Montgomery's tubercles are one of the more common breast changes during pregnancy. Here's everything you need to know about these harmless bumps on the areola.
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Most people experience changes in their breasts during pregnancy. One lesser-known side effect you might not expect is the appearance of small bumps on your areolas (the dark area of the nipple), called Montgomery's tubercles. They often appear around the same time as those tell-tale dark veins and sore nipples that are hallmarks of early pregnancy.

Luckily, Montgomery's tubercles aren't cause for concern; in fact, they're meant to help! Here, you'll learn everything you need to know about these small bumps, including why they form and whether you need to do anything about them (hint: you don't).

What are Montgomery's Tubercles?

Montgomery's tubercles are sebaceous glands used for lubrication in the areola, says Alan Lindemann, M.D, an obstetrician and former Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota. They present as colorless spots on the breast surrounding the nipple, says Dr. Lindemann. While some people will notice several bumps, others will have only a few or none at all.

Montgomery's tubercles typically appear during pregnancy. They will come and go on their own, are completely normal, and don't require any sort of medical attention in the vast majority of cases.

An image of a mother breastfeeding.
Credit: Getty Images.

What Causes Montgomery's Tubercles?

The most common cause of Montgomery's tubercles is pregnancy. Along with breast tenderness, darkening veins, and sore nipples, breast changes are one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Even if you've never noticed them before, it's not uncommon to see Montgomery's tubercles pop up even before a pregnancy test can detect changing hormone levels.

Hormones are to blame for most other causes of Montgomery's tubercles as well, since they can also pop up at the onset of puberty and at certain times during your menstrual cycle. Other, less common causes of Montgomery's tubercles include stress, gaining or losing weight, certain medications, wearing tight-fitting clothes, and breast cancer.

Montgomery's Tubercles and Breastfeeding

Despite their understated appearance, Montgomery's tubercles actually serve a purpose. They're beneficial for breastfeeding because they excrete a lubricating oil with antibiotic properties. This oil moistens and protects your nipples, while also keeping germs away from your breasts, says Dr. Lindemann.

Help the tubercles function properly by avoiding soap and harsh detergents on your breasts, wearing nursing bras that aren't too tight, and using lanolin regularly to keep skin on your breasts moisturized. Also, don't squeeze Montgomery's tubercles, as this can lead to infection.

Can Montgomery's Tubercles Become Infected?

In rare cases, Montgomery's tubercles can become infected. You may notice redness, pain and swelling around your nipple if one of these tubercles has become blocked or inflamed. If you notice these symptoms or other unusual changes like itchiness or rash, check with your doctor right away; these could be signs of a yeast infection or more serious condition.

Do Montgomery's Tubercles Go Away?

While they can pop up from time to time, Montgomery's tubercles will usually disappear after you wrap up breastfeeding. If you notice that your bumps are larger than usual, or are bothersome in some way, there's an option for surgical removal (although it's not usually recommended). The outpatient procedure typically only takes about 30 minutes and is relatively simple, but it can cause scarring, so be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor.