9 Ways Your Breasts Change During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your breasts and nipples will undergo some major changes. Here's what to expect during each trimester.

Pregnant woman and breast changes
Photo: Getty Images

There are lots of changes in store these next nine months, and some big ones happen to your breasts. "From the very beginning of pregnancy, hormones starts revving up [a person's] breasts in order to get them 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 breasts will not be the same while baby's on board. Here are a few ways your breasts and nipples may change during pregnancy.

1. Your Breasts Get Bigger

Your belly isn't the only thing that will expand during pregnancy. From the early stages, the amount of fatty tissue and blood flow to your breasts increases in order to help the milk ducts and mammary glands grow. Just six weeks into pregnancy, many expectant parents find their breasts have grown a full cup size or more, says Dr. Minkin.

2. Your Chest Will Feel Heavy

With all that increased blood flow and expanded glandular tissue, your breasts will begin to swell. "Your breasts and body begin to retain fluid, which is a side effect of increased progesterone and estrogen," says Dr. Minkin. By the ninth month of pregnancy, the average pregnant person has gained two pounds in their breasts, according to the March of Dimes.

3. Your Breasts Might Hurt

The downside of your pregnancy-induced breast growth is they 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, says Dr. Minkin.

4. You'll Notice More Veins

You might notice a more prominent map of blue rivers snaking their way across your breasts as your pregnancy progresses. "Your veins are more noticeable underneath your skin because they are dilating to accommodate the increase in blood flow," says Dr. Minkin.

5. Your Nipples Change During Pregnancy

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 progesterone, says 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.

6. You Might Leak Colostrum

In the second or third trimester, you might notice some golden goo leaking from your nipples. That's colostrum, or the initial milk a pregnant person produces. This thick, concentrated fluid can also dry and crust on your nipples without much wetness. Still, some 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 breasts—and your top—a bit damp.

7. Breasts Often 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'll Probably Need More Support

Your breasts have probably never needed love like they do now. Invest in a supportive bra, which is crucial to relieving the newfound 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 your breasts supported at night, if you prefer. A cotton sports bra, maternity bra, or pregnancy sleep bra may make you more comfortable while you sleep.

9. Your Breasts Might Look Different Forever

After you wean from breastfeeding, 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-pregnancy breasts, embrace your new set. They are the true mark of parenthood!

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