother.
  • Milk ejection reflex: The release of the hormone oxytocin leads to the milk ejection or let-down reflex. Oxytocin stimulates the muscles surrounding the breast to squeeze out the milk. Breastfeeding mothers describe the sensation differently. Some feel a slight tingling, others feel immense amounts of pressure or slight pain/discomfort, and still others do not feel any difference.
  • The milk ejection reflex is not always consistent. Stress or anxiety can cause difficulties with breastfeeding. The thought of breastfeeding or the sound of any baby can stimulate this reflex, causing unwanted leakage Also, both breasts may give out milk when an infant is feeding from one breast. However, these problems often subside after two weeks of feeding.
  • A poor milk ejection reflex can be due to sore or cracked nipples, separation from the infant, a history of breast surgery, or tissue damage from prior breast trauma. If a mother has trouble breastfeeding, different methods of assisting the milk ejection reflex may help. These include feeding in a familiar and comfortable location, massage of the breast or back, or warming the breast with a cloth or shower.
  • Afterpains: Afterpains occur with increased levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin triggers the milk ejection reflex and also causes the uterus to contract. These pains may range from period-like cramps to strong labor-like contractions. The afterpains can be more severe with second and subsequent babies.
  • Lactation without pregnancy: It is also possible to induce lactation without pregnancy. Women who have never been pregnant are sometimes able to induce enough lactation to breastfeed. This is called "induced lactation." A woman who has breastfed before and re-starts is said to "relactate." If the nipples of a non-pregnant woman are consistently stimulated by a breast pump or actual suckling, the breasts will eventually begin to produce enough milk to begin feeding a baby. Once established, lactation adjusts according to demand. This is how some adoptive mothers, usually beginning with a supplemental nursing system or some other form of supplementation, are able to breastfeed. There is thought to be little or no difference in milk composition whether lactation is induced or a result of pregnancy.
  • Also, rare accounts of male lactation may occur. Some drugs, primarily atypical antipsychotics such as risperidone (Risperdal®), may cause lactation in both women and men.

Breastfeeding
  • Healthcare professionals recommend the following techniques for breastfeeding:
  • With a free hand, place the thumb on top of the breast and the other fingers below the breast. Do not touch the areola (the dark skin around the nipple). The areola is where the baby's lips will be.
  • Touch the baby's lips with the nipple until the baby opens his or her mouth very wide. Put the nipple all the way in the baby's mouth and pull the baby's body close. This lets the baby's jaw squeeze the milk ducts under the areola.
  • When the baby is "latched on" the right way, both lips should pout out (not be pulled in over his or her gums) and cover nearly all of the areola. Instead of smacking noises, the baby will make low-pitched swallowing noises. The baby's jaw may move back and forth. If pain is felt while the baby is nursing, he or she is probably not latched on correctly.
  • The baby's nose may be touching the breast during nursing. Babies' noses are designed to allow air to get in and out in just such a case. But if the individual is concerned that the baby cannot breathe easily, they can gently press down on the breast near the baby's nose to give him or her more room to breathe.
  • Holding the baby: A baby can be held in a number of ways during breastfeeding. The baby should not have to turn his or her head or strain his or her neck to nurse. In the cradle position, put the baby's head in the crook of the arm. Support the baby's back and bottom with the arm and hand. The baby will be lying sideways facing the individual. The mother's breast should be right in front of the baby's face.
  • The football position consists of tucking the baby under the arm like a football with his or her head resting on the hand. Support the baby's body with the forearm. This may be a good position if the mother is recovering from a cesarean section or if the baby is very small.
  • Mothers can also lie on their side with the baby facing the breast. Pillows can be used to prop up the mother's head and shoulders. This is also a good position if the mother is recovering from a cesarean section or an episiotomy.
  • Milk ejection reflex: A few seconds to several minutes after the breastfeeding is started, the mother may feel a tingle in her breast, and milk may start to drip from the breast not being used. These are signs that the milk is ready to flow.
  • This milk ejection reflex makes breastfeeding easier for the baby. Let-down may also occur if a feeding is overdue, if the mother hears the baby cry, or even while the mother is thinking about the baby.
  • Milk ejection can be forceful enough to cause the baby to cough. If this is a problem, the mother can express some of her milk by hand before a feeding to bring on the ejection reflex before starting breastfeeding.
  • Feeding frequency: Feed the baby as often as he or she wants to be fed. This may be eight to 12 times a day or more. How often a baby wants to feed may change over time as he or she goes through growth spurts. Growth spurts occur at about two and six weeks of age and again at about three and six months of age.
