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A lot of changes occur in your body during pregnancy apart from your belly size. Thank the ever changing hormones, which steadily function to prepare you for childbirth and even lactation. Breast changes are often the first sign that you are pregnant, much before your belly shows up. If you have just conceived you must be wondering about this change or may have already felt it by now.

Just within a week or so of pregnancy, you may feel a tingling or prickling sensation in your breasts. Soon after, your breasts will start increasing in size beginning well within the first trimester. In fact, you may note a lot changing with your breasts when you are 6 weeks pregnant, change in size being just one. Darkening of the nipples and the areola and the presence of blue veins just under the skin are some of the visible changes in breasts. Your breasts which may feel swollen and enlarged during pregnancy are also quite tender to touch.

Tenderness is likely to subside after pregnancy but they will continue to grow in size throughout. However, you may note other symptoms in later months like leaky breasts, which release colostrum. This usually begins in the third trimester or maybe a bit earlier. Some women may also experience breast lumps during this period.

It is important to note that breast changes are normal during pregnancy and usually not a matter of concern. These symptoms gradually subside following childbirth and end of lactation. Any change extending beyond this period is not a normal symptom and requires immediate medical attention.

Also, if you experience any of these changes quite intensely during pregnancy, you must discuss with your doctor. Let’s have a separate look at each of these symptoms.

  1. Tingling in breasts during pregnancy
  2. Increase in breast size during pregnancy
  3. Breast tenderness during pregnancy
  4. Tenderness of nipples during pregnancy
  5. Skin changes in the breasts and nipples during pregnancy
  6. Leaky breasts during pregnancy
  7. Breast lumps during pregnancy
  8. Breast care during pregnancy
  9. Wearing the right pregnancy bra
  10. When should you be concerned
  11. Doctors for Breast changes during pregnancy

Just after a week of fertilisation, you may experience some sensations in your breasts, which could be felt as tingling or pricking. In fact, tingling breasts is the first thing you experience during pregnancy often before you even know that you are pregnant. But this is just a feeble symptom which will gradually subside and is not a marked pregnancy change experienced by all. It is felt due to the effect of pregnancy hormones, which increases the blood supply to the area of your breasts.

So, you are pregnant and you only expected an increase in belly size where the baby grows. Right? What about the nutrition of the baby once it enters the real world? While an increase in belly size is essential to make room for the growing baby and provide it with nutrition in the foetal life, an increase in breast size is essential for postnatal nutrition.

Beginning at 6 weeks of pregnancy and continuing until the later stages, you may experience a progressive increase in the size of your breasts. As pregnancy advances, this change will be quite evident. So, be prepared to shop often. Wearing the correct size of bra is very important, particularly for pregnant women in order to avoid sagging of breasts later in life.

If you exercise, which you should, breast support is even more important, so, you can opt for buying some maternity bras with additional support.

Your breasts don’t merely increase in size during pregnancy, they tend to feel swollen too. As your breasts start taking up more and more space by falling into your armpits, you may feel they are quite tender to touch. Some women develop some accessory breast tissue during pregnancy, which is stored under the arm.

Your breasts progressively grow throughout pregnancy, so the level of discomfort can be imagined. While tenderness of breasts is likely to subside as you settle into pregnancy, you may experience some amount of pain. Tenderness is also likely to kick back in the later stages of pregnancy when your breasts start producing milk, which fills the milk ducts to completely full.

While this change is essential to provide for the baby’s nutrition after it is born, the amount of pain and discomfort can be managed by wearing the right size of a bra. Experts recommend getting yourself measured and buying a new fit at every trimester.

Not just your breast tissue, but also your nipples are likely to feel tender upon touch during pregnancy. This can be attributed to the massive growth of milk ducts occurring in the early stages of pregnancy. As they grow, they continue to be stretched and later in your pregnancy, these ducts are completely filled with milk, which makes them even more tender. What you can do is provide enough support to your breasts, which will help it all.

As your breasts grow in size, it is only normal to expect some changes in its appearance. Skin changes in this area include an increase in the visibility of veins, which are seen just underneath the skin. Veins are more noticeable during pregnancy due to an increased blood supply to the breast region.

Other than this, you may notice some raised bumps in the areolar region. This is due to the presence of small glands on the surface, called Montgomery’s tubercles. These glands are more visibly pronounced during pregnancy and for some form the first pregnancy sign. Montgomery’s tubercles are formed by the coalition of sebaceous glands with lactiferous units. While they help to keep the breast tissue soft and drive away infections, they have a specific role in pregnancy. These raised bumps distributed on the areola are important for the initiation of breastfeeding, particularly in first-time mothers. So, this symptom is for the good.

Not just this, your areola also darken in colour during pregnancy and so do your nipples. This is due to the hormonal influence affecting pigmentation. Initially, the darkening may be noticeable in the region of the areola, and will be seen as a darkened circle around your nipples. This happens at about 8 weeks of pregnancy. Slowly, your nipples will also start getting darker.

