As the rest of your body changes during pregnancy, your breasts change too, getting themselves ready to make and supply milk for your baby.
Your breasts will get bigger. They may be sore sometimes. Your nipples may change color. It's all a natural part of being pregnant. And if some of these changes bother you, it's good to know that there are ways to help yourself feel better.
What changes happen in each trimester?
During your first trimester (weeks 1 to 12), your breasts may start to feel swollen and tender. They may tingle. Your nipples may stick out more than usual.
Some women find that their breasts start to get bigger during this time.
In the second trimester (weeks 13 to 27), your breasts will get larger and heavier. You may need a larger bra that gives you more support. You will probably feel less of the tenderness and tingling from early pregnancy.
As your breasts grow, the veins become more noticeable under the skin. The nipples and the area around the nipples (areola) become darker and larger. Small bumps may appear on the areola. These bumps will go away after you have your baby.
Some women get stretch marks on their breasts.
As early as the 16th to 19th week, you may notice a yellowish discharge, called colostrum, from your nipples. This just means that your breasts are getting ready for breastfeeding. Colostrum is the "pre-milk" that helps protect your baby from disease during the first few days of breastfeeding.
In the third trimester, your breasts will grow some more and may feel even heavier. You may need a larger bra or a bra extender.
If you haven't had colostrum leaking from your breasts before, it may start to happen now. But some women don't have leaks. Either way, it has nothing to do with your ability to breastfeed.
What can you do to feel better?
Here are some tips you can try.
If your breasts are tender or sore:
- During the day, wear a bra that gives you good support in the back and on the sides. Padded shoulder straps can help. You may find that bras made from cotton are more comfortable.
- At night, try a sleep bra. These are soft, lighter bras that will still give you a little support as you sleep. Again, cotton may be more comfortable.
- Don't wash the area around your nipples with soap. It can dry out the skin. You can clean the area with just warm water.
If your skin itches where it has stretched—on your belly, your breasts, or anywhere else:
- Avoid hot showers and baths.
- After bathing, pat excess water off your skin and apply moisturizer before your skin dries completely. It may feel even better if you keep your moisturizer in the refrigerator.
- Try not to use drying soaps, skin products with alcohol, and heavily chlorinated water. These may add to skin dryness.
- If you live in a dry climate, use a humidifier at home.
- See your doctor if the itching is bad and nothing seems to help.
If your breasts are leaking colostrum:
- Use breast pads inside your bra to soak up leaks. Some breast pads are washable. You can also buy the kind that you use once and then throw away.
- A few times a day, including after your shower, let your breasts air-dry for a few minutes.
Current as of: February 11, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine