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Breast Changes During Pregnancy

Breast Changes During Pregnancy

Your growing belly may get all the attention, but it’s not the only body part that changes during pregnancy. Some major changes will be happening to your breasts, too. And some of them might surprise you!


Of course, we don’t want you to be blindsided by your breasts. So, settle in for some girl talk about what to expect, why in the world it’s happening, and what you can do to soothe any discomfort.


In this article:


What Causes Breast Changes During Pregnancy?

As with most pregnancy changes, hormones are to blame for your rogue breasts. Estrogen and progesterone kick-start the development of milk glands.


These well-meaning hormones are readying your body for lactation. They even call for back-up in the form of another hormone, prolactin. Together, these hormones cause your milk ducts to grow, stretch, and fill with milk. They also increase blood flow.


As your hormones surge and the structure of your breast changes, you may feel some sensitivity or slight pain. If it makes you feel any better, remember that your body is getting ready to feed and nurture your baby. That’s pretty cool, even if it doesn’t feel so great at the moment.

Ashley Cullins 


What Changes Occur In The Breast During Pregnancy?

Go ahead and get comfy; this might take a while!


Breasts can do a lot of weird things during pregnancy, but you may experience just a few of the symptoms listed below. In addition, your timeline may vary slightly. No matter what, it’s always nice to have a heads up. Here’s a trimester-by-trimester breakdown of the average pregnancy boob transformation!


First trimester:

  • Tenderness and sensitivity: Very early in your pregnancy, your boobs and nipples may feel sore and tender to the touch. This is due to rising hormone levels and increased blood flow. After a few weeks, the discomfort should fade. Unfortunately, it does tend to return in the later stages of pregnancy.
  • Boob growth: Another reason for the discomfort is that your boobs are experiencing some serious growing pains! Breasts are much fuller than usual during pregnancy. Some women consider this part of pregnancy a perk, while others are less amused.
  • Itchiness: If your breasts experience a sudden growth spurt, you may also feel some itchiness as the skin stretches.
  • Darkened veins: If you’ve noticed a blue river of dark veins on your breasts, you’re not alone. Since blood flow has increased by about 50%, it’s no surprise that your veins are more noticeable than usual.

Second trimester:

  • Larger, darker nipples and areolas: Your nipples and areolas aren’t willing to let the breasts have all the fun. They grow during pregnancy, too—and often become darker as well. Some women fondly (or perhaps not so fondly) nickname them “pepperoni nipples.”
  • Bumpy areola: You may also notice small bumps on your areolas. Nope, they’re not pimples. These bumps, called Montgomery glands or Montgomery’s tubercles, are oil-producing glands that lubricate the breasts. They protect your nipples and areolas from drying out and cracking, and they make for easier breastfeeding. Cute? No. But totally useful? Yes!
  • Stretch marks: Stretch marks may happen later in your pregnancy, or they may not happen at all. But as your breasts grow and your skin stretches, you may develop stretch marks. Moisturizer is your friend!

Third trimester:

  • Leaky nipples: Your breasts start producing milk sooner than you might expect. (Technically, it’s colostrum, the ultra-nutritious precursor to milk.) As a result, your breasts may leak or even shoot a thick, milky discharge. This can happen at any time, but especially when your breasts are stimulated. So yes, shooting milk during sex is a possibility. If you’re leaking through a lot of tops, breast pads can help.
  • Crusty nipples: Sometimes, leakage may dry on your nipples, causing a thin, yellowish crust to form. No worries! Gently wash it off with some warm water. And if you’re constantly waking up with your pajama top sticking to your nipples, try sleeping in a comfy cotton sports bra or bralette.

After birth:

Even after your baby’s born, your boobs aren’t quite ready to return to normal. Extra milk, lymphatic fluid, and even more blood circulation may lead to engorgement. Yes, it’s about as uncomfortable as it sounds. Your breasts will be very full, very firm, and potentially painful. Weird pro tip: Refrigerate a head of lettuce or cabbage, then stick the cold leaves in your bra. (Feels surprisingly great.)


Your breasts will also leak for a while longer. For instance, your baby crying can trigger leakage. It’s inconvenient, but also pretty amazing, right? That mother-baby bond is seriously powerful!


