Breast changes during pregnancy.
Pregnancy boobs aren’t your typical boobs. They may grow, they may not, they may leak, they may not, and just like every pregnancy, breast changes can be completely different. We reached out to our lactation expert Lynne McKensey Hall about the strange and unusual things that can happen to breasts during pregnancy – including boobs getting sick (yes, it can happen!).
Here are four things no-one tells you about pregnancy boobs.
1. They’re super-sensitive
You may know you are pregnant when you can’t stand your nipples being touched by your partner or they sting when you accidentally touch them as you put your bra on. Your partner might be the first to notice your breasts are bigger. These are common signs and symptoms of early pregnancy. Nipples often become less sensitive by the second trimester and often breasts don’t increase in size again until after the birth of your baby when the milk comes in when many mothers report they look like Dolly Parton or Pamela Anderson.
2. They can get sick
What you won’t ever expect to get is mastitis because ‘people’ tell you that it only happens after you start breastfeeding. It’s not common and usually happens when your bras become too tight.
The changing size in your breasts can sometimes catch you unawares as you automatically let out your straps or loosen the clips at the back of your bra and tug and pull at the bra mindlessly throughout the day. You might even race to get home to get your bra off and notice some red marks around, over and at the base of your breasts without giving it much of a thought.
The ductal tissue of your breasts run very superficially underneath the surface of your skin and it doesn’t take much pressure from the seams or the underwire in your bra to block a section of your breast giving you mastitis. You may notice a reddened area (generally in one breast) that feels like a lump, is warm and certainly uncomfortable to painful to touch. This type of mastitis is generally not infective as it’s undue pressure on the
breast rather than a bacterial cause so you should not need antibiotics.
Stop wearing all the bras that cause the above, take an anti-inflammatory pain killer to relieve the pain and swelling. A pharmacist can guide you as to what you can use. Apply a cold compress over the area for localised comfort.
However (there’s always one of these), if there any changes in either or both your breasts including reddened areas with or without lumps that make you feel hot and unwell, visit your doctor. Antibiotics may be needed in this case. It also should go without saying that if you feel anything unusual in your breasts see your doctor. Generally, it is ductal and breast tissues growing and developing but let an expert who is looking at and examining your breasts tell you that.
Don’t buy bigger bras by yourself, get yourself fitted by a bra expert. Go to a speciality shop that deals with maternity wear and larger sizes. If they don’t have what you need, they can tell you what you need or order the correct size online for you. Don’t buy directly online either until you know the exact size you need.
Speciality shops are no more expensive than department stores and a correct fitting will save you money anyway, make you feel comfortable throughout your pregnancy and may last the distance when you start breastfeeding. Soft bra tops and t-shirt bra tops are also comfortable and a good alternative to a more structured bra and are comfortable for sleeping in if you need support.
Some of you may need to upsize again towards the end of your pregnancy but I promise you the temporary pain to your wallet is significantly less than the discomfort or pain of mastitis.
3. They can leak
Anytime during your pregnancy, your nipples may leak clear or even creamy sticky fluid (colostrum) and generally in scant to small amounts. Again, all this is normal and all you need to do is rub it gently into your nipples. Any crusting of this on your nipples doesn’t need to rubbed or scrubbed off.
4. They can change colour
Your nipples tend to darken in colour to act as ‘lanterns’ to guide the baby to the breast and feed in the first hour or so after birth.
Read next …
Want to know the best maternity and nursing bras recommended by other mums, or how to prep your breasts for breastfeeding? Have a read of these next articles for more details.
Lynne-McKensey Hall is an internationally certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working as Lactation Consultant and Endorsed Midwife in Sydney. She specialises in antenatal breastfeeding and birth classes and ongoing breastfeeding support. She consults via Better Beginnings in-home, in her clinic and via Skype or FaceTime anywhere in Australia or overseas.