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Gordon Sloan, Amjad Ali and Jonathan Webster

Summary

Ketoacidosis occurring during lactation has been described infrequently. The condition is incompletely understood, but it appears to be associated with a combination of increased metabolic demands during lactation, reduction in carbohydrate intake and acute illness. We present a case of a 27-year-old woman, 8 weeks post-partum, who was exclusively breastfeeding her child whilst following a low carbohydrate diet. She developed gastroenteritis and was unable to tolerate an oral diet for several days. She presented with severe metabolic acidosis on admission with a blood 3-hydroxybutyrate of 5.4 mmol/L. She was treated with intravenous dextrose and intravenous sodium bicarbonate, and given dietary advice to increase her carbohydrate intake. She made a rapid and full recovery. We provide a summary of the common causes of ketoacidosis and compare our case with other presentations of lactation ketoacidosis.

Learning points:

  • Ketoacidosis in the lactating woman is a rare cause of raised anion gap metabolic acidosis.
  • Low carbohydrate intake, starvation, intercurrent illness or a combination of these factors could put breastfeeding women at risk of ketoacidosis.
  • Ketoacidosis in the lactating woman has been shown to resolve rapidly with sufficient carbohydrate intake and intravenous dextrose.
  • Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential because the condition is reported to be reversible with a low chance of recurrence with appropriate dietary advice.