Raynaud's Syndrome During Pregnancy and BreastfeedingElizabeth Keefe |14, December 2013
According to the Raynaud's Association, an estimated 20% of women have Raynaud's Syndrome during their childbearing years. Women are much more likely than men to have the condition. But, does being pregnant with Raynaud's affect a woman's pregnancy and/or her unborn baby? Also, is it safe breastfeed her baby?
What is Raynaud's Syndrome?
Raynaud's Syndrome (sometimes called Raynaud's disease or phenomenon) is a vascular condition that causes certain people to lose blood flow to their extremities after being exposed to cold temperatures. The hallmark sign that someone has Raynaud's is if after being exposed to the cold, the fingers, toes, ears, nose and / or nipples will turn white, then blue, then red.
There are two types of Raynaud's — "primary" and "secondary." Primary Raynaud's typically begins when a person is in their teens, and there are no known causes of the phenomenon. The goal is to prevent and manage symptoms, adopt a healthy lifestyle and improve blood circulation. Secondary Raynaud's is a result of another medical condition such as a connective tissue or vascular disease, medications, infections, metabolic disorders and others. Treatment will usually revolve around treatment of the underlying disorder causing the attacks.
Does having Raynaud's affect pregnancy?
According to a study conducted by the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, pregnant women with Raynaud's had a 24% higher chance of delivering her baby prematurely. The study, published in the journal "Arthritis & Rheumatism", also found that women with Raynaud's have a higher chance of delivering lower birth weight babies than women who do not have the condition. While the study was only conducted on 97 women, it is still worthy to note the results as it could have an effect on how women with Raynaud's Syndrome are treated during their pregnancy.
Can I breastfeed my baby?
If you have Raynaud's attacks that occur on your nipples, it does not mean you cannot breastfeed. But, you do need to take extra precautions while nursing your baby. You should minimize exposure as much as you can. If it is cold where you live, make sure you keep your home warm. When your baby has finished nursing, do not let your nipples air dry as the moisture will make having an attack much more likely, even if you do cover up immediately after nursing.
Lansinoh, made of pure lanolin should be applied regularly to your nipples to provide a barrier, and to prevent cracking, as well as provide a natural way to improve blood circulation.
Treatment options during pregnancy
Unfortunately, there are not many treatment options available. The goal is to stay warm and dry. If you have an attack you must tend to yourself immediately to prevent tissue damage. Here are some ways to keep your Raynaud's attacks under control during your pregnancy.
Stay Warm and Dry!
It may not seem that easy, and sometimes it isn't if it's wintertime. But, you have to keep yourself warm and dry. Raynaud's attacks in the feet can be very dangerous due to numbness that can occur with an attack. Invest in some very warm socks. Change your socks regularly to make sure they stay dry. You can buy some powder to help keep your feet dry. Wear a hat, gloves and warm coat if you venture outside when it is cold. If you need to take something out of the freezer, it is best to wear gloves.
Certain foods and spices can help improve blood circulation which will also help control attacks. Try to incorporate the following into your pregnancy diet:
- Vitamin C containing citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries and papaya.
- Cayenne pepper will help warm you up and increase blood flow.
- Garlic and tumeric are natural blood thinners and help improve circulation.
- Tomatoes, watermelon, and apricots contain lycopene and can aid circulation and help prevent heart disease according to the American Heart Association.
Exercise seems to be the treatment for everything doesn't it? Well, according to the Cleveland Clinic, exercise has been proven to be a very good way to combat Raynaud's attacks by improving your overall circulation. It will also help stabilize your moods during pregnancy, provide you with extra energy, and keep your weight gain in check.
Raynaud's attacks can be brought about by stress. Try to reduce stress as much as you can to prevent attacks. Find ways to relax such as practicing yoga, enjoying a low key hobby, and taking time for yourself. Also, laugh regularly! Laughing and smiling can reduce your stress levels instantaneously!
If your attacks are severe, you may have previously been prescribed a vasodilator medication such as Ditalizem, a calcium channel blocker. If you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, be sure to tell your doctor right away that you are taking the medication, Ditalizem has been classified as a category C medication by the FDA for use during pregnancy. While no adverse effects have been reported by women using the medication during pregnancy it is best to be cautious and weigh the benefits and the risks. However, it is recommended by the manufacture, that women who are breastfeeding do not use Ditalizem as there is a risk of adverse effects in newborns and infants.
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