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Hormonal effects in newborns
Alternative namesPseudomenses; Witch's milk; Newborn breast swelling
DefinitionExposure to the mother's hormones before birth -- and withdrawal from them at birth -- may cause temporary conditions in a newborn.
While in the womb, a fetus is exposed to many of the chemicals present in the mother's bloodstream. The placenta acts as a barrier to many substances, but others freely or partially enter the fetal bloodstream.
Maternal hormones are among those chemicals that penetrate the placental barrier and have an influence on the fetus. During pregnancy the hormone estrogen is particularly high. This is the hormone that causes breast enlargement in the mother. Similar influences are commonly found in newborns, both boys and girls, by the third day after birth.
In addition to the enlargement, there may be some discharge from the nipples. This too is common and should be of no concern, disappearing within two weeks. The discharge is called witch's milk.
Newborn girls may initially have prominent labia as a result of the estrogen exposure. They sometimes also experience a type of vaginal discharge called pseudomenstruation due to the withdrawal of the maternal hormones. The discharge is white and occasionally tinged with blood. This condition is common and should not last beyond the first week of life.
Update Date: 5/21/2003Elizabeth Hait, M.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT