Along with the many other changes that occur in the body during pregnancy, breast changes can be particularly alarming, especially if they grow so rapidly, you find yourself having to buy new bras! It’s important to remember however that not everyone will experience the same changes in the breasts during pregnancy, and some will notice hardly any changes at all.
Why do our breasts change during pregnancy?
Female breasts change during pregnancy simply to get ready for feeding a baby. It’s the hormonal changes that take place during this time that have a huge impact on them. Oestrogen stimulates growth of the breast duct cells and generates the secretion of prolactin, another hormone.
Prolactin stimulates breast enlargement and milk production. Progesterone supports the formation and growth of milk-producing cells within the glands of the breasts. All of these hormones increase throughout pregnancy and have an impact on the breasts.
What changes are common?
There are several breast changes that occur which may or may not be noticeable such as:
- An increase in size caused by the milk ducts enlarging
- Darkening and enlargement of the nipple and areola
- Prominent veins
- Heavy tender breasts – varies from woman to woman
Some women will notice these changes early on in their pregnancy and some won’t report noticing any changes at all. If you experience a n increase in size, this may happen rapidly in early pregnancy or steadily throughout, peaking in the third trimester
Is there anything we can do to ease breast tenderness and soreness during pregnancy?
Wear a good fitting bra as this will help to support heavy tender breasts. Some women find that their nipples & areola become dry which can and to the soreness so moisturising them with a light cream or petroleum jelly can help.
How do breasts change during each trimester?
Many women will notice the changes detailed above in the weeks after conception but it’s the final few weeks of pregnancy that sees the most change. During this time the breasts and nipples become larger as the cells that produce colostrum, the first milk, multiply and grow rapidly. Some women may notice some slight leakage of colostrum coming from the breast. It can appear yellowish, white or even clear in colour.
Not everyone experiences leaking from the nipples during pregnancy and it doesn’t mean that you wont have any milk if you don’t. After birth, the placenta detaches from the womb, triggering a surge in prolactin. This helps to rapidly increase the amount of colostrum your body produces, enhancing what is already there.