Breast changes are among the more frequently discussed physical effects of pregnancy, and for good reason. From the size and sensitivity of your nipples to the color of your areolas, you might be surprised by how much the breasts can transform. (Thank you, hormones!)
Here’s what to expect during each trimester. You may not experience all of the changes mentioned below, and that’s okay. Each pregnancy journey is unique.
Some birthing people have only mild breast changes, or none at all. This isn’t always an indication of an unhealthy pregnancy or issues with breast milk production.
If you have concerns about how your breasts are or aren’t changing during pregnancy, speak with a trusted healthcare professional.
For some individuals, sore, tender, or swollen breasts are the earliest sign of pregnancy, even before a positive test. This is the result of the rapid hormonal changes that start upon conception.
Your levels of estrogen and progesterone will steadily increase, preparing your body for milk production and causing your breasts to grow.
Breast soreness and tenderness often decrease in the coming weeks as your body adjusts to hormone changes. In the meantime, hot or cold compresses, lotions, and creams are your friend.
Your nipples and areolas may change during the first trimester. The size and sensitivity of your nipples may increase, and your areolas may darken. You might also notice small, painless bumps on your breasts. These are oil glands called Montgomery tubercles, which support breastfeeding.
As estrogen continues to increase, your milk ducts will develop and your breasts may feel heavy or full.
If your nipples and areolas haven’t yet darkened, they may now, as hormone changes affect pigmentation. You may also notice dark spots on your breasts or nipples.
Many women develop reddish, brown, or purple stretch marks as the breasts grow. Don’t feel pressure to hide or change them. When stretch marks form, they are a natural result of the pregnancy journey — not something to be ashamed of.
That said, there are some ways to potentially reduce the visibility of stretch marks, including exfoliation, cocoa or shea butter, stretch mark creams, and massaging your skin. However, some may never disappear completely. Many factors are at play, including genetics.
As your body prepares for milk production, your breasts may begin to produce colostrum — the first type of breast milk — early in your second trimester. Some women experience leakage of colostrum.
As you approach labor and delivery, your breasts will likely become even fuller and heavier. Your nipples may become larger and more pronounced. These changes can cause itching, dryness, or stretch marks.
You may be surprised by just how quickly breasts can change after delivery. About 3-4 days after birth, breast milk production will ramp up as your levels of prolactin, a breastfeeding-related hormone, increase.
Your breasts may feel sore or tender as milk comes in, transitioning from colostrum to transitional milk and then mature milk.
Breast engorgement in breastfeeding individuals typically decreases throughout the first six weeks, as you settle into the rhythm of breastfeeding and have a steady milk supply.
Lactation consultants can offer individualized support as you navigate breastfeeding discomforts.
Changes in your breast size and density during pregnancy may affect your breasts’ appearance during postpartum and beyond. Some women’s breasts eventually return to their pre-pregnancy size and shape.
Others find that their breasts remain larger, or become looser. It depends on various factors including your genetics, age, and previous pregnancies.
Sometimes these changes can be difficult to accept. Like stretch marks, changes in the size or shape of your breasts are often a natural part of the prenatal to postpartum journey.
Be gentle with yourself as you process how pregnancy can affect the breasts and body. Though social media and society more broadly can make it seem like it’s easy to bounce back after pregnancy, that isn’t the case for everyone.
Ruth Health is here to help you prioritize your comfort throughout pregnancy and postpartum. We provide expert, evidence-based maternal advice so that you can make the best decision for yourself. Learn more about pregnancy, postpartum, and everything in between at ruthhealth.com.
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