You will experience various breast changes throughout your pregnancy. At times these issues may seem concerning, but you can be reassured that most of these occurrences are normal.
Expected Breast Changes During Pregnancy
During your pregnancy, your breasts are preparing for the arrival of your new baby and you may notice various changes in your breasts. These changes are due to hormones and are typically nothing to worry about. Some women may only experience certain breast changes and not others. It will vary from woman to woman. These changes include:
- Growth or fullness
- Lumpy breasts
- Leaking of thick, yellow fluid (colostrum) from the breasts
- Dark, prominent veins along the sides of your breasts (due to increased blood flow to the breasts)
- Darker nipples and areola
- Nipples become more prominent and larger
- Stretch marks
When Do These Breast Changes Typically Occur
The following is when you can expect certain breast changes to occur:
In the first trimester, you will notice an initial rush of soreness, sensitivity, and discomfort due to hormone changes from the pregnancy. The dark veins on the breasts will appear as well as the dark ring around the nipples. Keep in mind, these changes to your breasts may subside after a few weeks as your body adjusts to the different levels of hormones.
One of the most common, early pregnancy symptoms is swollen and tender breasts. This can start as early as 1 to 2 weeks after conception. You may experience breast changes even before a missed period or a positive pregnancy test.
During the second trimester, your breasts will become more enlarged. You may also notice skin changes due to hormones, such as dark spots on your breasts and darkening of the nipples.
As your belly and your breasts significantly grow in the third trimester, you may notice pink or reddish lines on your skin as it stretches. These are stretch marks. These are caused by changes in the supportive tissue directly under your skin. You also may experience a little discharge from your nipples which is normal. This discharge is the nutrient-rich colostrum which is loaded with antibodies and is considered a 'super food' for babies. When you experience this discharge, it indicates that your breasts are getting ready to produce milk.
Unexpected Breast Changes During Pregnancy
A few breast changes that are not as common include:
- Small, hard and tender-to-the-touch red lumps. These are typically clogged milk ducts. Warm compresses and massages should help clear the ducts
- Mastitis is also inflamed, clogged milk ducts, however, the milk duct contains bacteria as well. The symptoms are similar to clogged milk ducts with redness, pain, and swelling, but mastitis symptoms are generally more severe. You will also have signs of infection which include fever and achiness.
- Breast asymmetry or uneven breasts are typically nothing to worry about. This can also occur due to hormone changes.
Problematic Breast Changes and When to Talk to the Doctor
There are a few breast changes that may occur that warrant a visit to your doctor, which include:
The most common breast lumps that may develop during pregnancy include:
- Cysts which are fluid-filled sacs.
- Galactoceles which are milk-filled cysts.
- Fibroadenoma which is a solid mass comprised of benign fibrous tissue.
A breast lump may also be breast cancer, but it is typically very rare.
Blood in Nipple Discharge
If there is discharge from the nipple and it is tinged with blood, it could be an issue with a clogged milk duct or it could be a sign of intraductal carcinoma. You will need to discuss this with your doctor.
Skin Texture Changes
If you notice skin texture changes on the breast such as an orange peel appearance, this may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer. This should be looked at by your doctor immediately.
Sources of Relief
The following are a few tips that may help provide relief for breast discomfort and soreness:
- Use hot or cold compresses on your breasts.
- Use lotions or creams recommended by your doctor for itchy breasts and tender skin.
- Use breast pads that will help protect your sensitive nipples from the inside of your bra.
Invest in a Good Bra
It is important to find a good maternity bra that offers support and comfort as your breasts grow with the pregnancy. You should look for:
- Good support
- A comfortable fit
- A back closure that is adjustable
- Wide shoulder straps
- A deep band under the cups
- No underwires
Good Breast Health
It is important that you be proactive about good breast health during your pregnancy. If you notice any new breast lumps or unusual changes in your breasts, it is best to talk to your doctor. You should also continue with self-breast exams while you're pregnant. Even though it may be difficult to do an exam due to tenderness and size, it is recommended that you still give yourself a breast exam once every four weeks or so.