Breast changes during pregnancy: what to expect


Dr Marlena Du Toit, obstetrician and gynaecologist, discuss the breast changes that you can expect during your pregnancy journey:

How different will they look and feel?

Breast changes are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. Many women will experience discomfort, tingling and tenderness only a few weeks after conception.

As your pregnancy progresses, you might feel like you are working your way through the alphabet in bra cup sizes, but the frustration (and cost!) of buying new bras every few months is well worth it. Post-pregnancy sagging breasts and stretch marks are common, but can be minimised with good support. Also try to wear a bra at night.

The large majority of pregnant women are affected by stretch marks with 25 percent of these being on the breasts. Massaging oil or a suitable product into your breasts on a daily basis is a good strategy to combat this.

There is more: the nipples will become wider and darker in colour. From as early as 16 weeks you could already experience leaking breasts. The discharge is yellowy colostrum (baby’s first milk). As your breasts get bigger, the veins under your skin will become more prominent – this is usually more prominent in women with fair or light skin.

Your areola (the pigmented area around your nipples) become darker and larger with some tiny bumps (lubrication glands) on the area.

Why all the changes?

The changes a woman experiences during pregnancy are due to the production of the hormone progesterone. A breast usually consists of 15 to 20 lobes with small lobules in them.

These lobules consist of milk-producing glands, fibrous and fatty tissue. During the first trimester, hormonal changes stimulate these milk-producing lobules, causing them to enlarge and become active.

If your breasts do not change

Every woman is unique, so very few pregnancy symptoms are universal, however it is a reassuring sign for a doctor if a woman complains of breast tenderness. Still, the absence of breast tenderness, it is not always a reason to worry.

Not all women have the exact same breast tissue consistency. Women also respond uniquely to the raised levels of progesterone, oestrogen and prolactin, so don’t rely on breast symptoms alone. Fewer changes do not have an impact on your ability to breastfeed.

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