Welcome aboard the wonderful journey of motherhood. As you conceive, your body starts preparing itself for several changes facilitating the baby’s arrival. So, it’s not just your womb that’s busy, but your breasts too undergo some radical changes. Hence, it’s extremely important that you know what to expect through your journey to be prepared physically and mentally to embrace the changes.
Hormonal surges result in the changes in the breast size and structure. Sometimes, it’s the first sign that you are pregnant.
Every woman is different and unique. So, the changes in the size and structure can vary from person to person. But if you’re wondering how much the breasts grow during pregnancy, note that by the time your milk comes in, they’re likely to be almost one-and-half times bigger than before you!
Weeks 1 to 12: First trimester
Many women experience breast changes in early pregnancy.
Early signs of pregnancy:
- Swelling of the breasts
- Tenderness or soreness in the breasts
- A feeling of fullness in the breasts
Your breasts feel sensitive, sore, and sometimes even swollen. These changes might even be noticed before a missed period or a positive pregnancy test.
During this period of pregnancy, your body’s blood volume increases to fulfill the developmental needs of your growing baby. This might also lead to the veins on your breasts increasing in size, getting bluer, and more visible. Your breasts will grow during this phase. You may experience a feeling of uneasiness due to the swelling and tenderness initially.
If the discomfort due to breast changes worries you, remember that these symptoms are temporary and will subside once your body adapts to the changing levels of hormones. It is also important to focus on comfortable and properly fitting maternity bras in order to avoid discomfort.
Weeks 13 to 27: Second trimester
Significant breast related changes take place in the second trimester of your pregnancy. Your breasts grow quite a bit along with your belly. They may gain around one to three pounds in weight during this period.
Another significant change that takes place in the second trimester in terms of your breasts is pigmentation. Changes in your hormonal levels may cause hyper pigmentation leading to dark spots on your nipples and breasts. Your areola (the area around your nipple) may also darken.
“Another way the areola changes is that the little bumps or pimples on it become more noticeable. These wonderfully named ‘Montgomery’s tubercles’ produce a moisturizing oil that helps protect against soreness and infection once you start breastfeeding. In fact, scientists believe the smell of this oil is similar to amniotic fluid and may help guide your newborn to your nipples after birth.”
From around your 15th week of pregnancy, the new milk-producing cells in your breasts become active, and by around the 22ndweek they start making milk. Most of this milk will be reabsorbed by your body, while your pregnancy hormones also prevent much from building up or escaping.
Weeks 28 to 40: Third trimester
You may notice the presence of some reddish, brown, or purple lines on your breasts and belly as they both grow in size. These are commonly called ‘stretch marks’ and happen because of changes in the supportive tissue right under your skin. Your breasts may feel itchy. A gentle moisturizer can help soothe the itch. However, stretch marks are normally a matter of genetics and skin type; if you’re predisposed to them, there’s not much you can do to prevent them – but the good news is they will fade and become much less noticeable over time. Moisturizing your skin will not prevent stretch marks from appearing.
Along with these, you may also experience discharge from your nipples in small quantities. Don’t be alarmed if this happens, it is perfectly normal and simply indicates that your breasts are ready to produce milk.
This discharge may happen on its own or if you squeeze the nipple. It is normally milky, yellowish, or even greenish in color. However, if the discharge is blood or tinted with blood inform your doctor immediately.
Other changes seen in the breasts:
Lumps: Sometimes, you may notice the presence of lumps in your breasts during pregnancy. These are usually benign and not worrisome but it’s advisable to get them checked. They commonly include cysts, fibroadenomas, and galactoceles which are cysts filled with milk.
Changes in your breasts after pregnancy:
Breast size and shape are different for every woman. Many women claim that their breasts sag after breastfeeding, but breastfeeding may not be the only cause behind changes in your breasts.
Simply being pregnant can cause your breasts to sag a little because of your stretching ligaments. These concerns are purely cosmetic and do not require medical intervention.
One important thing to remember is that each breast exists independently and will not necessarily be affected by pregnancy or breastfeeding the same way.
For example, if you experience issues like increase in size in one breast, that breast may look slightly different than the other once you discontinue breastfeeding. You may also lose symmetry in your breasts as your breast tissue produces milk and shrinks post breastfeeding. One breast may hang lower than the other, or one may look larger.
Tips to handle these changes and ease the discomfort:
For tender and sore breasts:
- Wearing the right bra is very important during pregnancy. Comfort, support, and ease of use should be your main priority while purchasing pregnancy and nursing bras.
- During the day: Opt for a bra that gives you a good amount of support in the back and on the sides. Cotton bras are generally more comfortable.
- At night: Consider wearing a sleep bra. These are known to be softer and lighter and provide you with a little support as you sleep. Here as well using a cotton bra will be better.
- Avoid washing the region around your nipples with soap as this tends to dry out the skin. Clean it with just warm water.
For itchy skin:
- Try avoiding hot showers
- Apply moisturizer almost immediately after taking a bath
- Using things like drying soaps, alcohol-based skin products, and heavily chlorinated water is not advisable
- Use a humidifier if you reside in an area with a dry climate
- If nothing seems to help or the itching is too much to bear, see your doctor or midwife at the earliest
For leaking colostrum:
- You can try wearing breast pads inside your bra. These soak up the leaks and are sometimes washable. You could also opt for the use and throw ones.
- Allow your breasts to air-dry for a few minutes a few times a day.