When most people think of pregnancy changes, they think of the expanding uterus, the fluctuating hormone roller coaster and the pelvic expansion. However, breast changes during pregnancy are unfortunately less often discussed.
As a mother-to-be, it is important for you to know the nine ways that your breasts change, as well as ways that you can begin to maintain the health of your breasts today and throughout your pregnancy.
The best part?
In this article, I'm going to show you how your breast changes during your pregnancy and the seven ways to keep your breasts healthy. These are the same techniques I used when I was pregnant with my own three children. Today, I will teach you how to apply these techniques to your own life.
Let's jump right in!
Breast Changes During Pregnancy
As a mom to be, I’m sure you know all about breast tenderness. However, did you know there are changes that occur in breast tissue even before your first missed period?
It’s important for all moms to be to know the changes their breasts undergo. If you know what to expect, you’ll know when something is wrong and when you should seek medical attention.
#1. Alveolar Changes
The first pregnancy breast changes start even before your missed period. If you’ve ever thought that your breasts seemed a little larger around that time of the month, you didn't just imagine it.
However, what you might not have known is that your alveolar buds start to grow, in preparation for pregnancy.This change is not a sign that you are pregnant as it happens to all women of childbearing age.
If you have been sexually active, this and a missed period might be a reason to take a pregnancy test. If you do conceive, you can expect even more changes.
Your breasts will start to get very tender or sensitive. A lot of us, myself included, don’t find it to be more than a mild inconvenience at this stage.
#2. Sore Breasts
At about the fourth week of your pregnancy, your breasts will start to get sore.
For some of you, it won’t be too bad, no more than a mild inconvenience. For others, it’s like your breasts are revolting.
Even something simple like your clothes brushing against them will send you into fits. It’s about this time that I started wishing that I didn’t have to wear a bra at all of them, but the softest cotton made me feel like I had packed my shirt with sandpaper.
This change is the result of that necessary duo, estrogen, and progesterone, as well as an increase of fat in your breasts. Your body will need this fat later on for making colostrum and milk.
Thankfully, this usually eases off by the second trimester. Even if it doesn’t disappear entirely, it should become way more manageable.
#3. Breast Growth
- That’s right, ladies. Your breasts are going to get bigger throughout your pregnancy. For some of us, that growth will happen slowly.
For the rest of us, your breasts will grow in intermittent spurts, which means the skin over them will have to stretch.
Fast skin stretching like this can lead to stretch marks. However, those can be managed. The part of the change I found most annoying was the itching, tingling sensation.
Remind yourself that this is normal. Furthermore, it will go away just like the soreness does.Another important part of your increasing breast size is that you’ll need to go shopping for bras.
You can expect to go up at least a cup size or two before all is said and done, and you may have to go up on your band size too because your ribcage is expanding to make room for the baby.
Look on the bright side, though. This is a time to buy some, comfortable cotton bras.
#4. They Get Heavier
- As your breasts grow, they also gain weight. In fact, you can expect to gain 1.5 pounds in each breast before your baby is born.
This excess weight is due to the influences of progesterone and estrogen. To relieve the back pain you might wind up having, I have found that wearing a very supportive bra does wonder.
Later in your pregnancy, you will need to invest in a nursing bra. But for now, a sports bra or maternity cotton sleep bra will work nicely.
Go for one with wide straps. That way, the weight is distributed evenly, and your bra straps won’t dig into your shoulders.
- By the end of your pregnancy, your body will contain 50% more blood. The blood is needed to support the growing baby. However, having all this extra blood in your body leads to the third of our breast changes during pregnancy.
Because your body suddenly has more blood, blood veins stretch to accommodate the increased capacity. Though this occurs all over your body, the veins are particularly visible on your breasts and abdomen.
Though these visible veins may seem worrying, take a deep breath. This vein is an entirely normal part of pregnancy. After you have had your baby, if you are bottle-feeding your child, the veins will return to normal as your breasts no longer need the increased blood flow.
If you are planning on breastfeeding your newborn, be prepared for those prominent veins to be visible for a while longer. They will return to normal when you stop breastfeeding.
Founder of Kittymoms
#6. Montgomery Tubercles
If you’re like me, pretty early in your pregnancy you started noticing what looks like tiny pimples or goosebumps on your areola, the dark spot around each nipple.
These might even be visible on the nipple itself, and it may be tempting to pop them for pimples. Please don’t do this. Not only is it extremely painful, but it can be dangerous and lead to infection.
- You see, your breasts contain glands that help with the various parts of breastfeeding. This particular group of glands is called the Montgomery glands. Their job is to secrete a substance that lubricates the nipple and fights off bacteria.
The little pimples are called Montgomery Tubercles. They are what the lubricating substance comes out. Seeing these Montgomery tubercles in early pregnancy is a sure sign that your breasts are getting ready to make milk.
