There is so much change in store for you over your nine-month journey—and some big ones happen to your breasts. "From the very beginning of pregnancy, hormones starts revving up a woman's breasts in order to get her ready to breastfeed," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine and author of A Woman's Guide to Sexual Health. You might experience a few of these symptoms or all of them, but one thing is for sure: Your girls will not be the same while baby's on board. A few new developments you might expect on the preggo breast front:
1. They get big. Your belly isn't the only thing to expand during your pregnancy. From the start, the amount of fatty tissue and blood flow to your breasts increases in order to help the milk ducts and mammary glands grow. By just six weeks into pregnancy, many women's breasts have grown a full cup size or more, Dr. Minkin says.
2. They get heavy. With all that increased blood flow and expanded glandular tissue, your breasts begin to swell. "Plus, your breasts and body begin to retain fluid, which is a side effect of increased progesterone and estrogen," Dr. Minkin says. By the ninth month of your pregnancy, the average woman has gained two pounds just in her breasts, according to the March of Dimes.
3. They hurt. The downside of your pregnancy-induced insta-boob job is that your breasts become increasingly tender. All that blood, swollen tissue, and fluid retention can leave your chest aching. In fact, sore breasts are one of the very first signs of pregnancy, Dr. Minkin says.
4. They get veiny. You might notice a more prominent map of blue rivers snaking their way across your orbs as your pregnancy progresses. "Your veins are more noticeable underneath your skin because they are dilating to accommodate the increase in blood flow," Dr. Minkin says.
5. They get nipply. Your nipples start to take center stage, growing and becoming more defined, often sticking out more than they did before pregnancy. In addition, the areola will get larger and darker, which is a result of high-levels of estrogen, Dr. Minkin says. The Montgomery glands (those small bumps dotting the areola) begin to enlarge and produce an oily substance that protects your nipples and areolas from cracking or drying out during this, uh, transformation.
6. They might leak. In the second or third trimester, you might notice some golden goo leaking from your nipples. That's colostrum—the initial milk a woman produces midway through pregnancy and during the first few days after she delivers. This thick, concentrated fluid can also simply dry and crust on your nipples without much wetness. Still, some women may actually find that their breasts squirt or leak milk. "Towards the end of pregnancy, your breasts are excessively producing colostrum and milk and, sometimes, it's bound to come out," says Dr. Minkin, who suggests wearing breast pads if you find your tatas—and your top—and bit damp.
7. They get stretch marks. All that enlargement and swelling leads to your breast skin getting stretched—and that, unfortunately, can lead to stretch marks. As the skin stretches, your breasts might also start to itch. Soothe the itching and keep your breast skin supple by applying a moisturizer after showering and at bedtime.
8. They need your support. Your girls have never needed love like they do now. Invest in a supportive bra, which is crucial to relieving the new weight of your breasts and supporting your back. Look for one with a thick band (no underwire!) beneath the cups, wide shoulder straps, and an adjustable closure. Opt for cotton bras over synthetic ones; they're more comfortable because they allow the skin to breathe. And don't forget to keep 'em supported at night: A cotton sports bra, maternity bra, or a pregnancy sleep bra may make you more comfortable while you sleep.
9. They will be forever changed. After you wean, your nipples will go back to their regular color and your breasts will return to roughly their pre-pregnancy size. But because your skin has been stretched, the loose skin and stretch marks are most likely there to stay. Instead of pining for your firmer, perkier, pre-preggo breasts, embrace your new set—they are the true mark of motherhood.