What a Pregnant Woman's Breasts Go Through During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

During pregnancy, a woman’s entire body goes through a host of changes - the breasts being no exception. In addition to the ovarian sac which undergoes drastic changes to accommodate the growing fetus, the breasts come a close second in the manner of tremendous changes they go through. Every stage of our pregnancy is literally accompanied by a change in our breasts right from the first trimester up till the third trimester and even beyond. 

A lot of women find the changes taking place in their breasts to be quite fascinating and intriguing as most of the changes can be seen and felt. The fact that one can almost track the progress of one’s pregnancy by observing the changes in the breast is what makes it so interesting. The truth of the matter is that the changes in the breast are a result of the body preparing itself for the newborn’s arrival as he/she will need breast milk right from day one. 

It’s only natural that they will have to go through a lot of changes. While some changes are known and expected, others are not so well-known and might even scare a pregnant woman. Truth be told, our breasts go on a journey of their own when we’re pregnant, and all we can do is go along with the flow, but knowing about the changes that are going on in our breasts can relieve our mind of a great many things. 

Here are a few things which happen to the breasts during pregnancy and are quite normal. So, watch out for these symptoms and rest assured that everything is right with you and your baby.

8  Sore Breasts

As women, we’re quite habituated to breast tenderness that occurs every month or so during our monthly cycle. But just because our periods have stopped doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to get some respite from breast tenderness. In fact, sore breasts are one of the first signs of pregnancy and a lot of pregnant women go through pregnancy with that sore breast feeling. 

The many hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy cause an increase in blood flow to the breasts which cause them to become sore, tingly and swollen in nature. A lot of women describe the feeling as a heightened version of how their breasts feel during their periods. While soreness in breasts is manageable in some women, in others the feeling of breast tenderness is so acute that it’s a sheer agony for them if so much as their hands brush across their breasts. 

The only good thing about sore breasts is that at least some women find this increased sensitivity a big bonus during sex, but for the rest of the women out there, it’s just plain uncomfortable. Sometimes, breast tenderness is followed by one or more tender-to-the-touch hard lumps. If it happens in your case, don't panic as this is caused by a clogged milk duct. 

As milk ducts grow and fill throughout pregnancy, it's not uncommon for women to suffer from clogged milk ducts. Applying warm compresses to the breasts and massaging them well can often clear the duct in a few days. But if you also feel achy or feverish, then call your doctor as your ducts might have become infected and then you would require treatment.

7 Increase in Breast Size

An increase in breast size is a common symptom of pregnancy. While small-breasted women might find this desirable as they will finally get to have the breasts of their dreams, large breasted women might not find it so interesting. It doesn’t really matter whether you like it or not, your breasts are going to get bigger -- and they're going to get big very quickly. 

Throughout the first three months of pregnancy there is fat build up in the breasts and the milk glands also increase in size, leading to an overall increase in the breast size. While some women have a delayed start, others see their breasts growing even when they have just entered six to eight weeks into their pregnancy. Towards the end of ninth month of pregnancy, the average woman finds that she has grown a full cup size or more. 

As your breasts grow during pregnancy, it’s necessary that you provide them with ample support. Since your ribcage is also going to expand to accommodate the growing baby, you will find that you need a bigger band too. For that you need to buy a set of good fitting bras. If you have never taken the initiative to look for that perfect bra, then here is the right time for it. A well-fitted bra is necessary to take on the added weight of the breasts as well as provide support to your back. 

6 Appearance of Veins

When you enter the six to eight week time frame in your pregnancy, you might notice that your nipples now appear larger and the veins in the breasts are also getting more prominent. While not every woman experiences this, appearance of veins on the breasts is one of the most common things that happen during pregnancy. 

During pregnancy, the volume of blood circulating in the body increases by as much as 40% resulting in the veins increasing in size to accommodate the extra blood. A pregnant mom should never be worried if she sees large veins on her breasts because that is perfectly normal. In fact, towards the end of your pregnancy you are going to have about 50% more blood in your body in order to meet the baby’s needs. 

This is what makes the veins on your body so prominent and they are especially visible on the abdomen and breasts. The veins are gradually going to become less prominent after the baby is born and disappear once you stop breastfeeding. Once you halt breastfeeding, your breasts are no longer going to need extra blood and thus you will find them returning to their pre-pregnancy stage. 

5 Changes in the Nipples

As our breasts get ready for the birthing process, the nipples also go through certain changes brought on by various hormonal changes. During pregnancy, the nipples stand out and become more defined in nature so that the baby can have an easy latch. Along with the change in the nipples, the areolas (skin surrounding the nipples) also grow in size and take on a slightly darker color. 

The darker color of the areola will help the baby to distinguish the skin from nipple, thereby providing for an easier latch. You might also notice the presence of goose bump like features around your areola called, Montgomery Tubercles. Montgomery Tubercles are tiny glands that produce an oily substance that protects the nipples from cracking and drying up during the breastfeeding phase after childbirth, thus performing an important function of keeping the nipples lubricated. 

