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Treatments for breast engorgement during lactation

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, June 2016
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
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  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (80th percentile)

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1 blog
63 tweeters
11 Facebook pages
1 Wikipedia page


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Treatments for breast engorgement during lactation
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, June 2016
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd006946.pub3
Pubmed ID

Lindeka Mangesi, Irena Zakarija-Grkovic


Breast engorgement is a painful condition affecting large numbers of women in the early postpartum period. It may lead to premature weaning, cracked nipples, mastitis and breast abscess. Various forms of treatment for engorgement have been studied but so far little evidence has been found on an effective intervention. This is an update of a systematic review first published by Snowden et al. in 2001 and subsequently published in 2010. The objective of this update is to seek new information on the best forms of treatment for breast engorgement in lactating women. We identified studies for inclusion through the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 June 2015) and searched reference lists of retrieved studies. Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials. Two review authors independently assessed trials for eligibility, extracted data and conducted 'Risk of bias' assessments. Where insufficient data were presented in trial reports, we attempted to contact study authors and obtain necessary information. We assessed the quality of the evidence using the GRADE approach. In total, we included 13 studies with 919 women. In 10 studies individual women were the unit of analysis and in three studies, individual breasts were the unit of analysis. Four out of 13 studies were funded by an agency with a commercial interest, two received charitable funding, and two were funded by government agencies.Trials examined interventions including non-medical treatments: cabbage leaves (three studies), acupuncture (two studies), ultrasound (one study), acupressure (one study), scraping therapy (Gua Sha) (one study), cold breast-packs and electromechanical massage (one study), and medical treatments: serrapeptase (one study), protease (one study) and subcutaneous oxytocin (one study). The studies were small and used different comparisons with only single studies contributing data to outcomes of this review. We were unable to pool results in meta-analysis and only seven studies provided outcome data that could be included in data and analysis. Non-medicalNo differences were observed in the one study comparing acupuncture with usual care (advice and oxytocin spray) (risk ratio (RR) 0.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.13 to 1.92; one study; 140 women) in terms of cessation of breastfeeding. However, women in the acupuncture group were less likely to develop an abscess (RR 0.20, 95% CI 0.04 to 1.01; one study; 210 women), had less severe symptoms on day five (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.99), and had a lower rate of pyrexia (RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.94) than women in the usual care group.In another study with 39 women comparing cabbage leaf extract with placebo, no differences were observed in breast pain (mean difference (MD) 0.40, 95% CI -0.67 to 1.47; low-quality evidence) or breast engorgement (MD 0.20, 95% CI -0.18 to 0.58; low-quality evidence). There was no difference between ultrasound and sham treatment in analgesic requirement (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.63 to 1.51; one study; 45 women; low-quality evidence). A study comparing Gua-Sha therapy with hot packs and massage found a marked difference in breast engorgement (MD -2.42, 95% CI -2.98 to -1.86; one study; 54 women), breast pain (MD -2.01, 95% CI -2.60 to -1.42; one study; 54 women) and breast discomfort (MD -2.33, 95% CI -2.81 to -1.85; one study; 54 women) in favour of Gua-Sha therapy five minutes post-intervention, though both interventions significantly decreased breast temperature, engorgement, pain and discomfort at five and 30 minutes post-treatment.Results from individual trials that could not be included in data analysis suggested that there were no differences between room temperature and chilled cabbage leaves and between chilled cabbage leaves and gel packs, with all interventions producing some relief. Intermittent hot/cold packs applied for 20 minutes twice a day were found to be more effective than acupressure (P < 0.001). Acupuncture did not improve maternal satisfaction with breastfeeding. In another study, women who received breast-shaped cold packs were more likely to experience a reduction in pain intensity than women who received usual care; however, the differences between groups at baseline, and the failure to observe randomisation, make this study at high risk of bias. One study found a decrease in breast temperature (P = 0.03) following electromechanical massage and pumping in comparison to manual methods; however, the high level of attrition and alternating method of sequence generation place this study at high risk of bias. MedicalWomen treated with protease complex were less likely to have no improvement in pain (RR 0.17, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.74; one study; 59 women) and swelling (RR 0.34, 95% CI 0.15 to 0.79; one study; 59 women) on the fourth day of treatment and less likely to experience no overall change in their symptoms or worsening of symptoms (RR 0.26, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.56). It should be noted that it is more than 40 years since the study was carried out, and we are not aware that this preparation is used in current practice. Subcutaneous oxytocin provided no relief at all in symptoms at three days (RR 3.13, 95% CI 0.68 to 14.44; one study; 45 women).Serrapeptase was found to produce some relief in breast pain, induration and swelling, when compared to placebo, with a fewer number of women experiencing slight to no improvement in overallbreast engorgement, swelling and breast pain.Overall, the risk of bias of studies in the review is high. The overall quality as assessed using the GRADE approach was found to be low due to limitations in study design and the small number of women in the included studies, with only single studies providing data for analysis. Although some interventions such as hot/cold packs, Gua-Sha (scraping therapy), acupuncture, cabbage leaves and proteolytic enzymes may be promising for the treatment of breast engorgement during lactation, there is insufficient evidence from published trials on any intervention to justify widespread implementation. More robust research is urgently needed on the treatment of breast engorgement.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 63 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 252 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United States 2 <1%
Unknown 250 99%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Bachelor 40 16%
Student > Master 35 14%
Researcher 25 10%
Student > Ph. D. Student 21 8%
Other 16 6%
Other 58 23%
Unknown 57 23%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 74 29%
Nursing and Health Professions 57 23%
Social Sciences 13 5%
Psychology 9 4%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 5 2%
Other 30 12%
Unknown 64 25%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 49. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 11 November 2020.
All research outputs
of 17,361,274 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 11,660 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 268,138 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 139 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 17,361,274 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 96th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 11,660 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 25.0. This one has done well, scoring higher than 89% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 268,138 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 95% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 139 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done well, scoring higher than 80% of its contemporaries.