#7. Your Nipples
I remember the morning, during my first pregnancy, when I looked in the mirror and found that my nipples were darker, and to be honest, it scared me a little.
It turns out; this is entirely normal. It’s just one of the strange changes that your breasts go through, likely caused by estrogen and progesterone.
Around that time, my nipples also started to harden and stick out more. Just like the rest of my breast, they were growing.
- Part of the reason for the nipple growth and hardening is the increase of fluid in your breasts. Another part is that your mammary glands are growing. Your nipples need to get bigger to make room.
Also, a baby will have a harder time feeding on a small nipple, so this is an evolutionary change as well.
Your breasts are amazing things. They are capable of producing colostrum as early as your sixteenth week. What is colostrum? It’s a straw-colored fluid that your breasts make to sustain your baby before your breastmilk comes in.
It is full of antibodies and is the basis for your newborn’s immune system. However, occasionally you will have breast leakage. That is why breast pads exist.
These useful pads can be slipped into your bra to prevent the colostrum from leaking onto your clothes.
Though occasional leakage of colostrum is normal, do watch out for blood leaking from your nipples. It usually is not anything serious.
- However, it is a good idea to go to your primary care provider or OBGYn anyhow. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry and to head off any serious problem before it starts.
#9. Breast Lumps
Breast self-exams are important. But It is even more important when you’re pregnant, as several kinds of totally normal lumps can arise. Some of these lumps are caused by cysts, fibroadenomas, (Noncancerous tumors of the breast), fibrous tissues of other varieties and galactose which are cysts filled with milk.
Most lumps in your breasts may sound scary, but they do tend to be benign. However, even benign-seeming lumps are something that you should speak to your doctor. He can tell you for sure if a lump is a problem.
- Also, there are a few other things that you should tell your doctor about. If a lump in your breast changes in any way, that is a sign of concern.
How To Take Care Of Your Breast During Pregnancy
Now that I’ve discussed the various changes your breasts will undergo, it’s time to get to the part of this article you’ve been waiting. How can you keep your breasts healthy starting today? Read on to find out.
Stamp Out Infection By Cleaning your Nipples and Areola
I can’t state the importance of proper breast hygiene enough. However, there are likely some of you who don’t know how to clean your nipples and areola when you’re pregnant. For that reason, I’m giving you the dish, so you and your baby stay healthy.
How to Clean Your Nipples and Areola
- Ok. You’re going to need some lanolin cream or coconut oil. The lanolin cream should be baby-safe, and you can probably find it in any maternity boutique or health food store.
- Now, when you take a shower, stop and examine your breasts. This time is the chance to check for lumps. When washing your breasts, make sure only to use warm water. Though you can use soap around your breasts, using it on the nipples or areolas can cause cracking.
- If you notice the dead skin on your breasts, it’s perfectly okay to soak a towel in vinegar and water to put over them. That'll loosen the skin, so it comes off without pain.
- When you’re out of the shower, and your breasts are clean, it’s time for the coconut oil or lanolin cream. Put some in your palm and rub your hands together. It might be tempting to just put it directly on your breasts and then rub it in, but I’ve found that this doesn’t work.
- The oil or cream is cold and unpleasant on your skin, and it won’t spread as evenly if you rub it directly into your breast without heating it first.
- When rubbing the oil or cream into your breasts, do it in a circular motion starting from the side of the breast and moving closer to the nipple. Use a circular motion and firm but gentle pressure.
- When you reach the nipple, rub some oil or cream onto it too.When you’re done, let your breasts air dry fully before putting on a bra. You don’t want a bacteria breeding ground in your bra.
Ease Pain with Prenatal Massage
There are many benefits to prenatal breast massage. Massaging your breasts can help your skin stretch more the lactating muscles grow larger.
It can also ease the soreness in the first trimester. Massage can even help with the itching.As your pregnancy continues, your nipples will enlarge along with the rest of your breasts.
However, massage will help the nipple enlarge even further. This method is very important if you plan to breastfeed your baby, as if the nipple is too small, the baby may fail to get a good latch for feeding.
Breast Massage Techniques
Massaging your breasts not only helps with pain and enlarges your nipples. It also helps with relaxation and can even drain toxins out of your body through your lymph system.
Massage should be done once a day. You can even combine the massage and the coconut oil or lanolin treatments from the last section.
- Start this process when your breasts are still moist from the shower, and remember to be gentle. Too much pressure can hurt. If your breasts are sore, I’ve found it especially useful for the massage with the pads of your fingers and not the tips.
- To drain the lymph fluid from your breasts, start in the center at the nipple. Then massage outward in slow, calm strokes.
In fact, when you are massaging, you should always start in the center at the nipple. However, you should move outward in a circular motion if you are just massaging and not draining lymph. If you find a particular spot, as you often will, focus on that area for a while.