Eventually, your breasts will mostly go back to normal. Stretch marks and slightly loose skin may linger, but they’re just a reminder of what beautiful things your body can accomplish.


How Soon Do You Notice Breast Changes In Pregnancy?

Forget the nausea, the bloating, and even the pee stick. For many women, the very first sign of pregnancy is pain or tenderness in the breast. That’s right, your boobs may have known you were expecting even before you did.


Some women feel that tingly feeling in the breasts just 1-2 weeks after conception. Of course, every woman and every pregnancy is different. Whenever you start feeling breast changes, they’ll likely continue right up to the end of your pregnancy (and for a little while after).

 boobs hurt during pregnancy


How Much Bigger Do Breasts Get During Pregnancy?

Every pair of breasts is different, and they all experience varying amounts of growth during pregnancy. Some women report that theirs hardly grew at all, while others claim to have soared three cup sizes (and sometimes even more)!


In general, experts say that you can expect to grow 1-2 cup sizes during pregnancy. And if you ask me, that sounds like a great excuse to shop for cute new bras.

 how much bigger do breasts get during pregnancy


How To Relieve Sore Breasts During Pregnancy

Between nausea, heartburn, cramps, and your ballooning belly, you’ve got enough to deal with without worrying about sore, painful breasts. So, what can you do about it?

  • Buy a supportive bra. Your girls need your support now more than ever. Go for a full coverage bra with wide straps and a deep band beneath the cups. Larger bras or sports bras can also help. If you aren’t sure what size your growing breasts need, get fitted again. And whatever you do, just say no to underwire!
  • Sleep in your bra. Yes, under normal circumstances, this suggestion would sound crazy. But when you’re pregnant, sleeping in a cotton sports bra minimizes movement, which can reduce tenderness and discomfort.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing. Tight clothing that rubs against your breasts can be irritating and even painful. Loose, flowy clothing will feel far more comfortable.
  • Avoid contact. Bumping up against anything with your breasts during pregnancy is not fun. Try to keep your breasts safe from contact, including adjusting your seat belt and your purse as needed. If it becomes painful for your partner to touch your breasts, let him know.
  • Buy breast pads. In addition to preventing leakage in later pregnancy, breast pads can help shield your sensitive nipples. If the lining of your bra is painfully rubbing up against your nipples, breast pads are the way to go.
  • Break out the cold compress. Sometimes, a cold compress to your aching breasts can bring sweet, sweet relief. Lay a towel over your breasts and put an ice pack on top of it, or even a bag of frozen vegetables. You can also try the “refrigerated lettuce leaf” trick mentioned above. Whatever works for you!
  • Take a warm shower. The steam from a warm shower may relax your surrounding muscles and ease some of the tension you’re feeling. A word of caution, though: Avoid the spray (it stings)! If possible, adjust your showerhead to the gentlest setting.
  • Apply lotions and oils. If your stretched boob skin has you feeling itchy, rub on some lotions or oils to relieve that tight feeling. As a bonus, a gentle massage is also helpful. Massage from any sore area toward the nipple.

 pregnant woman taking shower


I’ve Had A Lack Of Breast Changes During Pregnancy. Should I Be Worried?

Not at all. Some women do not experience dramatic breast changes during pregnancy. Despite old wives’ tales, this says nothing about your ability to produce milk or breastfeed. When it comes to meeting the needs of your hungry baby, size truly doesn’t matter.


If you can’t shake your worries, though, feel free to discuss your concerns with your doctor. You can also talk to a midwife or lactation consultant about any breastfeeding questions that come to mind. In the meantime, try to relax and consider yourself lucky!


And for expectant mamas who are experiencing the wild ride of pregnancy breasts, you’ve got this. Buy the comfiest bras, stuff them with cold lettuce leaves, take nice warm showers, and massage your sore boobs with fancy lotions.


Your body’s getting ready to singlehandedly nurture a little human. You’re a rockstar; treat yourself like one!


Office On Women's Health, Body changes and discomforts, January 2019.

American Pregnancy Association, Breast Changes During Pregnancy

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