Breast changes and breast sensitivity are often (not always) some of the first symptoms of pregnancy. While your abdomen will go through an enormous amount of change and adaptation over the coming months, your breasts too will evolve and even complete the maturity process as they prepare to nourish your baby.
Why do these changes occur so quickly?
Breast changes are caused by increased volumes of blood as well as the hormones progesterone and oestrogen, this same hormone (oestrogen) is present during puberty and is responsible for breast growth and development. As soon as sperm meets egg, these hormones will begin a rather complex and intricate process which will lay the foundation for a healthy pregnancy.
What sort of changes can I expect?
As mentioned above, for some women breast tenderness is the first sign of pregnancy. Others may not notice any changes until much later in their pregnancy. This varies greatly from person to person as no two breasts are alike (even on the same body). It is good to remember that even if you are not physically feeling change in your breasts, it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.
1. Breast Tenderness
Sensitivity, tingles, aching and heaviness can all be expected. You may feel just one of these symptoms, or you may at various times experience them all. This is all thanks to HORMONES (you will be blaming these little guys for a lot of changes in your near future)
Breast tenderness usually starts at around 4-6 weeks and continues throughout the first trimester of pregnancy.
Early breast changes and tenderness are often most noticeable down the sides of ones breasts, this is because the internal mammary artery runs down the medial side of each breast and is the main supplier of blood to your breasts.
Often referred to as ‘Pregnancy’s True Glory’, breast growth generally begins at around 6 weeks gestation. The rate at which the breasts grow during pregnancy again varies from person to person. One may experience a very slow and gradual growth throughout her pregnancy while another may have a very short but rapid period of growth. In this instance, you may also experience itchy skin due to very fast stretching. Use a pregnancy oil or tummy butter to alleviate this.
It is important that your growing breasts are well supported. Many stores and baby clinics offer professional bra fitting sessions where you will be accurately fitted for something that could last you well beyond pregnancy and into your breastfeeding months.
At around 12 weeks gestation, you may notice that your nipple & areola has darkened and they appear to be larger. You will also notice little bumps called montgomery glands on the areola. These are oil-producing or sebaceous glands which are going to protect your nipples from drying out and cracking during breastfeeding as well as discourage the growth of bacteria on the nipples. Yes, your body IS amazing!!
The veins underneath your skin may become more prominent due to increased blood flow and if you are prone to stretch marks, these too could appear (generally on the outer side or underneath the breasts).
4. Lumps and Bumps
Your breasts are undergoing enormous changes as they prepare for breastfeeding, and so a certain amount of lumping and bumping will occur. Most of the time, this is simply a bit of swelling, fibrous tissue or a little cyst. They are almost always benign but if you do have any concerns, be sure to mention them at your next prenatal check-up.
At around 16 weeks gestation, your body will begin the all important task of making milk for your baby. This early milk is known as colostrum and is a thick yellowish substance containing everything your baby needs during his first days of life.
For most moms, leakage will only occur in the last trimester of pregnancy and for some mom’s leakage does not occur at all. This DOES NOT mean that you don’t have milk, it simply means that you are not prone to leaking.
Should you experience leakage during pregnancy, a breast pad or even a half of a panty liner will eliminate embarrassing marks.
Your body really is quite miraculous and it has got a lot to work on during 9 months of pregnancy. While most of these breast changes can be uncomfortable and unglamorous they do all mean that you are well on your way to providing your baby with the very best form of nutrition and nurturing. Embrace your body, embrace the change, embrace the miracle that is unfolding before your very eyes.