So, now you know that your body starts producing milk well during pregnancy and it does not phenomenally spurt out as and when the baby is born. In other words, your body does not wait until the baby is born to start producing milk so that the colostrum is immediately available for feeding. Breasts start producing colostrum during the second trimester, which is thick, creamy and yellow at first and is colourless to pale later. As more and more colostrum keeps on being formed, it is stored within the milk ducts, which may sometimes leak.

It is not uncommon for some amount of colostrum to leak out when your nipples are stimulated or massaged. It may sometimes even occur spontaneously. Don’t worry, you are not losing all the milk this way and it is not a matter of concern. Similarly, the women who do not experience leakage can also be carefree, they are still producing milk for the baby. The symptoms of leaky breasts start during the 14th week of pregnancy and will continue until the end of the gestation period.

Despite it not being a medical concern, breast leeks may be discomforting for some women. You can manage this by wearing a padded bra or by putting some padding in your usual bra, which will function to absorb milk.

The very mention of lumps freaked you out; isn’t it? You may be astonished to know that breasts lumps during pregnancy is pretty normal. This can be attributed to the growth of milk ducts during this period, which not just increase in size but also become more in number. Clogged milk ducts are another cause of breast lumps during pregnancy.

Small breast lumps have been regarded as normal by the National Cancer Institute, but this does not mean you can ignore severe lumps if noted. While your breasts are going through numerous changes during pregnancy, it is important that you understand what is physiological while at the same time not ignoring any unusual sign.

Breast lumps noted during pregnancy are hard, red and tender to touch. These can be easily managed at home with the help of oil massages and warm compresses in the form of heat applications to the breast. Taking hot showers may also help.

If your symptoms do not subside even after these remedies, it is important that you seek medical help. This could be the sign of a severe cyst or a pathology since breast cancer is uncommon among women of the reproductive age (up to 35 years).

The enormous breast changes during pregnancy make it hard to differentiate and diagnose a breast pathology, which is why breast self-examination is quite important. Doctors recommend examining your breast every 4 to 5 weeks, so as to acknowledge any abnormality at the earliest. If you are above the age of 35 and are planning a baby, it is recommended that you get a mammogram first to rule out the risk of breast cancer.

The many breast changes experienced during pregnancy increase the need to wear a correct brassiere, be it to fit your bigger breasts or to provide some extra support to reduce tenderness and prevent sagging later. But, how do you find the right size of bra during pregnancy? While you take some time out every 3 months (or sooner if needed) to shop, it is important that you buy yourself a correct bra size and type. Here is a guideline to help:

  • Choose a bra with a good amount of under support. Bras with an underwire are a great option. It supports the underneath and sides of your breasts. But, it may be uncomfortable to some. So, it is better to purchase a soft cup bra or a maternity bra, which offer the right support and comfort.
  • When buying a usual bra, make sure that the cups of the bra fit you well without any bulging at the top, bottom or the sides. It must contain your breasts and there should be no hanging of loose fabric.
  • The straps, both at the shoulder and the back should not dig into your skin. They must stay in place as you perform different movements and the shoulder straps must not feel that they carry the entire weight of your breasts.
  • Make sure that the straps are at the same level at both the back and in the front and fit you well.

Choosing the right bra may take a few trials. You can alternatively get yourself measured at the breasts and underneath to obtain your breast and cup size. Maternity bras are the best option during pregnancy and you can even wear them in bed if you feel uncomfortable sleeping otherwise. After childbirth, you may need to switch over to a nursing bra.

Although most breast changes you experience during pregnancy are normal, it is important to be sure that these are just pregnancy changes. You must see your doctor if you notice:

  • Blood or some other leakage from your breasts (though it is sometimes normal during pregnancy due to an increased blood flow to the area)
  • An unmanageable breast lump
  • Severely swollen breasts
  • Discrete lump in the armpit
  • Redness and localised pain in breasts
  • Thickening or dimpling of the skin in the breast region
  • Presence of ulcers
  • Abnormal breast enlargement
Dr. Tanmay Awasthi

Dr. Tanmay Awasthi

सामान्य चिकित्सा

Dr. Yahiya Khan

Dr. Yahiya Khan

सामान्य चिकित्सा

Dr. Vinod Kumar

Dr. Vinod Kumar

सामान्य चिकित्सा

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References

  1. Department of Health. Breast Changes During Pregnancy. Government of Hong Kong. [Internet]
  2. Sébastien Doucet et al. The Secretion of Areolar (Montgomery's) Glands from Lactating Women Elicits Selective, Unconditional Responses in Neonates . PLoS One. 2009; 4(10): e7579. PMID: 19851461
  3. Office on Women's Health [Internet] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Body changes and discomforts.
  4. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Understanding Breast Changes
  5. American Pregnancy Association. [Internet]; Breast Changes During Pregnancy.
  6. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human; National Health Service [Internet]. UK; What are some common signs of pregnancy?
  7. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Pregnancy stages and changes
  8. HealthLink BC [Internet] British Columbia; Breast Changes During Pregnancy
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