The areola isn’t exactly a part of the body that many of us consider all that fascinating. There is, of course, the complex neural pathways of the brain, and the unmatched power of the heart. The reproductive organs aren’t that bad either. Together, both the male and female reproductive organs have exactly everything you might need to produce a brand new human being.
But, despite being a bit of a wallflower, not to mention a taboo in most modern cultures, the nipple is actually pretty fascinating, once you know more about it. For instance, women’s areola change depending on their fertility status, and even through the course of pregnancy.
In fact, there are numerous special features to nipples, some occurring way before pregnancy and others occurring afterwards. There are even some really crazy facts out there that might make you think twice about this unassuming body part.
15 The Areola
Many people have more than two nipples. Having a third or even a fourth nipple is pretty common, both in males and females, and is considered harmless. In fact, celebs such as Tilda Swinton, Harry Styles, Carrie Underwood and Mark Wahlberg all have an extra nip and are pretty proud of it!
Called supernumerary nipples, these extra bits come in different variations. It can present as just a nipple by itself, or it may have an areola. Some may even have a bit of actual breast tissue attached! In some people, these extra nips even lactate during pregnancy!
14 Erogenous Zones
For many men and women, nipples are erogenous zones that make for pleasurable foreplay. In fact, research has shown that aerola stimulation actually lights up the same parts of the brain that receive sensations from the areas south of the belly.
In a handful of lucky women, areola and breast stimulation alone can even result in an orgasm! These are, of course, a bit different from genital orgasms in that they’re shorter. However, they still are orgasms nevertheless and reportedly feel just as good!
13 Changes Through the Period
Before your period, you may have noticed that your breasts become increasingly tender and sensitive. This is because the increased levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in your blood during your fertile period causes your breast glands to enlarge and your nipples to become more sensitive.
These symptoms commonly subside during and after your period, as these breast-changing hormones slowly subside.
12 Reduced Sensation
If you get a breast enlargement procedure, there is a possibility that you will lose some sensation in your nipples. The larger the insert, the worse it’ll probably be, since the sensory nerves that supply your nips will have been stretched out. However, all sensation should normalize in about six weeks, in which the nerves will begin to recover.
However, there is still a very rare possibility that you’ll lose nipple sensation permanently. So, if you’re one of the lucky few who are able to orgasm through your nips alone, you might want to rethink that implant!
11 Inverted Nipples
Some women are insecure about having inverted nipples. However, up to a third of women actually have innies! It’s far more common than you might think! Even innie nipples are each different in their own way. Some are a bit more inverted than others, while some just look inverted, but are actually not!
Because of the many breast changes during pregnancy, however, many formerly innie moms will have their nipples protrude by childbirth! If you want help with getting your nip to pucker out, try getting your partner to suck on it during foreplay.
Because many nips stick out and are therefore prone to irritation, they need to be moisturized and lubricated regularly. Fortunately, we’ve got one such system built into our body. Ever notice those small, bumpy things on your areola? Those are called Montgomery glands, named after the Irish obstetrician who first wrote about them.
These glands make an oily secretion that coats your areola and nips, keeping them well lubricated at all times! It is also thought that this oily substance has a certain smell that attracts your baby!
9 Special Snowflakes
Areola are all different. Chances are, you may not even have a matching set, if you look close enough. Some texts show that there are eight types of nipples: the protruding, the flat, the puffy, the short, the long and three grades of inverted nipples. However, yours may not fit a specific type, exactly. They may even look like a combination of two of these types. You might even have one inverted nipple and one protruding one.
If you were born with those nips, they’re probably perfectly fine! One thing you have to look out for, however, is if they change abruptly over a short period, which could be a sign of breast cancer.
If your little one has a poor latch on your breast, you’re likely to experience pain and soreness of your nipples. Generally, you want your little one to latch over your entire areola and perhaps even extend from it. If your baby is only latching over your nipple, he’s likely to chew on it instead, which can be really, really painful.
If you really can’t manage a proper latch, get a lactation consultant, for the sake of you and your sore nips.
7 That Letdown
When you’re just starting out with breastfeeding, you might feel a pins-and-needles sensation or severe pain when their milk lets down. This usually happens to first-time moms, as their bodies adjust to the new sensations of breastfeeding. The letdown pain in itself is the result of the contraction of the milk ducts, which squeezes the milk towards your nipple.
Usually, however, it disappears within a month or so of breastfeeding.
6 Better Jaws and Teeth
We already knew that sucking on mom’s nips instead of those attached to a plastic bottle has a load of nutritional and emotional benefits for the baby. However, a new study has shown that it can also result in better dental health!
Babies who exclusively breastfeed are less likely to have misaligned teeth and jaws. It turns out that breastfeeding is a bit of an oral exercise that just might save you money for dental treatments later on!
5 Bigger and Darker
By about twelve weeks into your pregnancy, your nipple and areola are likely to become bigger and darker. This is usually more prominent in women who are naturally dark-skinned. They’ll even be quite sore, sorer than they were just before your period. This is also because of the changes brought about by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This is part of your body’s preparing itself for breastfeeding.
By the time your pregnancy is over, your nipples will be all ready to feed your little one that baby juice!
4 The Milky Way
You might think that milk comes out of the one apparent hole in your nipple. Alternatively, if you’re like some women, you might not even have a distinct nipple hole. However, that’s no reason to worry if you were planning to breastfeed.
Milk actually comes out of a number of little holes at once. These are outlets to your lactiferous ducts, which open up at different parts of your nipple. So even if you can’t see a distinct hole in your nips, don’t worry! There are probably numerous little ones that you just can’t see.
3 Feeding Arousal
Some women report feeling sexual arousal during breastfeeding. If you are one of these women, you might feel worried or embarrassed about this. Feeling arousal during breastfeeding doesn’t mean you’re some sort of weird pedophile. It’s actually just a normal response to nipple stimulation, as well as the hormones released during breastfeeding. Among them is oxytocin, the very same one responsible for uterine contractions and for orgasm.
This feeling is likely completely separate from your actual feelings for your child so don’t worry about it!
2 Causing Cramps
Speaking of oxytocin, however, we did mention previously that nipple stimulation helps release it. As you now know, oxytocin is responsible for triggering uterine contractions, something that happens when you have menstrual cramps and during childbirth. Because of this, if you’re unlucky, you might actually not feel pleasure during breastfeeding. You might just feel something akin to menstrual cramps instead.
In fact, one of the natural methods that is believed to trigger labor and childbirth is nipple stimulation. If you’re already past your due date and want to help labor get moving along, touch your nipples to stimulate a child sucking. If you like, you might even want to get your partner to help out!
Finally, we would like to end this list of facts with an extremely fascinating, but useless random fact: the word “nipple” in German is Brustwarze. This is derived from the word “Brust” meaning breast and “Warze” or wart. Literally translated, it would therefore be breast wart. Not, of course, to be confused with actual breast warts, which are also a real thing. However, once you think about it, it does make a lot of sense.
Moreover, if that wasn’t enough, “areola” in German is Warzenhof. Derived from the words “Warze” meaning wart and “Hof” meaning yard. Basically, the areola is the Brustwarze’s little yard!