Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. Your ribcage will widen, your tummy will stretch, and your organs will shift around to make room for your growing uterus. Your breasts will go through a number of changes too, as they prepare to nourish your baby. So what breast changes can you expect during pregnancy? Here’s the main changes most women experience in early pregnancy and later.
Breast Changes #1: Sore Breasts
You probably already know this, but sadly many women experience sore breasts during pregnancy. Often referred to as ‘breast tenderness', this condition would be better named ‘get your hands off my ouch ouch ooooow!'. While some women may not experience increased sensitivity during pregnancy, for others even accidental brushes can be agony.
Sore breasts is most commonly experienced during the first trimester. Rapidly increasing levels of both oestrogen and progesterone (yes, those guys are to blame, again!) are thought to cause breast tenderness. As you enter the second trimester, you should find that the discomfort eases to a more manageable level, or disappears altogether.
In the meantime, try the following tips to reduce discomfort:
- Wear a well-fitting maternity bra
- Avoid underwired bras
- Wear a cotton sleep bra to bed
- Be extra careful to avoid knocking your breasts or brushing past things
- Ask your partner to take a hands free approach to your breasts
- Do not brush long hair while naked, it is inevitable that you will accidentally brush your nipples (speaking from experience here)
Breast Changes #2: Bigger Breasts
Big breasts is often discussed as though it is pregnancy's true glory. You know, apart from the baby. All of the information aimed at dads-to-be, focuses on this perk. Of course, none of this information explains that those enlarged breasts are likely to be very, very sore. Your breasts may start to grow as early as week six, and this growth will continue to the end of the pregnancy. Most women find that their bra size increases by at least a cup during their first pregnancy. As your ribcage expands to make room for the baby, you may find that you need a bigger band size too.
Some women find that their breasts grow slowly throughout the pregnancy, but for others it happens intermittently. If your breasts go through a period of rapid growth, you may find that your breasts feel itchy as the skin stretches. Keeping the skin moisturised can help to relieve this discomfort. You may develop stretch marks on your breasts, but these will usually fade over time.
As your breasts grow and change during pregnancy, it's important to make sure they are properly supported. You will need to be fitted for new bras during pregnancy, possibly more than once. Being professionally measured will help you to find the right size bra and support for your breasts. You can save money by choosing nursing bras that can be used after the birth too. Many women find they need a new bra towards the end of their first trimester, and again towards the end of the pregnancy.
Breast Changes #3: You're So Vein…
Many women notice visible veins on their breasts during pregnancy. This is caused by increased blood flow, by the end of the pregnancy you will have up to 50 percent more blood in your body to meet the needs of your baby. This will make your veins more prominent, and this can be especially noticeable on your breasts and abdomen.
The veins will become less noticeable after the birth, or when you stop breastfeeding. After this point, your breasts will not require an increased blood supply, and you should find the veins return to their pre-pregnancy state.
Breast Changes #4: Nipple Changes
As your breasts prepare for breastfeeding, your nipples will go through some changes too. Your nipples and areolas will probably become darker during pregnancy. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, as your body prepares for the birth, your nipples will increase in size.
During early pregnancy, smalls bumps known as Montgomery's tubercles will begin to appear on your areola. These are sebaceous glands that will secrete an oil to discourage bacteria. These little bumps are often an early clue of a first pregnancy.
Breast Changes #5: Leakage
From as early as week 16, your breasts may be able to produce milk. From this stage, you may notice that your breasts occasionally leak a straw-coloured fluid known as colostrum. Colostrum is full of antibodies and helps your baby's immune system immediately after the birth, this is produced until your milk comes in a few days after the birth. If you notice that you are leaking colostrum, wearing a breast pad may help to prevent it soaking through to your clothes.
If you notice blood leaking from your nipple, you should contact your health provider. Though it is usually nothing to worry about, it is worth being checked by a healthcare professional.
Breast Changes #6: Lumps and Bumps
Some women notice lumps in their breasts during pregnancy. Common causes include cysts, fibroadenomas (fibrous tissue), and galactoceles (cysts filled with milk). While these are usually benign and nothing to worry about, it is always worth being checked out by your doctor. If you notice changes to an existing lump, or feel a new lump, contact your doctor to arrange an appointment.
Breast Changes #7: Montgomery’s Tubercules
Some women notice the appearance of little bumps around their areola in early pregnancy, which look a bit like goosebumps. For some women it can be a sign of pregnancy, but the number of Montgomery’s Tubercules (named after an Irish obstetrician who described them in the 1800’s) on your areola can vary on each individual breast and even each pregnancy. You might find you only have a few or as many as 28. Do not try to pop them! Not only might you end up with an infection, but they are believed to beneficial, keeping the areola and nipple protected and lubricated.
Important Tip: Breast Exams
You should continue to check your breasts for lumps during pregnancy. Of course, this is tricky as your breasts are changing and growing, so it is more difficult to know your breasts at this time. It is recommended that you check your breasts each month, and you should continue this through pregnancy. Inform your doctor if you notice anything unusual.