Can You Get Mastitis When Not Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Can You Get Mastitis When Not Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Mastitis is most common among women who are breastfeeding. It can develop when bacteria from an infant’s mouth enters into the milk duct through a damaged nipple due to poor latching or cracked nipple. Otherwise, mastitis can develop as a result of the blocked milk duct, which is caused by the backward flow of milk in the milk ducts. Nevertheless, any other woman can develop mastitis, even those who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. For example, women with nipple piercing or have bruised nipples, as well as women who have certain types of cancer such as inflammatory carcinoma.

Can You Get Mastitis When Not Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Mastitis in women who are breastfeeding is referred to as puerperal/lactation mastitis whereas mastitis that is not associated with breastfeeding is known as periductal/non-lactation or chronic mastitis. In older women, who have surpassed menopause can develop mastitis as a result of hormonal changes, which then results in obstruction in the milk ducts due to dead skin cells and debris.

The Breast Structure And Development Of Mastitis From Bacteria

Mastitis is a breast tissue infection which causes inflammation of the underlying tissue. If you have this infection, you will experience symptoms such as pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness around and within the affected breast region as well as flu-like symptoms including a high fever. At the exterior of the breast, we have nipples and the areola, which is the darkly pigmented area. From the nipple, there are milk ducts which spread out in the interior of the breast. The milk ducts act as passageways for milk to flow through towards the nipple. At the end of the breast area, there are mammary glands, where the production of milk in pregnant and nursing women takes place. Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus agalactiae are the most common causes of breast infections including mastitis. The bacteria enter the breast through the nipples (bruised, cracked or pierced) and into the milk ducts. It then multiplies causing the aforementioned symptoms. The mastitis-causing bacteria are normally found on the skin or could be from a baby’s mouth.

Understanding Lactation Mastitis

Lactation mastitis, as earlier mentioned, is the infection common with nursing mothers. It can stem from bacteria, found in the baby’s mouth, which has traveled into the breast via the nipples during latching. Otherwise, mastitis in nursing mothers can arise from the poor flow of milk, whereby instead of flowing downwards, it flows back into the milk duct. In other words, a clogged milk duct can lead to mastitis, if not treated early enough. If there is no obstruction in the milk ducts and the milk is flowing well, mastitis can clear up easily as the milk washes out the bacteria. However, if there is a blockage somewhere in the milk ducts, the mastitis-causing bacteria normally multiply faster and can lead to further complications. The best way to treat lactation mastitis is through constant nursing, to help clear the milk ducts. Also, massage the area with the lump and use hot compressions to relieve the swelling. Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic that is safe for the baby to help with the infection.

Understanding Non-Lactation Mastitis

Non-lactation mastitis differs from lactation mastitis on the basis of who is susceptible to the specific form of mastitis. Non-lactation mastitis occurs in women who are not breastfeeding. The common causes of this form of mastitis is the presence of infection-causing bacteria and women who have inflammatory breast cancer. Other factors which can increase the risk of developing chronic mastitis include; a recent breast surgery, diabetes, breast exposure to radiation therapy, and prior lumpectomies. If further complications arise, the affected area can develop an abscess, which is a collection of pus. To treat mastitis with an abscess, the abscess needs to be drained first, before getting rid of the mastitis infection. The abscess normally forms behind the nipple and the symptoms will be exhibited where the areola is located, instead of the breast region. For non-lactation mastitis and mastitis with an abscess, the best treatment is antibiotic therapy.


If you have ever wondered whether you can develop mastitis when you are not pregnant or nursing, the answer is yes. Non-lactation mastitis is rare, but it can occur. The common causes of mastitis in non-lactating women include inflammatory breast cancer, obstructed milk ducts due to dead skin cells and debris in women who have reached menopause, and due to the mastitis-causing bacteria. Women smokers are also susceptible to chronic mastitis as it is believed smoking destroys milk ducts, thus increasing the risk of developing infections.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 15, 2020

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