Breast changes from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of breastfeeding
Medela experts talk about changes in the breast from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of breastfeeding, and also share tips on breast care throughout this period.
From the moment of conception, your body begins to prepare for the birth of a baby. This applies not only to the uterus, but also the anatomy of the breast. From this article you will learn what to expect in each trimester, during breastfeeding and after its termination.
First trimester breast changes
At the very beginning of pregnancy, many women notice that changes occur in the chest. Moreover, often they become the first signs of a pregnancy. Fluctuations in hormone levels and changes in the structure of the mammary glands can cause increased sensitivity and soreness of the nipples and chest as early as the third or fourth week. In some pregnant women, breast tenderness persists until the birth, but in most it passes after the first trimester.
“Sometimes during pregnancy, the breast grows very rapidly in the first weeks, and sometimes its size increases gradually,” says Dr. Jacqueline Kent, a leading lactation specialist at the University of Western Australia, “All women are different. For someone, the size of the breast may not particularly change until the birth or even after them. In general, we can say that by the time milk arrives, the breasts are likely to become one and a half times larger than before pregnancy! ”1
As soon as your usual bras become too tight for you (as a rule, this happens by the 12th week), then it is time to buy a maternity bra *. The most comfortable, according to many women, are seamless patterns with wide straps made of soft, breathable fabric. It is better to avoid underwired bras, as they can put pressure on developing milk ducts.
It is important to take measurements correctly in order to choose a suitable bra with a good fit. Take measurements every couple of months, because as the baby grows and her breasts grow, you may need a different size bra.
Breast changes in the second trimester
From about the 15th week of pregnancy, newly formed cells are activated in the breast that produce milk, and production starts around the 22nd week.1 But do not worry – most of this milk will be absorbed by the body without going outside, since the hormones of pregnancy prevent its excessive production or excretion.
“During the second trimester, you may notice that the nipples and areoles (the skin around the nipples) have become darker and larger,” says Dr. Daniel Prime, a researcher at Medela’s Medical Research Department, “In addition, small tubercles become more noticeable on areoles – the so-called Montgomery glands. They secrete fat, which moisturizes the nipples and protects them from inflammation and infections when you start feeding. Scientists believe that the smell of this fat is similar to the smell of amniotic fluid and helps a newborn baby find a nipple. ”2
Do not use harsh soap for breast hygiene and do not rub it heavily with a towel – this can damage this natural lubricant. Just wash your breasts with warm water and pat dry. And if someone advises you to pinch or rub your nipples to prepare them for breastfeeding, do not listen to them!
If you have flat or inverted nipples, the gestational age is more than 32 weeks, and it proceeds normally, then, in agreement with the doctor, you can try to put special nipple shapers into the bra **. They help to gently stretch the nipples so that it is easier for the newborn to grab them. Consult your healthcare provider or read our article on flat and retracted nipples to find out more.
If during pregnancy the breast size increases dramatically, the breast skin may itch and stretch marks may appear on it. A good moisturizer will help soothe the itching. The appearance of stretch marks is usually dependent on genetics and skin type. If you have a predisposition to stretch marks, you are unlikely to be able to prevent them, but, fortunately, over time they will become lighter and less noticeable.
Breast Changes in the Third Trimester
In the last trimester, you may again feel soreness and heaviness in the chest. A bra for sleeping will provide you with comfort at night, and a sports supportive bra will help to avoid pain and damage to the ligaments during exercise.
Do not forget to buy a pair of nursing bras a month before the baby is born. If possible, consult with a specialist in the store or read the online guide for choosing the right model and size. All women are different, but usually bra cups for feeding are chosen one or two sizes larger than before pregnancy. The girth under the breast can also increase, as the chest expands so that there is enough space for the baby.