Have you ever noticed the small bumps around your nipples and wondered what they are?
Firstly, they are completely normal.
Secondly, they’re called Montgomery glands, and they have several important functions.
What are Montgomery glands?
Montgomery glands (also called tubercles) are small sebaceous glands found around the nipple and areola (the area of pigmented skin around the nipple).
Just like other sebaceous glands around the hair follicles on your body, they secrete an oily or waxy substance that helps to lubricate the skin.
In fact, they’re found over the entire surface of the body, except for the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet.
Montgomery glands in pregnancy
You might have already seen, around your nipples, a number of bumps that contain hair follicles. You might not have noticed these areolar glands until you became pregnant.
They might have appeared even before you missed your period, or had any other pregnancy symptoms.
The reason they’re a pregnancy symptom is because they play an important role in breastfeeding.
The secretion of an oily or waxy substance in the nipple area helps to keep the nipples soft and supple. The substance also contains anti-infective properties that help keep germs away.
If it’s possible you might be pregnant, you can take a pregnancy test to be sure.
In the meantime, check our article about pregnancy symptoms, to find out about other signs you might be pregnant.
It’s also normal for Montgomery tubercles to appear on women who aren’t pregnant.
Puberty and a woman’s menstrual cycle can make these bumps more noticeable at certain times.
Squeezing Montgomery glands
Tubercles around the breast and nipples should not be squeezed or picked at.
Although they look a bit like small pimples that could be popped, they’re a normal part of your breast anatomy and should be left alone.
Attempting to remove the tubercles by squeezing or picking might make them even more noticeable, or cause them to become infected.
If you think one could be infected, you should seek advice from your doctor.
Swollen Montgomery glands
Sometimes Montgomery glands can become blocked, swollen, or clogged.
This can often be remedied with a salt bath.
By soaking the area in warm, salty water (about one teaspoon of water per cup of water), for a few minutes, the swollen or blocked glands might improve.
If several glands appear to be blocked, it’s best to seek advice from your health care provider.
Infected Montgomery glands
There are times when swollen, blocked, or clogged tubercles might need medical attention.
When the area is very inflamed and sore to touch, this is a sign of infection.
There might also be a pimple-like white head at the tip of the gland. This isn’t the same as a yeast infection, which causes white spots and nipple or breast pain.
See your care provider as soon as possible, to avoid further problems.
Allowing bacteria to multiply can result in breast abscesses.
Your doctor can prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Infected Montgomery glands outside pregnancy
A woman doesn’t need to be pregnant or breastfeeding to experience swollen or infected glands around the breast tissue.
Causes of infection unrelated to pregnancy or breastfeeding can include:
- Bra or clothing that is irritating or too tightly fitting
- Hormonal imbalances
- Weight fluctuation
- Certain medications.
Changes of the skin around the nipple area can sometimes be an indication of breast cancer.
Having an infected Montgomery gland isn’t necessarily a sign of breast cancer, but if you’re concerned about any breast changes or other symptoms, you should consult your doctor for professional advice.
Montgomery gland cyst
A cyst of Montgomery is a rare condition that occurs mostly in adolescent females.
It’s caused by a small obstruction at the edge of the areola and results in inflammation or a mass in the areolar glands.
Symptoms include pain and swelling in the breast or nipples, but only if the cyst becomes infected.
A non-infected cyst might have no symptoms (asymptomatic).
It’s usually diagnosed using ultrasound, and treated with antibiotics.
Montgomery glands removal
Some women who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding are bothered by the appearance of Montgomery glands on their breasts.
For cosmetic reasons, the tubercles can be removed.
The procedure involves your doctor making a surgical incision in the affected breast region to remove the bumps.
It’s very important to note any cosmetic procedure in this area can cause damage to your milk ducts and affect your ability to breastfeed later on.
It’s also likely you’ll have scarring around your nipple and areola as a result of the procedure.
Keeping in mind these glands are a normal part of your breast anatomy, it’s important to discuss the procedure in detail with your doctor before making any decisions.
Montgomery glands – 7 interesting facts
Now you know Montgomery glands are normal, and an important part of the anatomy and physiology of your breasts.
Here are some other interesting facts you might not know.
#1: There’s an average of nine on each areola
Women have an average of nine Montgomery glands on each areola.
The exact number of tubercles on each woman is different. Some women have none; others have up to 38.
#2: They get bigger during pregnancy
Most mothers notice their areola and nipples changing, and their breasts getting bigger during pregnancy. This is because the milk ducts are preparing for their role: to provide milk after birth.
You might notice other things around your breasts become more prominent too.
During pregnancy Montgomery glands increase in size because they have an important part to play in keeping your nipples supple and germ-free when your baby is born.
#3: Their location helps your breastfeeding baby find your nipple
More Montgomery glands are located on the upper outer part of the areola.
It’s interesting that this is the direction in which a baby’s nose is often pointed when breastfeeding.
Smell is an important sense when newborn babies use their instincts to locate their mother’s nipple.
#4: Milk can leak from them
About 20% of breastfeeding mothers report seeing fluid coming from their Montgomery glands.
This happens because these important glands consist of both milk glands and sebaceous (sweat) glands. Breast milk travels down the breast ducts to the nipples, where it’s available for a baby to drink.
#5: They’re important for lubrication and infection risk reduction
Montgomery glands produce an oily substance to help to keep your areola and nipple lubricated and protected.
This is the reason why it’s often suggested you don’t wash your nipple or areola with soap. Use warm water only, and remember to air dry as often as you can.
The oily secretion that the glands produce also contains antimicrobial factors that help prevent the growth of germs. This helps to protect your breastfeeding baby.
#6: They are named after a male obstetrician
Montgomery’s glands got their name from an Irish obstetrician named William Featherstone Montgomery, who first named them in 1837.
#7: Men have Montgomery glands too
Although these glands play an important role in pregnancy and breastfeeding, men also have them. Just like the nipple and areola, they’re formed in utero before the sexual differentiation of an embryo occurs.
As women go through pregnancy and motherhood, we learn how every part of the body plays such an important role in helping us to carry, birth, and nourish a baby.
Montgomery glands help to prevent sore and cracked nipples from breastfeeding, protect our babies from germs, and, with their scent, they even help to guide our babies, as they latch to the breast.
Although they might seem like insignificant little bumps, they have a big role, and an important one, to play.
A: If you get a faint line on a pregnancy test, it certainly does count. Especially if you used a test that can detect early levels of hCG. In order to be really sure, you might like to take another pregnancy test a day after missing your period.
A: There are several methods you can try to conceive a boy. One of them is to eat foods which contain potassium or sodium. According to Dr. Shettles, another important tip is to time intercourse right before ovulation. You should abstain or use condoms in the days prior to, as female sperm live longer.
A: I bet you’re quite excited about this major baby milestone to happen! Your baby may start talking his or her first words from 11 months of age. It’s fairly common for baby girls to be ahead with language development compared to boys.
A: Yes you can drink hot tea when pregnant. But, you should opt for herbal teas such as ginger tea, nettle tea, and raspberry leaf tea. Teas that contain caffeine – such as green tea and black tea – should be avoided.