Your Marvelous Changing Bust And What You Need To Know- Breast Changes In Pregnancy

by Jessica Martin-Weber with Tracey Montford
This post made possible by the generous support of Cake Lingerie.

Breasts change throughout our lives are influenced by hormones, genetics, age, and other factors. For many, after puberty, the most noticeable change comes with pregnancy and breastfeeding. It can be helpful to know what to expect and what may help with comfort through these times of transition for our breasts and what to look for bras that provide gentle transitional support. You may not recognize your breasts with all the changes you may experience in pregnancy and breastfeeding but you still can have support, comfort, and know what you need to know to enjoy your marvelous changing bust.

Breast changes in pregnancy

For some, breasts are like their own personal magic 8 ball. Give them a little shake, ask them a question, and see what the answer is. Should I wear that underwire or go with the yoga bra? Is it a good day for potato chips or should it be salad? Should I carry pads with me or is it going to be 9 months before I need those? Or boobs are like horses. Gently pat them and ask “is it looking like rain, snow, or ice today girls?” “What do you think, facing the red flood or are we pushing a new human being out in less than a year?” “Are we craving chocolate or need a puke bucket?”

Second to puberty, during pregnancy breasts tend to experience significant growth and change. Thanks to pregnancy, it’s like you get to relive the wonders and magic of puberty all over again only this time, strangers may want to rub your belly and ask you what you’re having. (A human, we can safely guess you’re having a human!)

Pregnancy triggers the breasts to prepare for lactation to feed the developing baby after birth. The grape-like clusters of milk making tissue in the breast begin to increase in volume and number causing the tissue to expand. Yes, your boobs typically are going to grow in pregnancy- likely the biggest and most noticeable change to you’re breasts you’re going to experience since you were 11 years old. So many breast changes in pregnancy, milk making tissue expands, you grow more milk making tissue, blood flow increases, the tissue becomes more dense, the nipples and areola darken and often grow, and more. This involuntary biological response is often the first noticeable symptom of pregnancy for many women and can be quite sudden. Others may not notice any change until later in their pregnancy. Those that experience discomfort during their regular cycle are more likely to experience additional discomfort during pregnancy. Be kind to your breasts, understand that every individual and every pregnancy is unique, and find what helps you feel comfortable in this time of transition.

*Note: No change at all may be an indicator, along with other markers, of a lack of glandular tissue and should be discussed with a health care provider. This alone is not a determinant factor or sign of future breastmilk supply.

Breast changes common in pregnancy- first trimester

  • Rapid growth sometimes even before positive pregnancy test.
  • Tissue may feel more dense.
  • Achy pain is common and may last for weeks.
  • Skin my itch and be sensitive.
  • Nipples may become more tender and sensitive.
  • Areola may begin to get larger.
  • Rapid growth may lead to stretch marks on the breast.
  • Veins may become more visible as the skin gets thinner.

Support for breast changes in first trimester

As your breast size and shape may begin to change rapidly with growth being common, a transitional bra that offers flexible support with a size range in cup sizes my minimize discomfort and sensitivity. Look for a bra that is very soft with minimal structuring while providing support with a wide band and fabric that gives, providing gentle support. Some breasts change 5-6 cup sizes, it may be necessary to shop for new bras that accommodate the new breast growth. Limiting refined sugars and caffeine may also reduce discomfort.

Breast changes common in pregnancy- second trimester

  • Growth may slow down or even stop.
  • Sensitivity usually lessens.
  • The nipples and areolas may begin to darken.
  • The areola may continue to get larger.
  • To accommodate the growing baby, the rib cage may begin to expand.
  • More blueish veins may be visible under the surface as blood volume increases.

Support for breast changes in the second trimester

The second trimester tends to be more stable with changes slowing down and discomfort decreasing. If breast growth has slowed or ceased altogether, wearing a more structured bra may be more comfortable. As the rib cage begins to expand adding an expander may provide more comfort or getting sized for a better fitting bra may be necessary. During pregnancy, blood volume typically doubles and due to the thinner nature of the skin of chest area, veins may become more visible under the surface.

