Pregnancy Breasts

Pregnancy breasts related questions are some times the first clue to pregnancy. Although not expected pregnancy breasts symptoms can be an early sign of conception. Once you conceive, your breasts will start changing to prepare for breastfeeding and supporting your new baby.

What Pregnancy Breast changes can I expect?

There are a few pregnancy breast changes you can anticipate during your pregnancy development. These changes include:

  • Growth and enlargement
  • Sensitivity, soreness and tenderness
  • The nipples and aureolas darkening
  • Darkening of the veins around your breasts
  • Breast leakage known as colostrum (usually yellowish in color)
  • Larger and maybe extended nipples
  • Enlarged glands on the aureolas (little raised bumps around your nipples)

Your hormones are the cause of these pregnancy breast changes and you may experience some effects more than others.

How can I handle some of the pregnancy breast changes?

Here are some suggested steps you can take to support pregnancy breasts and the changes that come with preparing for feeding your baby. The primary objective is to make your pregnancy breasts more comfortable.

Growth and enlargement: For some women this may be something to look forward to, as you are excited about your breasts getting bigger. For women with large breasts there may be less enthusiasm. Buying a good supportive bra can help. If your breast size increases greatly, you may want to sleep in a cotton supportive sports bra at night.

What to look for in a bra:

  • Good support
  • Deep band beneath the cups
  • Wide shoulder straps
  • Back fastening bras with adjustable closure
  • Try not using any underwire bras

Sensitive and tender breasts: Hormones in your body are preparing your breasts for lactation. The milk ducts are growing and being stretched as they fill with milk early in pregnancy. All this causes your breasts to be more sensitive, particularly your nipples. This can be a bonus for your sex life or can cause you discomfort.

Colostrum: This is known as pre-milk, which is a sweet and watery fluid that is easy to digest. During your second trimester your breasts will begin to produce colostrum. Colostrum appears thick and yellow at first, and as birth draws near, it becomes pale and almost colorless. Colostrum will provide your baby with his first few meals before your milk comes in. Discharge may occur at any time, when your breasts are massaged, or when sexually stimulated. There is no need to be alarmed when this happens, and there is no need to worry if it does not happen. Women who do not experience discharge in pregnancy still produce and provide milk for their baby.

What about breast cancer?

Continuing with self-breast exams during pregnancy is important. Unfortunately, during pregnancy it is more difficult to accomplish because of all the changes your breasts are going through. Your breasts are growing in size, are tender, and sometimes may even be lumpy due to all the preparations for your baby. It is still important for you to examine your breasts during pregnancy every 4-5 weeks.

Very common lumps found among women during pregnancy are clogged milk ducts. These are red, tender-to-the-touch, hard lumps in your breasts. Warm compresses (running warm water over your breasts in the shower or applying a warm wash cloth) and massage will probably clear the duct in a few days. If you are unsure of any new lump, tell your doctor on your next visit. Keep in mind breast cancer is rare among women younger than 35.

If you are planning on having a baby and are over the age of 35, you may want to consider asking your doctor about a mammogram before you get pregnant.

Last Updated: 11/2012

Compiled using information from the following sources:

Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 30 and 57.

Planning Your Pregnancy and Birth Third Ed. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Ch. 7.

American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org

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