Montgomery Tubercles are always present, but it’s only during pregnancy that they become more apparent and prominent in nature. At one time, it was believed that using rough soaps on the nipples to harden it was a great way to prepare for the tenderness of breast feeding. However, nowadays mothers are discouraged from toughening their nipples and advised not to use too much of soap so that the natural oils are preserved thus keeping the nipple region germ free. 

4 Itchy Breasts and Stretch Marks

Many pregnant women complain that they experience an itchy feeling in their breasts. This is actually quite a common thing experienced by pregnant ladies. Since you’re carrying a baby inside the womb, your body is undergoing numerous changes to prepare your body for the birth of your child. The mammary glands that are responsible for making milk for the baby are now going to develop and will thus increase in size. 

This causes the skin in the breasts to stretch out. The stretching of the skin can cause the itchy sensation, especially around the nipple area. If you are one of those pregnant woman who is prone to itchy breasts during pregnancy, you can take a couple of minutes out of your busy schedule every day and rub a cream on your breasts specially formulated for pregnant women. 

Regular application of creams will relieve the itching to quite a large extent. Wearing a bra that is too tight can also cause itchiness, so wear a comfortable bra that feels light around the chest area.

Apart from the itchiness, a lot of women also develop fine stretch marks on their breasts. Around 80% of pregnant women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy, but how severe the stretch marks are going to be varies from woman to woman. It actually depends on your skin’s elastic condition and how well it’s able to take on the extra stretching. 

Thankfully, today there are many over-the-counter oils, creams and lotions that promise to rid a person of their stretch marks. Made of ingredients such as lanolin, coconut oil, aloe vera and cocoa butter among others, these products not only feel good, but are also safe to use. Even if your stretch marks don’t disappear after the application of these creams don’t worry – no doubt stretch marks are quite stubborn, but with time they do tend to fade away. 

3 Leaky Breasts

Leaking breasts are one thing which tends to freak out a lot of women, especially those women who are delivering for the first time. But there’s nothing to get perturbed about as our body starts preparing for lactation early on, and in some cases, as early as the 16th week. Thus it’s not rare to have that stray leakage incident anytime during one’s pregnancy. 

The amount of leakage is generally small, but if you feel that it is happening frequently and hampering your day-to-day activities you can tackle this problem easily enough. Putting breast pads (the ones designed for breastfeeding mums) inside your bra or going to sleep on an absorbent cotton towel at night can prove very helpful. There are times when apart from milk, you might notice some blood in your discharge, but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about. 

The one-odd blood leakage is not a major cause for concern as it could be due to a sudden growth of the blood vessels, but nevertheless, you should get in touch with your doctor to rule out anything serious. If there’s any discharge from your nipple that doesn’t appear to be colostrum, you must contact your doctor immediately. 

You just need to remember that your baby’s nourishment is not going to be compromised in any manner as a result of pregnancy leakage as it has absolutely nothing to do with how good your milk production is going to be or how easily you will adjust to breastfeeding. 

2 After Birth Changes in the Breast

After the birth of the baby, the first milk that comes out is a nutrient rich thick yellowish fluid called colostrum. Until the mother’s milk comes in, colostrum has all that the baby needs and much more. It’s considered to be the ideal food for the newborn because it is rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins, yet low in volume so it won’t put extra stress on the baby’s kidneys. 

Apart from its nourishing nature, colostrum also delivers a host of vital antibodies to the newborn that protect the baby against infections. This is especially important as the baby is coming from a sterile environment and thus needs extra defense to fight against infections. By about the third or fourth day after birth, colostrum changes over to mature milk which is a lot more watery than colostrum.

During the initial postpartum days, a mother makes a lot more milk than is actually required by the baby. This can lead to a woman’s breast becoming engorged where the breasts become hard and are painful to touch. Engorgement makes it almost difficult to feed the baby as the nipples flatten out making it difficult for the baby to latch on. 

Nursing frequently will provide you relief from the fullness because it will not only make you feel better, but it also provides the baby with vital nutrients at regular intervals. If in spite of this your breasts still feel full, you can try applying heat. Hot showers or the application of a heating pad or hot-water bottle applied over the breasts can help open up the ducts. Expressing a small amount of milk after the application of heat and before a feed can also relieve the pressure put on the areola and nipple. 

1 Choosing the Right Bra

As the breasts continue to grow in size it’s necessary to have bras that fit your new breast size. Support becomes an important issue during the third trimester of pregnancy, especially when the belly is putting more pressure on the back. Towards the later part of pregnancy, the would-be mom can start wearing a breastfeeding bra which can provide support to the breasts while breastfeeding the baby. 

Choosing a bra wisely is necessary not only for providing support to the back, but also to the breasts. Moreover, your breasts are not going to remain large, their size is going to decrease when breastfeeding and afterward when the baby is weaned, so providing proper breast support during pregnancy and after birth will ensure that the breast tissue stays taut and returns to their normal size after you discontinue breastfeeding. 

Instead of buying synthetic bras, go for a breathable well-supportive cotton bra that will provide a lot of comfort while sleeping. Look for a bra with a thick band beneath the cups (no underwire, please), adjustable closure and wide shoulder straps as they are going to provide the ultimate in comfort. But remember that one bra size is not going to be enough so stock up on bras of different sizes. 

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