Leaky boobs during pregnancy or lactation is a common and normal condition.
You might be surprised to hear that a women can experience leaky boobs even if she has never been pregnant or given birth.
Read on to find out all about signs, causes and treatment for leaky boobs.
Leaking boobs while breastfeeding
It’s normal to experience leaking breasts during lactation.
Leaky breasts are particularly common in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, when milk production is hormonally driven and your body is learning to establish a milk supply that meets your baby’s needs. For some mothers, this means having too much milk.
For tips on managing an oversupply of breast milk, you can read BellyBelly’s article Too Much Milk? Managing Oversupply of Breastmilk.
The breast milk let down reflex
In the early weeks of breastfeeding, you might have very full breasts between your baby’s breastfeeds. Some women feel a tingling sensation or notice that their breasts are leaking milk between their baby’s nursing sessions.
This is called a letdown reflex.
The letdown reflex is usually activated when your baby begins to suckle at the breast. In the early weeks of breastfeeding, your letdown reflex can be triggered easily, by hearing your baby cry or even just by thinking about your baby. This is a normal, hormonal response for a breastfeeding mother.
Sometimes, an overactive let down reflex can negatively affect breastfeeding.
For tips on how to manage this, you can read BellyBelly’s article Overactive Letdown – 6 Tips To Manage It.
Boobs leaking during pregnancy
Sone women notice their breasts leaking milk during pregnancy.
Colostrum is present in the breasts from about half way through pregnancy, whether you have leaking breasts or not. Colostrum is much lower in volume than the breast milk your body makes once your baby has been born. If your breasts leak during pregnancy, it’s likely to be in small amounts that you notice directly around your nipples, on one or both breasts, or on the inside of your bra.
Leaking breasts during pregnancy is not an indication of what your breast milk supply will be after your baby is born. Lots of pregnant women don’t notice their breasts leaking and still go to to breastfeed their babies successfully.
Some women hand express colostrum when they are pregnant, so they have a back up when their baby is born. This can be useful if a mother and baby are separated, due to medical reasons, after the birth or if the baby is not feeding effectively.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Expressing Colostrum During Pregnancy.
How to stop leaky boobs
Once your breast milk supply regulates, leaking breasts should become less troublesome.
In the meantime, if you wear breast pads, or nursing pads, inside your bra, they will absorb breast milk and prevent leaking through your clothes.
To ‘short circuit’ your let down reflex, press firmly against your breast, towards your chest wall. To do this more discreetly, try crossing your arms tightly around your chest to apply pressure and avoid leaking.
Most importantly, remember to wear nursing pads when you leave the house.
Breastfeeding women might leak milk during sex. If this happens, try not to get embarrassed. Oxytocin, the hormone that triggers the let down reflex, is also released during breast stimulation and orgasm. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, talking to your partner about how you feel should help.
What causes leaking breasts when you’re not breastfeeding?
Some women who have stopped breastfeeding continue to make milk for a period of time afterwards. This could be weeks, months or, in some cases, years. Sometimes this is normal; in other cases it can be caused by a hormone or other medical condition. Talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about your leaking breasts.
Galactorrhea is a condition where a woman’s breasts make milk even though she is not pregnant and has not given birth.
What is the most common cause of galactorrhea?
The most common causes of galactorrhea are disorders of the pituitary gland, such as prolactinoma. Prolactinoma is a condition that increases the level of prolactin in the body (the milk-making hormone).
Other causes can include thyroid disorders, the use of certain herbs and side effects from certain medications (such as the contraceptive pill or some antidepressants).
How to stop leaking breasts when not breastfeeding
Treatment of galactorrhea depends on the cause. You doctor might run blood tests to check for pregnancy or thyroid problems, or do an MRI to check for a tumor of the pituitary gland.
Sometimes, galactorrhea can go away on its own. You should always discuss this with your healthcare provider, however, to rule out any underlying conditions.