  • Let the baby nurse until he or she is satisfied. This may be for about 15-20 minutes at each breast. Try to have the baby nurse from both breasts at each feeding. Signs that the baby is getting enough milk include: acts satisfied after each feeding and gains weight constantly after the first three to seven days after birth (the baby may lose a little weight during the first week after being born); have about six to eight wet diapers a day; and have about two to five or more stools a day at first. After the first week, the infant may then have two or less stools a day. Stools will be runny at first. If the mother is nursing fewer than eight times a day, it is especially important to be aware of these signs.
  • Increasing milk supply: If the baby needs more milk, increase the number of feedings a day. It is also important for the mother to get plenty of rest, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and drink plenty of fluids. Giving the body time to catch up to the baby's demands is important to producing enough milk.
  • Before breastfeeding, mothers can put a warm compress over the breasts for about 15 minutes to increase milk flow. Alternatively, patients can take warm showers and/or gently massage the breasts to increase milk flow. Do not start giving the baby formula or cereal. If formula or cereal is given to the baby, he or she may not want as much breast milk. This will decrease the mother's milk supply. Also, the baby does not need any solid foods until he or she is four to six months old.
  • Diet: The best diet for a breastfeeding woman is well-balanced and has plenty of calcium. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals and breads, meats or beans, and milk and dairy foods like cheese is recommended by healthcare professionals. The mother will need to get enough calories - about 500 more per day than usual. The mother will also need to drink plenty of fluids.
  • A balanced diet that includes five servings of milk or dairy products each day will give the mother enough calcium. If the mother does not eat meat or dairy products, the calcium needed can be obtained from broccoli, sesame seeds, tofu (soy), and kale. Also, calcium supplementation is available. A doctor or healthcare provider can help the mother with dietary issues.
  • If foods bother the baby, it is recommended by healthcare professionals to stop eating the food causing a problem. Caffeine and alcohol can get into the mother's milk, so mothers should limit these substances. Drugs, including non-prescription and prescription items, can also get into the mother's milk. It is best not to take anything without talking to a doctor first. Also, if the mother smokes, nursing is another good reason to try to quit. Smoking can cause the mother to make less milk and the chemicals in cigarettes and smoke can get into the milk.

Self-management
  • Breast pumps: If a mother is breastfeeding her baby, a breast pump may offer flexibility. Breastfeeding is a round-the-clock commitment. That is why many breastfeeding mothers consider breast pumps very important. Breast pumps help express the milk from the mother's breast. Some breast pumps are hand-operated, others run on electricity, and the designs vary. Some models attach to only one breast while others let the mother express milk from both breasts at once.
  • Choosing a breast pump depends on several factors. These factors include how often the breast pump is to be used. A simple hand pump works best on occasion, and an electric pump works best when a mother works full-time or is away from the baby for more than a few hours a day. Electric pumps stimulate the breasts more effectively than hand pumps. This helps empty the breasts and protect the milk supply. Electric breast pumps are faster than manual pumps. Double breast pumps allow pumping both breasts and help stimulate milk production while cutting pumping time in half.
  • Every pump has a shield to place over the breast. If the mother is concerned that the standard breast shield is too small, check with individual manufacturers about other options. If the mother wants to pump both breasts at once, make sure the pump is equipped with two breast shields.
  • Preparing and storing breast milk: When preparing breast milk, it is recommended by healthcare professionals to be sure to wash the hands before expressing or handling breast milk and when collecting milk, be sure to store it in clean containers, such as screw cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps, or heavy-duty bags that fit directly into nursery bottles. Avoid using ordinary plastic storage bags or formula bottle bags, as these could easily leak or spill; if delivering breast milk to a child care provider, clearly label the container with the child's name and date; clearly label the milk with the date it was expressed to facilitate using the oldest milk first; do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk within a storage container as it is best not to mix the two; and do not save milk from a used bottle for use at another feeding.
  • Thawing breast milk: As time permits, thaw frozen breast milk by transferring it to the refrigerator for thawing or by swirling it in a bowl of warm water. Healthcare professionals warn against using a microwave oven to thaw or heat bottles of breast milk as they do not heat liquids evenly. Uneven heating could easily scald a baby or damage the milk. Bottles may explode if left in the microwave too long. Excess heat can destroy the nutrient quality of the expressed milk.
  • Breast milk can be stored at room temperature for four to eight hours (at no warmer than 77 degrees Fahrenheit, or 25 degrees Celsius). Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to eight days at 32-39 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 3.9 degrees Celsius). Breast milk can be stored in the freezer: for up to two weeks in a freezer compartment located inside the refrigerator; for three to four months in a freezer that is self-contained and connected on top of or on the side of the refrigerator; or for six months or more in a deep freezer that is always 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 degrees Celsius). It is important to leave about an inch of space at the top of the container or bottle to allow for expansion of the milk when it freezes. If the breast milk is thawed, it can be refrigerated and used within 24 hours, but it is important not to refreeze it.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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