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women, swollen and very tender breasts are the first clues they’re pregnant:
Right from the start, they’re preparing for their job of producing milk. Here,
Heather Weldon, M.D., an OB-GYN in Vancouver, Wash., answers some of the most
common questions about your mammaries during pregnancy.
and when will my breasts change?
A: Breasts are busiest in the first trimester.
During the first few weeks, progesterone causes milk glands to develop and
estrogen stimulates growth of the milk ducts. Breasts typically expand one or
two bra cup sizes, veins get darker, and nipples get larger, more erect and
darker so that eventually, the baby can find them easily.
A: Soreness usually goes away, though the
breasts won’t get smaller. As you approach your due date, there may be a little more growth and maybe some leaking of
colostrum, the protein- and antibody-rich pre-milk substance that’s “liquid
gold” for a newborn.
A: During pregnancy, rising prolactin
levels initiate production, but breasts don’t make real milk because estrogen
and progesterone block prolactin receptors. After delivery, those hormone
levels fall sharply and oxytocin is released,stimulating milk ducts to contract and deliver milk. The infant’s suckling stimulates
nerves that signal the release of prolactin and oxytocin, continuing the
Q: I have
really small breasts. Will I be able to nurse my baby?
A: Breast size is largely determined by
the amount of fat present in them. Except for very rare cases, even if you have
small breasts, you still have enough milk glands and ducts.
Q: Can I
avoid developing stretch marks on my breasts?
A: Unfortunately, stretch marks are
usually genetically predetermined and you can’t do much to prevent them.
Moisturizing will make breasts more comfortable as the skin stretches, and time
will make the marks less visible.
if I’ve had breast surgery?
A: There’s usually no problem if
incisions for augmentation were made in the armpit or under-breast fold. Nipple
incisions, however, sometimes damage nerves that trigger hormone stimulation.
Whether you can nurse after reduction surgery depends on how many milk glands
and ducts were removed, whether nipples were repositioned and if there’s a
clear path for milk to leave the breasts. Either way, it’s worth trying.