Breast changes are a normal part of pregnancy and occur as a result of hormonal fluctuations. Changes to the breasts can occur as early as 1 week after conception and continue right up until the birth of the baby and beyond.
In this article, we discuss the breast changes that are most common during each trimester. We also provide some tips on easing breast discomfort when pregnant.
It is important to note that breast changes vary from person to person, and not everyone will develop all of the symptoms below.
During weeks 0–13 of pregnancy, symptoms may include:
Tenderness and discomfort
Breast tenderness is often one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy.
According to the
These changes occur because of rising hormone levels in the body and increased blood flow to the breast tissue. Breast discomfort often subsides after a few weeks, although it may return in the later stages of pregnancy.
Going up a cup size or two is normal when pregnant, especially during a first pregnancy. This growth can begin early on in pregnancy and continue throughout.
Rapid growth can cause the breasts to feel itchy as the skin stretches. The breasts may also continue to increase in size after birth during nursing.
Blood volume typically increases by
These veins are necessary to carry the increasing volumes of blood and nutrients around the body to the developing fetus.
From weeks 14–27, the second trimester of pregnancy may bring about the following breast changes:
The areolas are the colored circles around the nipples. Over the course of the second and third trimesters, the areolas
Darkening areolas are likely to result from hormonal changes. Often, the areola returns to its prepregnancy color after breastfeeding, but it sometimes remains a shade or two darker than it was originally.
Some people may notice nipple discharge during their second trimester. For others, this may not occur until the third trimester or after labor. Discharge can occur at any time but is more likely when the breasts become stimulated.
This thick, yellow discharge is colostrum, a liquid that
Lumpy breasts affect some individuals during pregnancy. Usually, these lumps are not a cause for concern. They are often either galactoceles, which are clogged milk ducts, or fibroadenomas, which are benign breast tumors.
However, it is still important to tell a doctor about any breast lumps that develop. Although the risk of breast cancer during pregnancy is low, especially in people under the age of 35, pregnancy can make it
Weeks 28–40 of pregnancy can lead to the following breast changes:
Continuing growth and other changes
Many breast changes that occur in the first and second trimesters will continue throughout the final months of pregnancy. The breasts can become even larger and heavier, the nipples may continue to darken, and the colostrum might leak more regularly.
Rapid tissue growth causes the skin to stretch, which may lead to striae gravidarum or stretch marks. Research indicates that
These red lines typically occur in months 6 and 7 of pregnancy but can also appear before or after this time.
Breast changes occur to allow the newborn baby to feed.
However, people who do not experience dramatic breast changes during pregnancy should not worry about their ability to feed their babies. Nipple and breast changes are not indicative of a person’s ability to produce milk or chestfeed.
After delivery, or sometimes before, the breasts produce small amounts of colostrum. This fluid helps boost the baby’s immune system. Newborn babies have very small stomachs and only require modest amounts of colostrum to meet their nutritional needs.
Over the next few days, the breasts begin to produce milk instead of colostrum. Breast milk production typically starts between
Anyone who has concerns about their ability to breastfeed should consider seeking help and support from a doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant.
Many people experience breast discomfort during pregnancy. However, there are many ways for people to accommodate their changing breasts and ease discomfort during this time:
Wearing breast pads for leakage
For colostrum leakage, try wearing breast pads. These are available in either a disposable or reusable form.
Applying lotions and oils
Applying lotions or oils to the breasts can relieve skin tightening and itching. Many people also use these products in the hope of reducing stretch marks.
Treating blocked milk ducts
A person can treat blocked milk ducts by applying a warm compress to painful, blocked areas of the breasts.
Massage can also be helpful. Gently massage the breast from the sore area toward the nipple.
Checking breasts for lumps
Carry out regular breast checks during pregnancy to look for lumps and bumps, and speak with a doctor regarding any concerns. Usually, a lump will be benign or occur due to a blocked milk duct.
Investing in a well-fitting and supportive bra is one of the best ways to ease breast discomfort during pregnancy. When choosing a bra, look for one that has:
- good support
- wide straps
- adjustable closures
- no underwire
- cotton fabric composition
- seam-free design near the nipple
Sports bras and sleep bras are comfortable options for pregnancy. Many people prefer to buy nursing bras as they approach their delivery date. Nursing bras are also suitable for use during pregnancy and while sleeping.
It is a good idea to get a professional fitting for a bra during pregnancy because a person’s bra size can change several times as their breasts and chest expand.
After birth, a person’s breasts will maintain their larger size due to milk production.
Once they stop breastfeeding, their breasts and nipples often return to their normal size, shape, and color.
For some people, this occurs quickly. For others, it can take time. However, some people may find their breasts never regain their prepregnancy appearance.
Sometimes, breasts may appear droopier after pregnancy. This change is more likely in people who smoke or who have:
- a high body mass index
- larger prepregnancy breasts
- experienced several prior pregnancies
Anyone who has concerns about breast changes during or after pregnancy should speak with a doctor.
It is essential to seek medical attention if breast lumps develop or if the nipples produce an unusual discharge that does not resemble colostrum. These symptoms are likely to be harmless, but it is a good idea to have a doctor check them.
Most pregnant people experience breast changes due to rising hormones and increased blood volume.
However, not everyone experiences these changes. A lack of breast changes does not signify anything about the health of the pregnancy or a person’s ability to produce milk or breastfeed the baby.
Pregnancy-related breast changes can be uncomfortable. To manage symptoms, people can invest in a supportive bra, apply lotions to itchy skin, and wear pads for leakage. Most changes will reverse after the delivery of the baby or discontinuation of breastfeeding.