Breast Changes in Pregnancy
For many women breast tenderness is one of the first signs of pregnancy. The increase in the hormone progesterone causes the darkening on the nipples and areola surrounding them and an increase in sensitivity that can range from tingling to excruciating pain. But what does this all mean and how can you make the discomfort more tolerable?
Together with the color and sensitivity changes you will likely notice increase in size and fullness. In fact many women notice a 1-2 or more breast cup size increase over the first 6 months of pregnancy. This may result in stretch marks and even itching. Montgomery glands, which secrete an oily substance that lubricates and protects the nipple, also become more prominent and look like little bumps around your nipple. Due to the increase in blood flow you many notice more prominent veins; this adds to the increase in heaviness you tend to feel.
Why does this happen and what does it all mean?
"Breast shape and spacing are actually more telling than size alone when it comes to one's ability to make milk." - Rue Khosa
You body is preparing to feed your little human. Many experts believe that the final stages of breast development are actually completed in pregnancy. Hormonal changes with the increase in progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin all play a pivotal role in prepping your child's all-you-can-eat 24hr diner.
These are the changes, as a lactation consultant, I am excited to see and look for during prenatal or postpartum consults. Though increase in breast size does not guarantee a sufficient milk supply, it is a very reassuring sign. Breast shape and spacing are actually more telling than size alone when it comes to one's ability to make milk. More on that in an upcoming blog post.
What can you do about it?
Find a comfortable support bra.
Wear protectors, Silverette Silver cups saved my life during the first trimester.
For the itching, and to prevent the stretch marks, keep your skin well moisturised, avoid extra hot water and avoid drying soaps.
ALWAYS moisturize right after a bath while your skin is still moist.
Around 16 weeks your body starts producing colostrum and some women may experience leaking. Wearing breast pads to help keep your breasts clean and dry. If the leaking is bloody or excessive see your provider.
At night wear a shelf bra tank or cami to keep your boobs secure.
The Take Away
This too shall pass. The pain and sensitivity does gradually decrease after the first trimester. Plan on taking a breastfeeding class and or getting a prenatal lactation consult to prep you for the discomforts and challenges of the early postpartum period. Congratulations and good luck.