Breast and Nipple Changes During Pregnancy

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Our bodies change drastically while we are pregnant and many times we can tell something is different without even having a pregnancy test completed. One of the first signs that women typically notice is in the breasts. Since these are the main source of food for most babies, breasts go through many changes while we are pregnant.

1. What changes can I expect?

There are many changes that our breasts will go through while we are pregnant. Below are some of the changes that you can expect to experience:

  • Enlargement
  • Tenderness
  • Darkening of the skin around your nipples
  • Darkening of the veins on your breasts
  • Leaking of a thick substance that is yellowish and known as colostrum
  • Your nipples may stick out more and the skin around them may grow darker
  • The glands on the surface of the skin around the nipples may become raised bumps

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The reason for these changes is due to the hormones that you experience while you are pregnant and each woman will experience different symptoms when it comes to their breasts while they are pregnant.

2. How to handle the changes

When you are pregnant, changes to your breasts may be difficult to handle. However, you can eliminate some of these issues or make them easier to handle by following some of the steps below.

Growth

Some women look forward to the growth or enlargement of their breasts while they are pregnant. However, some women you have larger breasts may not be as excited about this transition. At times, it may be uncomfortable to sleep at night because of the tenderness of the breasts and we need to know how to battle this.

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Some women have found that it is more comfortable to sleep in a supportive sports bra. When you are looking for a pregnancy bra, you should look for one that offers support as well as a nice sized band underneath the cups. Wide shoulder straps are also a must as well as an adjustable closure in the back. You should buy a bra that is free from wire and that gives you some room to grow into.

Tenderness

While the breasts are growing in order to fill the milk ducts with milk during early pregnancy, the breasts can become more sensitive, especially around the nipples. While this may make sex more enjoyable, for others it can cause discomfort.

Colostrum is often secreted during this time as well and many women are alarmed when it occurs. However, this is a natural process and there’s no need to be worried about it. Also, if you do not experience a leakage of colostrum you should not be worried because even women who do not have the discharge usually will be able to produce and provide the milk their baby will need when they are born.

3. Self-breast exams

You should still continue to do your self-breast exams while you are pregnant, although this may be uncomfortable at times. Your breasts will be growing and they may feel lumpy at times as well as tender when you do the exams. However, it is important that you continue examining your breasts every 4 to 5 weeks.

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It is very common for women to find lumps during pregnancy due to clogged milk ducts. These lumps are usually red, hard and tender to the touch and can be eased by warm compresses and massage. If you are concerned about a lump that you have found, you can show it to your doctor at your next visit. Remember that breast cancer is fairly rare if a woman is under the age of 35.

If you are over the age of 35 and are planning to become pregnant in the near future, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about having a mammogram before you become pregnant. This will give you the opportunity to make sure there are no issues before you become pregnant.

4. Conclusion

Pregnancy brings about many changes to the body and the breasts are a big part of those changes. While they can become tender and sore throughout your entire pregnancy, there are ways that you can make them more comfortable. Make sure that the bra that you wear is supportive and comfortable throughout your pregnancy and be prepared to purchase many different types as you progress through your pregnancy.

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Regina Ledoux, RN, CNM

Ms. Ledoux began her career as an ObGyn nurse practitioner prior to becoming a practicing midwife in the Santa Cruz community. Working together with ObGyn physicians in her own practice, she has over 20 years experience in women's health, pregnancy and childbirth.