Breast changes common in pregnancy- third trimester

  • Some discharge or dried flakes of colostrum may be noticed on the nipple.
  • Breasts may become more sensitive again.
  • Growth may increase again.
  • Rib cage expands further as the hormone relaxin loosens tissue and baby gets bigger.
  • Breasts may begin to feel more heavy.
  • Nipples may become more sensitive to touch.
  • Areola may darken.
  • Areola may grow larger.
  • Bumps on areola may be more noticeable (Montgomery Glands).

Support for breast changes in the third trimester

As the body prepares to feed the growing baby, the breasts again enter a time of transition, particularly closer to the due date. Structured bras may be uncomfortable and compress the tissue and as more milk producing tissue develops, breast size may be in flux. A soft, supportive transitional bra may be more comfortable during this time and into the immediate postpartum. Some may notice their breasts beginning to leak or to find dried bits of colostrum on their nipple or on their bra. Though it is unusual for leaking to be noticeable through clothing in the third trimester, soft nursing pads can be used to absorb any leaks and prevent soaking through and may be more comfortable. Montgomery Glands around the nipple and on the areola my increase in size. These glands secrete an oil (lipoid fluid) that helps keep the areola and the nipple lubricated and protected and the smell of this oil may serve as a signal to the newborn of where to latch and suckle.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding breast myths

  • Myth: Use a toothbrush or rough cloth to toughen up nipples for breastfeeding.There is no need to prepare nipples for breastfeeding by using anything on your nipples. Nipples naturally prepare themselves. The one exception could be with inverted nipples needing to be drawn out. To prepare for breastfeeding, take a class, read materials, and if you are concerned, meet with an IBCLC or other breastfeeding support person to have your breasts evaluated.
  • Myth: Breast size indicates how much milk you will makeWhile your breast size may indicate how much milk your breasts may store, breast size is not an indicator of breastmilk supply. Shape of breasts and the space between the breasts may indicate how much glandular tissue is present which may impact milk supply but this can impact breasts of all sizes. If you are concerned, see an IBCLC or other breastfeeding support person to have your breasts evaluated.
  • Myth: Breastfeeding causes breasts to sag. It isn’t breastfeeding that causes sag, it is thought to be a combination of factors such as genetics and pregnancy. While breast tissue changes in density sometimes through pregnancy and breastfeeding, breastfeeding doesn’t mean sag. Read more in this study here.
  • Myth: No leaking means you don’t have milk. Some breasts never leak through pregnancy or breastfeeding but this is not a sign breastmilk supply or ability to breastfeed.
  • Myth: Inverted or flat nipples mean you can’t breastfeed. Inverted or flat nipples do not automatically mean baby won’t latch. Often inverted or flat nipples are drawn out with breastfeeding and there are options to help otherwise, even before baby is born. If you are concerned, see an IBCLC or other breastfeeding support person to have your breasts evaluated.

The hormonal response of breast changes through pregnancy all lead up to breastfeeding. There are more changes through breastfeeding and then again through weaning but the majority of the breast changes take place in pregnancy. 

How the right bra can make a difference

A good bra that fits well and accommodates these important changes in pregnancy and through breastfeeding can make a difference in comfort levels in this time of flux. Some bra fitting tips for the stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding:

  • Band should be snug but not tight. The majority of the support comes from the band, not the shoulder straps. Be sure it sits straight around the body for best fit. If it feels tight but is the right size, try loosening the shoulder straps some and pull the band down in the back. A band riding up in the back compromises fit and support.
  • Center front sits plat on chest, breasts fit comfortably within the cups.
  • Straps fit comfortably, not digging into shoulders or slipping off. 
  • Flexible sizing with minimal structure. Look for a transitional bra such as Cake Lingerie’s maternity and nursing bras, Rock Candy, Cotton Candy, and Sugar Candy, that accommodate 4-5 cup sizes with supportive fabric that has give. This doesn’t mean you have to accept uniboob, a good transitional bra will provide gentle lift, separation, and support.

Get your best fit with this step-by-step fit guide and calculator.

_________________________________________________

Use the discount code TLB15 for 15% off at cakematernity.com.

Tracey Montford created Cake Lingerie in 2008 when she wanted bras that worked for the modern mother. With a background in creative arts and teaching, she never imagined having her own business, let alone creating one out of her own personal need. She now owns and runs Cake Lingerie from Sydney, Australia with her husband, Keith and their children.
Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 22 years.

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Speak Your Mind

*