This Woman's Vulva Started Leaking Milk While She Was Breastfeeding

Most new moms have loads of questions about breastfeeding after having their first child. How can I tell if my newborn is getting enough milk? Should breastfeeding be this painful? Etc, etc. However, here’s one that we haven’t seen before (until now): What happens if you start lactating from your vulva?

A case report published yesterday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology has brought this nearly unbelievable question to our attention.

The case report features the story of a 29-year-old woman who, four days after giving birth, suffered painful vulvar swelling. Her vulva was not only swollen and painful but also leaking “milky white fluid.”

When doctors took a closer look at the patient’s vulva, they found breast tissue in it. Yes, you read that right. “Ultrasound examination was consistent with lactational breast tissue,” the case report says.

So…how does that happen? It turns out the woman had what’s called ectopic breast tissue. Ectopic breast tissue, also known as accessory breast tissue, is breast tissue that’s present outside the breasts. It can be found anywhere from the armpit to the groin, and it’s present from birth. “Ectopic breast tissue, defined as mammary glands located outside of the breast, arises from remnants of the embryonic ‘milk line’ or mammary ridge,” the new case report explains. Women with accessory breast tissue can have extra nipples or areolas; this condition is called polythelia.

Below are photos of a woman featured in a different case report. You can see her accessory breast tissue in her armpit.

Ectopic breast tissue can potentially be malignant just like regular breast tissue. The new case report explains that it’s important that doctors recognize the possibility of ectopic breast tissue in the vulva so as not to mistake it for a vulvar mass, such as a vulvar carcinoma.

The patient featured in the new case report had received sutures after giving birth, and they were covering the excretory duct in her vulva. She was given oral antibiotics to treat a “slight inflammatory reaction” that occurred around her incision. After the sutures were removed, the patient’s pain, swelling, and the milk secretion coming from her vulva decreased. The case report states that the woman was able to continue breastfeeding.

It also notes that doctors warned the patient that her ectopic breast tissue of the vulva could become malignant. However, as of one year after giving birth, the patient hadn’t opted to have her vulvar breast tissue excised.

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