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Pregnancy boobs - your changing breasts

Some women love the increase in bra sizes, others hate the soreness and unexpected leakings. But what's natural?

Posted: 14 May 2007
by Laura Lee Davies

Whether your boobs have always been a source of buxom pride or simply a couple of bumps somewhere between your chin and your tummy button, you will undoubtedly become more breast-aware during pregnancy. For many, they will get bigger, even if this change subsides after birth or as breastfeeding eventually fades out. For others, they become sore or leak.
Whether you decide on breastfeeding or not after the birth, it's good to know, during pregnancy, what changes are normal and can be expected.

Most common changes

  • Breasts get bigger - It's not true for everyone that breasts will noticeably enlarge during pregnancy, and perhaps those with larger chests may not even notice the change as much as smaller-breasted women. However, your body is preparing for the arrival of a baby it expects to feed and therefore fat layers, an increased blood flow and the multiplying of milk-producing cells usually mainfest themselves in some degree of breast growth.
    This is more likely to be noticeable in a first pregnancy and you may well return to a regular size in the months after the birth or after you stop breastfeeding.
    During pregnancy, some women like to sleep with a small cushion to support their larger breasts as this change makes them feel uncomfortable. Some also like to wear a bra in bed. If you do, try to wear some support without making it too restrictive.

  • Sore boobs - Understandably, the changes your body is undergoing - producing greater levels of oestrogen and progesterone - can have an affect similar to that which some women experience before their monthly period. The tenderness usually feels worse in the early weeks of your pregnancy. It can occur after this time so don't worry if they're still sore and you're into your later weeks, but if they are very painful, do mention it at your next check-up with your GP or midwife.

  • Sore nipples - Some women find they have a real problem with their nipples suddenly hardening and feeling very tender. You might need to warm them or gently massage your nipples to soften them again. Some women may find it preferable to cool them just as breastfeeding women suffering from mastitis do. Try something which is not burningly cold - perhaps a cool damp flannel.
    Some people complain of 'icy nipple', when cold water or weather can make them painfully over-sensitive. In this cases, it can be preferable to warm your nipples with a bath or shower, or gentle massaging.

  • Itchy breasts - The most likely cause for this is the stretching as your breasts enlarge, just as the skin around your tummy gets itchy as your bump grows.
    You might find that investing in an oil or cream specially formulated for skin in pregnancy helps keep your skin more supple and less irritated. For example, the Active Birth Centre do a lovely massage oil suitable for your breasts as well as your tummy.

  • Changed appearance - The increased blood supply can mean that your veins are more noticeable around the breast during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Additionally, the nipple and surrounding areola may darken. Some people believe this is to make the 'target' easier to find for a suckling baby!
    The little bumps on your areola are also more exaggerated in readiness to deal with infection and lubrication during the breastfeeding months ahead.

  • Leaky nipples - Before the milk 'comes in', about three days after your baby is born, the first food your breasts create is called colostrum. This is packed with goodness (indeed, even if you really cannot breastfeed longterm, even giving this to your new baby will do the world of good).
    Colostrum is thicker and more yellow in appearance than regular milk, and, though it's not needed for some months, your breasts will start producing it at around the 16th week of pregnancy. After this time, some (but by no means all) women may notice some leakage.
    The leaking will usually only be quite small but you should make sure you keep your breasts dry and comfortable. Adjust to a bigger bra, if needed, and try to wear cotton next to your skin. If the leakage is regular, you could start wearing breastpads now.
    Some women find that the stimulation of sexual intercourse brings on a bit of leakage too. Don't feel embarrassed about this, especially with your partner, as it's completely natural.
    Women who do not leak should not worry that it means they will be less fulsome in their production of milk when the time comes.
    Very occasionally, a woman may notice spotting of blood. There should be nothing to worry about but do mention it at your next check-up if you are concerned.

When you are worried
Your body is undergoing so many changes that you are bound to feel a few aches and pains.
We are so attuned to being breast-aware of problems like cancer that this can make us instantly worried when we feel something unfamiliar. Whilst you almost certainly have nothing to worry about, do talk to your midwife or GP at your routine check-ups if you feel any pain or breast-changes that concern you.

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nipple, sore, colostrum, breast, pregnant, lactate, boob, milk, mammary, ache, pregnancy

Discuss this story

i am currently suffering from sore lumpy boobs me and my fiance are trying for a baby and he asked his doctor about this and she told him boobs hurt a week before your pregnant and i'm going to the toilet alot more too i have i.b.s but is it easy to distinguish between the two with the bloated stomach and wanting the toilet frequently?

Posted: 15/06/2008 at 13:07

this could be pregnancy but this can also happen before your period because of the increase in hormons, the only way to know for sure when it comes to pregnancy is to test, with my son my breasts weren't sore at all. i have no symptoms no morning sickness or anything, only thing i had which i have had with all my pregnancies is thrush, good luck

Posted: 16/06/2008 at 22:22

thanx lynne that's very good of you to send me your opinion. it's really weird because i know what your saying pre-period boobs every single time more or less a week before my period my boobs hurt but this time around it's been 2wk before sore and lumpy especially round the top and armpit iv'e done 2 pregnancy test and both are negative it's the not knowing that's thw worst.

Posted: 19/06/2008 at 16:56

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