It’s perfectly normal for your breasts to start feeling warm in the area you’re massaging. The increased blood flow is a wonderful remedy for soreness.
- If your breasts are still painful after the massage, I’ve found that cold compresses can be an excellent help.
Prevent Breast Sagging and Help Milk Production With Exercise
Never be afraid to exercise your upper body. A lot of pregnant women stop exercising their upper body and lose strength in the place they need it most.
Exercising your upper body will not only keep the muscles there strong, but it is a huge help to your breasts.
When you are pregnant, you are likely to notice some breast sagging. I know I did.
It isn’t while you are breastfeeding that your breasts lose their shape. It happens while the breasts are growing during pregnancy. However, if you do the following exercises, you can make sure your breasts stay as firm as they possibly can.
The first exercise that I’ve found useful are arm rotations. You can do these while watching TV or talking to friends, as long as you are in person with them and not on the phone. The only pieces of equipment you will need are a couple of two to five-pound dumbbells and a nonskid mat.
- Start by doing a gentle warm-up. Some beautiful, comfortable stretches will work nicely for this.After that, put down your yoga mat and stand on it, with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your knees soft. The last thing you want to do is strain your joints. Being pregnant with a strained knee would be horrible.
- Take a dumbbell in one hand. Then you can let that hand hang down to your side. Put the other hand behind your back for support. Trust me. This gel saves you a lot of backaches later.
- Now that you’re properly supported, stretch out the arm holding the dumbbell and do a clockwise circle. You should do eight repetitions of this.
- When you’ve done eight reps, it’s time to reverse that circle. Do eight repetitions in the anticlockwise direction.
- Finally, you can give that arm a rest and put it behind your back so you can do the other side.
- I have only one warning on this exercise. Make sure you don’t do it on an empty stomach. It can make you dizzy. Also, you should not do this with weight bands.
If you don’t have a yoga mat, but do have an exercise ball, I have an exercise for you. I’ve used this one a lot of times, especially if I didn’t want to fling my arms around like a windmill.
- Plant your feet firmly and pick up the exercise ball. Put it behind your back at hip-level. When it’s behind your back, squeeze it and lift up.
- This exercise will strengthen the muscles of your ribcage and breast area as well as your shoulders. You should do ten reps of this. If it starts making you sore, do fewer reps.
What do you do if you don’t have any exercise equipment at all? Well, you improvise, that’s what. That’s actually how I found out about this exercise.
- Start by holding your arms out in front of you and pressing your palms together as hard as you can. You should feel a burn in your shoulders.
- Hold the pose for a count of fifteen before relaxing. This is another exercise you should do for ten repetitions.
End Backaches by Choosing the Proper Nursing Bra
As your breasts get bigger, it will become harder to use the bras you already have, and you will want more support. For that reason, it is wise to switch over to a nursing bra, even if you aren’t planning on breastfeeding.
You need a bra that is comfortable but will provide the optimal support. It also needs to be able to be adjusted to accommodate your increasing band and cup sizes. However, that is not all there is to choosing a bra, so let’s go over the steps.
The first thing you need to figure out is what material is right for you. You want something that will breathe, that will dry quickly if it gets damp, something that will not lead to breast infections due to bacteria.
As a general rule, I recommend going with cotton whenever possible. Though there are soft, breathable synthetics out there, cotton still breathes better.
The temptation may be there to purchase underwire bras. Don’t do it.Underwires, while being supportive, can also cause clogged milk ducts and dig into your breasts. The cheap ones can also have wires made of sheet metal that can irritate your skin.
Why Nursing Bras?
Though just using a larger sized bra throughout your pregnancy is an option, I don’t recommend it. Maternity and nursing bras are far superior in the support department.
- Further, if you do plan to breastfeed, you will need a nursing bra, so why not get one before the baby is born?
- Nursing bras have several benefits. They tend to have more adjustment hooks than a typical bra, meaning they will adjust to your needs.
- They also have clasps or other ways to get to your nipples for breastfeeding. The straps tend to be extensive and nonstretchy, which gives you even weight distribution.
How To Measure?
Do not go to the bra shop and just expect to grab any bra. I’d recommend getting measured by a professional. 80% of women are wearing the wrong-sized bra.
Founder of Kittymoms
If your bra store doesn’t have a professional who can measure you, or you don’t feel comfortable being measured this way, you can do it yourself.
- Make sure you’re wearing a well-fitting, non-padded bra. Wrap a measuring tape around your ribcage just under your bust. Make sure the tape is perpendicular to the floor both in front and in the back.
- The number you get is your band measurement. If it isn’t a whole number, you can round up for a more relaxed fit or down for a more snug one.
- To get your cup measurement, bring your tape measure around the fullest part of your breast without pulling tight. Take this number and subtract it from your band measurement.
- Take the difference between the two numbers and check the sizing charts for various bra manufacturers.
If you’d rather just go try on a bra, choose one that isn’t too loose or too tight. If you need to wear breast pads, you might want to go up one size on the band.
Breast pads can be a lifesaver. These handy little gadgets prevent leaking colostrum (or breast milk if you’re nursing) from staining your clothes.
Believe me; you don’t want that leaking where other people can see it if you happen to be away from home. Not everyone can carry extra clothes with them all the time, after all, and who wants to walk around in a damp bra?
Choosing Breast Pads
Breast pads come in two types. The type you choose will depend on your needs.
- First, ask yourself if you plan to breastfeed for a while.
- If not, then you might only want to invest in disposable pads.
They are expensive and create a lot of waste, so not a good long-term solution.If you do plan to breastfeed for a bit, washable pads are better. They are initially a bit more expensive, but they quickly pay for themselves by being reusable.
It’s a good idea to purchase twelve or fourteen pads. That way, you have a good supply to carry you through between laundry loads. That’s how I managed.
Using Breast Pads
Applying a breast pad isn’t as hard as it might sound. In no time, you will be a pro.
- Pull down your bra strap.
- Slide the breast pad between your breast and the bra, over your nipple.
- Then pull your bra strap back into place.
- When that is done, put on your shirt, first checking to make sure the breast pad is aligned with your nipple.
Some breast pads you need is going to vary with the day, as will the amount of time you can wear them.
Wear the pads until they get damp. Then replace them. This way, you can prevent infections and mastitis, an inflammation of the breast caused by bacteria that leaves you with a fever and flulike symptoms.
Avoid Long-term Effects On Your Baby’s Health (AND Your Own) by Remaining Hydrated
You would think that being hydrated during pregnancy would be easy. But it isn’t. With nausea and vomiting, sometimes it’s hard to keep anything down at all.
Chronic dehydration can lead to a host of health complications, for both you and the baby so it’s really important to get enough to drink.
How to Remain Hydrated?
If the nausea is terrible, speak to your doctor. See if there is any anti-nausea medication you can take, and take that medicine at the required times.
- Also, drinking water while exercising is important. When I was pregnant, I had to keep an eye on how hard I was exercising and make sure I got my water in.
I’ve also found electrolyte popsicles to be a great thing to suck on if I can’t keep water down. It would also work well for people who don’t like water for whatever reason. Ice chips are also good for your stomach if you can’t keep down water.
Water sometimes feels heavy, but ice chips feel lighter for some reason.Moisturize your skin when it gets dry. The extra moisture will prevent cracking and peeling.
Ensuring Your Baby’s Proper Development And Good Health Begins Today
You are what you eat, especially when you’re pregnant. If you binge out on junk food, your baby will be affected.
Good nutrition is also important if you plan on breastfeeding as it can ensure that your body makes enough good-quality milk for your baby. You want them to have all the vitamins and minerals they need, after all.
The important thing to remember is that no matter what anyone says, you’re not eating for two. Your nutritional needs will only increase by about 300 calories per day in the second and third trimester. So what should you be eating? I’m going to tell you.
- Protein is essential for the growth of fetal tissues like the brain, uterine tissue and an increase in blood volume. Eat 75 to 100 grams per day.
- Two to three servings of legumes. Legumes are things like split peas, kidney beans, and black beans.
- Calcium is essential for your baby’s growing bones and tooth buds while also helping you regulate fluids. You should consume around 1,000 MG per day while you are pregnant.
- Iron, along with potassium, sodium, and water helps prevent anemia and helps your blood volume increase. You need 27 MG of iron daily.
- Whole grains contain fiber, which not only helps your unborn child but also can keep you from getting constipated. You need three servings of whole grain daily.
- Folic Acid plays a role in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida. You need 600 to 800 micrograms per day, usually delivered as a supplement.
- Fruit. Not only is it good for you but it can help dehydration at bay. You need 2-3 servings of fruit per day.
- Vitamin C promotes wound healing, bone and tooth development and metabolic processes. Experts recommend 85 MG per day.
- Vitamin A is important for your baby’s embryonic growth including the development of the heart, lungs, eyes, and bones. If you are eighteen and under, you need 750 MCG Rae per day. If you are over nineteen, that means you need 770 MCG Rae per day.
- Vitamin E is necessary for your baby’s cell development. Foods are the best sources of this vitamin. Aim for 3 MG per day.
- I recommend seaweed and turmeric for all pregnant women. These foods are high in necessary, protective nutrients.
If you do not care for your breasts, you will regret it long after your child is born. It’s important to start taking proper care of them today, to ensure your health and that of your baby.
Furthermore, it is important to learn as much as you possibly can about breast changes in pregnancy so you can monitor your health and see a medical professional if necessary.