How your breasts change during pregnancy
When a woman gets pregnant, her body changes and transforms. Surely the most obvious change is the increase in the size of the belly, but did you know that the breasts also grow and change? So in this article, we will talk about the changes and sensations that a woman usually experiences in her breasts during pregnancy.
Before we start, a little note to understand this topic better: the mammary gland at birth is the same in girls and boys. It is not until puberty that the breasts begin to develop in girls. In each luteal phase (this is the time between ovulation and menstruation in the menstrual cycle), breasts also grows and gradually prepare for future lactation. And finally, when pregnancy arrives, the mammary gland prepares itself intensively to ensure nourishment for the future baby.
“My breasts got bigger.”
One of the most noticeable changes is the growth in size of the mammary gland during pregnancy.
A few weeks after the beginning of pregnancy, at about 6-7 weeks, the acini cells in the breast, which is where the milk-producing cells are located, begin to grow. For the mother, this translates into a feeling of fullness and an increase in breast weight.
The fatty tissue of the breast also increases, and the blood supply of the breasts increases very visibly. This is usually very visible, as veins in the neck and cleavage area show in a very pronounced bluish tone.
If your breasts do not change at all during pregnancy, it would be a good idea to see a lactation professional, such as an IBCLC, so that they can check your breasts.
“I have extremely sensitive nipples”.
One of the first signs of pregnancy is the extreme sensitivity that is usually experienced in the breasts.
The friction with clothing or bra, and the touch of the partner can be annoying and unpleasant. This extreme sensitivity is due to the increase of estrogens in the blood. This is a group of hormones that promote cell multiplication in the mammary gland during pregnancy.
Nothing can be done to avoid or reduce this sensitivity. You can only wait for the second trimester of pregnancy when this extreme sensitivity usually improves and becomes more bearable.
“My nipple and areola got darker”.
Another unmistakable sign of pregnancy is that the areola and nipple get darker, which turn from a pinkish to light color tones to a rather dark brown (depending on the base color of your skin). This is caused by another hormone that increases during pregnancy.
This darkening is a visual signal of pregnancy, and when the baby is born, this is a visual signal for babies, telling them where the food is.
A common concern for mothers is whether this darkening lasts. No, it doesn’t. As breastfeeding progresses, the nipple and areola gradually recover their pre-pregnancy color.
“Small spots have appeared on my areola”.
At the same time, as the nipple and areola get darker, small swellings occur on the areola, small spots that increase in size and begin to produce a whitish lubricating and protective substance. This substance is antibacterial and “cleans” the nipple. For this reason, the nipple and areola area should not be cleaned with soap. Showering with water is enough to keep the area in perfect condition.
“I have scabs on my nipple.”
Another situation that can be very surprising to mothers is the appearance of patches of dry tissue on the nipple. They don’t cause any pain and are easily removed when the mother showers or gets wet, but usually reappear within a few hours.
These crusts are dried colostrum and can be left on the nipple or wiped off as they occur. A daily shower is usually more than enough.
“There is fluid coming out of my nipple.”
Weeks before the baby is born, the mammary gland is already producing pre-colostrum. You can see small yellow or orange droplets, that are very dense and thick when you handle your nipple. This is the first stage of lactation, the so-called lactogenesis I. This stage ends when the mature milk comes in, and lactogenesis II begins.
The appearance of colostrum happens on its own; it is totally normal and not painful.
“There is some dark fluid coming out of my nipple.”
It sometimes happens that the discharge from your nipples is dark or bloody and this can cause great alarm. It has to be checked by a gynecologist or a midwife. In most cases, this is called the “rusty pipes syndrome”.
During pregnancy, breast tissue grows rapidly, and the blood circulation in the breasts increases. This syndrome is caused by vascular congestion due to increased blood flow in the capillaries of the ducts. This process usually occurs in the last weeks of pregnancy or during the first feeds after delivery. It can last from 3 to 7 days after delivery, after which time the milk becomes white. There is no reason not to feed this milk to your baby, it does look bad, but it is totally harmless for babies.
There is no medical treatment because it resolves spontaneously on its own.
“What bra should I wear?”
As your breasts grow during pregnancy and sensitivity increases, it is better to wear nursing bras, which adapt to the new needs of the mammary gland and will allow you to feel more comfortable.
We recommend that you find lingerie experts, who help you to find the ideal type of bra for your own shape and volume of breast.
Do you have any other questions?
If you have any other questions about breastfeeding, please download our free app, LactApp, for iPhone or Android. In the contact section of the app, you can find an in-app consultation channel, where our experts will answer your questions.