After conception, the body goes through many changes in preparation for the growing fetus. The tummy stretches, the organs shift around, the ribcage widens and yes, the breasts too, undergo some changes. The breasts undergo changes as they prepare to nourish your young one when he or she is born.
The problem is that so many women, especially first-time mothers, do not know how to deal with all these changes and it can be overwhelming. No need to fret though because I will give you a breakdown of all the changes you should expect and how to deal with them.
Remember, comfort is key during pregnancy. You do not want to get stressed out because it will stress out your baby too. I will, therefore, provide ways in which you can reduce the discomfort brought about by the changes in your breasts.
The following are some of the changes your breast will go through as your pregnancy progresses:
Sore breasts during pregnancy
From as early as six weeks, during the first trimester, your breasts will get sore. They become tender and very sensitive, especially to touch. The soreness is caused by the rapidly increasing estrogen and progesterone levels. As you get into the second trimester, this will reduce or completely disappear.
Dealing with this soreness
- Avoid wearing underwired bras: According to Alison Bourne, a physiotherapist in women’s health, underwired bras or bras that are too small may interfere with the changes that naturally happen to the breast like a change in size and shape. This is because, they press against the developing milk duct system, obstruct the easy flow of blood flow (which increase to them during pregnancy) and cause discomfort. Sometimes this discomfort could cause inflammation (mastitis).
- Wear a well-fitted maternity bra.
- Wear a cotton bra when going to sleep. A cotton bra allows for stretch and allows your skin to breathe.
- Protect your breast from injury by avoiding hitting them onto anything.
- Talk to your partner about the tenderness, so that they do not touch your breast.
- When brushing your hair, do it with clothes on so that you do not brush against your nipples with your hands accidentally.
Big pregnant breasts
Yes, your breasts will grow big as your pregnancy progresses. There is the fun part of getting big breasts, but you have to be prepared for the soreness and heaviness that comes with the enlargement. They may start to enlarge at six weeks and this continues till the end of the pregnancy. By the end of it all, you may find that they have grown at least a cup or two in the first pregnancy. The rib cage also expands, which means that you will need a bigger band for your breast too.
The breasts enlarge at different rates for different women. Some grow slowly while for others, it happens intermittently. If they rapidly grow, then some itchiness will be experienced as the skin stretches. Stretch marks too may develop but they fade away over time.
Dealing with the size increase
- Moisturize the breast to deal with the discomfort itching causes.
- Wear a comfortable and supportive bra.
- Get professionally fitted for a bra regularly to ensure you give them proper support.
- Go for bras with wide straps, wider cups, and wide bands. The wide straps will boost support, wider cups will accommodate the growing breast and wide bands will sit flat under the breast.
- Nursing bras can also be an option since you will use them even after giving birth.
- If large breasted, use reinforcement and scaffolding to make the bras more supportive.
Visible veins develop on your breast
This is normal. There is increased blood flow in your body. By the end of pregnancy, it will have increased by up to 50% more. The increase in this volume of blood makes the veins visible on the breast and abdomen. These veins will fade away after giving birth and after you stop breastfeeding.
Dealing with visible veins
Well, you can sit tight since there’s nothing you can do about this weird road map on your breast. You can, however, be proud that this network of veins is carrying nutrients and blood supply to your fetus. Immediately you start breastfeeding, you will notice that they start fading away and when you start weaning, they completely disappear.
By the 16th week, you will start to notice some form of leakage. The breast will occasionally produce a straw-colored fluid. This is known as colostrum. It contains antibodies and makes sure your baby has a good immune system after birth.
How to deal with leakages
- Wear a breast pad to protect your clothes from soaking.
- If the discharge leaking is blood, contact your doctor. It may not be something to worry about but let a healthcare professional know about it.
Nipple changes during pregnancy
The nipples and the areola will also change with pregnancy. The areola is the skin surrounding the nipple.
- The nipples and areola will darken.
- The nipple will enlarge as you approach birth time.
- The areola will get some little bumps around it during the early stages of pregnancy. This could be taken as a sign of pregnancy in some women. The Montgomery’s tubercles, as these bumps are referred to, vary from the individual breast in terms of number and pregnancy. This, according to belief, helps keep the nipple and areola lubricated and protected.
- Some women’s nipples will experience hair growth around it.
- The nipples become very sensitive, especially to cold.
Dealing with the nipple changes.
First, you have to appreciate your body for trying to make it easier for the baby to latch onto the breast as they suckle. With the big nipple, they won’t have problems with feeding. Anyway, do not try to pop Montgomery’s tubercles. You may get an infection.
Lumps and bumps on breast
Some women will notice bumps or lumps on their breast as the pregnancy progresses. They are commonly caused by cysts, galactoceles (milk filled cysts) and fibroadenomas (fibrous tissue). They are benign and should not be a cause for worry.
Dealing with them
- Have them checked out by your doctor even though they are benign.
- If an existing lump starts to change or you feel some new lump, contact a doctor.
- If the lump becomes tender, it could indicate a blocked milk duct. Use warm compresses to ease the tenderness and any pain. A gentle massage will help too. Have it checked out by a doctor.
Heat rash underneath the breast
Some women experience heat rash underneath the breast which can be annoying and itchy. Sometimes they become sore too. This is caused by friction between the skin surfaces as they rub together. During summer, this gets worse due to the sweating and heat. If not taken care off, a bacterial infection can develop.
Dealing with the heat rash
- Ensure cleanliness by showering twice a day.
- Use non-perfumed soap to clean the rash then pat dry with a clean towel.
- Separate the skins and dry out the area if possible.
- Use a zinc powder for moisture absorption but use it sparingly.
- If you notice small pimples with either a white or redhead, then you have a thrush infection. Visit a doctor for treatment options. They will give you an antifungal cream or ointment.
Tips On taking care of your breasts during pregnancy
There is no special care needed for the breast during pregnancy. In fact, the body knows what to do as long as you take care of yourself by eating healthy and getting enough sleep and rest. You can, however, take care of the breast by:
- Wearing a supportive bra. This will not only support your growing breast but also protect them from sagging.
- Those with small breast may be tempted to go without a bra but this will change during pregnancy as they enlarge. Get a few good ones that fit well.
- Do not use any harsh body washes or soaps when bathing or showering.
- Due to the high sensitivity of the breast, consider using non-perfumed toiletries.
- Avoid hot showers, baths or spas. Hot water will tend to dry the skin. Warm water is ideal and is also good for the baby. Overheating can also cause complication during the first trimester.
- Do not vigorously dry them after showering. Remember they are tender and sore. Just pat them dry and be gentle.
- Sometimes, as the breasts change, your sex life is enhanced due to the increased sensitivity to the nipples and the breast. Stimulation will not harm your body, so go on and have fun with your hubby. However, if the doctor has warned you of premature labor risks in your pregnancy, do not stimulate them. Nipple stimulation at this time will cause uterine contractions.
- Remember to contact your doctor and get feedback in case of any concerns.
- Women’s Gynecologic Health By Schuiling, Frances E. Likis