Pregnancy: Breast Changes
• What Breast Changes Can I Expect While Pregnant?
||What Breast Changes Can I Expect When Pregnant?
Changes in the breast (also known as mammary glands) are usually one of the first early signs of pregnancy. You may notice that your breasts are sore and tender to touch. While this is also a common premenstrual syndrome sign, in the case of pregnancy, the soreness does not disappear after a few days. You may find it hurts to jump or even sleep on your stomach. This is a normal development as pregnancy hormones to prepare the body and mammary glands for breastfeeding. Typically breast soreness is most acute in the first trimester of pregnancy. Additionally, within the first 8 weeks, you may notice that your nipples begin to enlarge and the area around them (called the areola) become darker. It is believed that this darkening occurs so that the new born infant can identify the nipple more easily. You may also develop small bumps around the areolas called Montgomery's tubercles. While all women have these bumps, they become more pronounced during pregnancy. The role of the Montgomery glands is to secrete a lubrication which protects the areolas from infection. Avoid using soap on the nipples, as this can toughen the skin and may interfere with the effectiveness of the glands.
Breasts usually starts to get bigger early in the second trimester of pregnancy, but they may start to as early as week 6 after conception (image). Enlargement happens when the hormone progesterone increases the size of the alveoli, the milk producing units of the breast. Many women grow on average a cup size during a full term pregnancy, especially with the first child. You may be disappointed to find your breasts do not grow as much with subsequent pregnancies. Yet, this is often a source of great fun for couples (see sexual intercourse while pregnant). As the skin on your breasts stretch, you may feel some itchiness. Try applying anti-stretch mark creams or oils to the affected area, it may provide some relief (see Stretch Marks). You might also consider investing in a nursing bra which will offer good support. You will need one anyway for breastfeeding. Cotton bras are better than synthetic materials, as they allow the skin to breath. Also consider a pregnancy sleep bra which offers support and comfort at night. For more information see: maternity clothes.
How early does nipple discharge start in pregnancy? At the start of the second trimester of pregnancy your breasts start producing colostrum, also called pre-milk. Occasionally this liquid can leak as early as the first trimester or slightly more commonly in the third trimester. However, the majority of women do not start leaking milk until after delivery and childbirth. Colostrum is a yellow, thickish liquid which contains antibodies that help protect new babies from infections. As delivery approaches, it turns paler and nearly colorless. Colostrum has more protein and less carbs than mature breast milk, which is exactly what the baby needs a few days after birth. Some women may notice a small amount of blood secreted with colostrum, but this is generally nothing to worry about. The blood comes from the breast which undergoes a rapid growth of blood vessels during pregnancy. You may also discover drops of blood on your bra - this can occur when the sticky colostrum temporarily glues the nipple to the bra and some skin is torn when the bra is removed. Whenever you do start leaking milk, consider purchasing disposable breast pads which will help prevent embarrassing wet patches coming through your tops.
In other words, if your breasts do not leak before childbirth, is this an indication of supply? No, contrary to popular belief - it is not an indication of future milk production. So don't worry! Read, more about milk supply while breastfeeding for tips after baby is born.
Stay informed, it is the best thing you can do. Attend breastfeeding classes or support groups, many birthing centers run excellent courses. Locate a board certified lactation consultant in your town or buy a book on the subject (see our breastfeeding guide for more details). Discuss it with your doctor during prenatal visits. Remain cautious about 'free' brochures on the subject from medical companies which may be trying to push their own commercial agenda. At the end of the day, your maternal instinct and baby will naturally know what to do – after all our ancestors have been doing it for tens of thousands of years!
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For more about early symptoms while pregnant, see the following:
• Morning Sickness - or its more severe version, a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
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