When you think about pregnancy breast changes, your first thought is probably enlarged breasts. Although that’s a common pregnancy symptom, your breasts go through many more changes than just their size.
From your nipples and areolas to pregnancy breast veins, there’s a lot you can expect.
In this article, you’ll learn about the many 7 pregnancy nipple changes and 4 other breast changes you may experience.
How Do Pregnancy Breasts Change?
During pregnancy, your breasts go through quite a few changes as a result of your increased hormones and blood flow. It’s likely you’ll notice changes to your:
- Montgomery glands
Although every pregnancy is different, you may experience anything from changes in appearance to soreness and aches.
7 Pregnancy Nipple Changes
For some people, pregnancy nipple changes are the first sign you’re expecting. You may even experience a few differences, like soreness, before you get a positive pregnancy test. Throughout the 3 trimesters, your nipples will continue to change thanks to pregnancy hormones.
Estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy cause a variety of changes—one of those being to your boobs. As they prepare for lactation, another hormone is created: Prolactin. Prolactin is responsible for the most commonly thought of boob change: Enlargement. Along with causing your boobs to grow, this hormone stimulates milk production when levels rise after delivery.
During pregnancy, you may feel that your nipples are more pronounced and show easier through clothing. And you’re probably right! Research shows that not only do your boobs grow—so do your nipples. A 2013 study showed that nipple width and length significantly increased during pregnancy.
Areolas are the circles around your nipples. During pregnancy, higher levels of progesterone can cause a darker areola. They’ll begin changing color in the first trimester and continue throughout the second and third trimesters. They typically return to their normal color after breastfeeding; however, they may stay a few shades darker.
Darker areolas may be an evolutionary adaptation. It’s believed that the darker color may help the baby find the nipple and latch. Since newborns don’t have clear eyesight, a dark color can help make it obvious.
A larger areola is also common during pregnancy thanks to progesterone. This may be another evolutionary adaption to help the baby find the nipple easier.
Larger Montgomery Glands
Montgomery glands are the raised bumps around your areolas. They may look similar to goosebumps. Although you may have noticed them before, they typically get bigger during pregnancy thanks to hormones. The Montgomery glands create an oily substance to help protect them from cracking. They also help keep germs away from your breasts, which prevents contamination of breast milk before your baby nurses.
Pregnancy Nipple Itch
During pregnancy, a nipple itch can be common. This may be for a few reasons. Increasing hormones, increased blood flow, and swelling breasts can make nipples itch. As your skin grows and stretches, the formation of stretch marks can also cause itching. If you’re experiencing a pregnancy nipple itch, there’s a few things you can try to relieve it:
- Moisturizer— Moisturizing your nipples can prevent them from getting dry, adding to the itchiness. Steer clear of body moisturizes and opt for something natural, like vitamin E, petroleum jelly, and cocoa butter. Products with fragrances can dry out the skin. You can also try using nipple creams made with natural ingredients, like lanolin. Make it a habit to apply to moisturizer at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Since hot showers can also dry out your skin and increase itchiness, always apply the moisturizer after a shower.
- Comfortable bra— Ensure your maternity bra isn’t too tight. Allowing for airflow can limit itching.
If itchiness continues, talk to your doctor. Nipple itchiness can also be caused by candida albicans, a fungal infection. It may also be caused by eczema, common during breastfeeding.
Pregnancy Nipple Pain
Sore nipples might be one of the first signs you’re pregnant. Before getting the good news, you may notice you’re feeling more tender than usual. They may feel more uncomfortable and sensitive to touch. Showers can also contribute to pain because the warm water causes nipples to dry.
Pregnancy nipple pain is typically the most common in the first trimester as your body is adapting to new and increasing hormones.
Pregnancy Nipple Leaking
Some women start experiencing discharge from the nipple as early as 16 weeks. This yellowish discharge, called “colostrum” is considered “pre-milk” which helps protect your baby during the first days.
You might be wondering why your breasts are leaking when you’re not breastfeeding yet. While your baby hasn’t been born, your breasts can produce milk by the 5th or 6th month. Estrogen causes the ducts to grow and progesterone causes the glandular buds to grow. Other hormones that contribute to milk production include prolactin, oxytocin, human placental lactogen (HPL), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Nipple discharge during pregnancy is typically only secreted in small amounts. However, if it’s leaking through your clothes, you can use breast or nipple pads. These are inserted into your bra to catch any fluids and prevent stains. Although nipple pads are more commonly used during breastfeeding, they can be handy during pregnancy if you have discharge.
4 Other Pregnancy Breast Changes
Along with changes directly affecting your nipples, you may also experience other pregnancy breast changes.
Pregnancy Breast Veins
You might also notice pregnancy breast veins. These blue lines may be seen more clearly through your skin now. The increase in blood flow causes your veins to dilate, making them more obvious while expecting. In the same way you may see more veins on your growing belly, your expanding boobs may also make veins more visible.
One of the most common pregnancy breast changes is swelling. It’s caused by increased blood flow and fluid retention. Consider this: The average person gains 2 pounds in their breasts by the 9th month, according to the March of Dimes.
While you may experience pregnancy nipple pain, your boobs might also feel sore. They may be tender or feel heavy as they swell. As your boobs grow and the swelling increases, you’ll probably need extra support like a good maternity bra. You may need to experiment to find the right bra that provides both comfort and support.
Some people even choose to sleep in a sports bra because the support and protection provide relief. You can also try using an ice pack on your breasts to minimize aches. If the pain becomes intense, talk to your doctor. Some physicians may recommend taking acetaminophen to ease aches.
Make sure to communicate breast changes to your partner. When it comes to foreplay and sex, let them know what no longer feels good or comfortable.
You may also notice stretch marks forming on your boobs and this is normal. Stretch marks form as skin quickly expands, making pregnant people especially susceptible to the marks. Although there’s no surefire way to avoid stretch marks on your boobs, creams and oils may help the severity.
Will My Pregnancy Breasts Go Back to Normal?
After pregnancy and breastfeeding, although the annoying symptoms will go away, your breasts may appear different than before. For example, your areolas may remain a few shades darker and you may have stretch marks that fade over time.
Instead of expecting your boobs to return to their pre-pregnancy appearance, try to embrace the changes that allowed you to nurture and deliver nutrients to a growing baby.
Summary: Pregnancy Nipple Changes
Pregnancy nipple changes are some of the first signs of pregnancy you may experience. Starting in the first trimester and lasting until birth, your breasts will go through several changes. Your nipples and areolas may become larger and darker, sore, and itchy. Your breasts will also swell and may form stretch marks as the skin quickly expands. You may also notice pregnancy breast veins become more prominent as your blood flow increases.
There’s a few things you can do to minimize pregnancy nipple and breast discomfort, such as keeping them moisturized and wearing a good maternity bra. Although some of these changes dissipate after birth, some will continue through breastfeeding. Some changes may also be permanent.
Do You Have a Fetal Doppler Yet?
Fetal dopplers are handheld devices that you can use to hear your baby’s heartbeat—while she’s still in the womb! Similar to an ultrasound, a probe detects the heartbeat and amplifies it through speakers. You can even use the connecting app to record the sound, share it with family and keep it forever! Many parents-to-be say using a fetal doppler brings comfort and improves pre-birth bonding.