One of the first ways that many of us know we are pregnant is via our boobs. Even before the queasiness sets in—or maybe even before those two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test—our little ladies start to make some very important and very noticeable changes.
Some of these changes can actually be quite alarming and cause us to think there is something not normal going on. But even when you literally feel like your breasts and nipples are on fire, rest assured that your breasts are just doing what they are meant to be doing to prepare to feed and nourish your baby. And like everything else, you can just chalk it up to those pesky pregnancy hormones (estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, to name a few).
Here are some of the strange, but totally common things that happen to our breasts when we are pregnant.
1. Sore AF Breasts
Let’s be clear: The breast soreness that happens during pregnancy is a million times more painful than what happens during PMS. Some women have described it as "glass in your breasts." Often, pregnant moms can’t tolerate having their breasts touched for one second. Thankfully, this seems to be worst in the first trimester, before the placenta takes over the hormone delivery and hormone levels even out.
2. HUGE Size Change
It’s totally normal for your boobs to increase one to two cups sizes, or more, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. That has to do with extra fluid and pregnancy weight gain, but also because of the network of ducts and alveoli that are expanding inside your breasts to prepare for lactation. Some women are totally smitten with this changes. Others of us (especially the ones with massive breasts to begin with) could stand to live without it. Finding a good, supportive pregnancy bra can make all the difference.
3. Darkened Nipples and Veins
Your nipples may darken at least a few shades (some surmise this is so the baby will be able to find the nipple more easily!) and your veins may darken as well, as increased blood flow to the breast happens in preparation for breastfeeding. It’s because of hormones again, and those changes will subside after the first few months after birth. Once you are done nursing, the nipples may lighten and the veins will definitely dissipate, but some moms find that their nipples never do fully return to their original shade.
4. Popped-Out Montgomery Glands
Around the perimeter of your nipple, you may start to see little red bumps crop up during pregnancy. They are not some weird wart or pimple. They are called Montgomery glands, and they are common and normal. According to La Leche League, Montgomery glands "are believed to produce a substance that lubricates the nipple and protects it from germs." Researchers have also hypothesized that Montgomery glands secrete a fluid that helps guide a baby to the breast during breastfeeding. Amazing, huh?
Think of your stretch marks as badges of honor and of how badass you are to endure all this freaky stuff for your little bundle.
5. Itchy Skin and Stretch Marks
As your breasts expand, you might find yourself blessed with stretch marks and itchy skins as the skin stretches. I know it totally sucks, but stretch marks do fade in time. And you can think of your stretch marks as badges of honor and of how badass you are to endure all this freaky stuff for your little bundle.
6. Bumpy Breasts From Enlarged Glands
It’s normal for your breast to feel extra bumpy during pregnancy (and once your milk comes in after birth, this might be especially pronounced). Some women can actually palpitate the enlarging alveoli and ducts through their skin. I had one particularly large gland that kind of weirded me out, so I asked my midwife to check to make sure it was nothing out of the ordinary. Almost all the bumps are just your glands getting ready for lactation, but if you have any concerns—even small ones—always check in with your health provider to be sure.
7. Leaking Colostrum
Did you know that your breasts actually start producing colostrum (a yellowish to orange milk that's thick and sticky) in the second trimester of pregnancy? It’s totally normal for you to leak some of it toward the end of your pregnancy. If you don’t leak, though, it definitely doesn’t mean you aren’t producing it or won’t have it available for your baby. After your placenta is delivered, your progesterone levels drop, which means that the colostrum will start to be replaced by mature milk.
Once your baby is earth-side, your breasts are going to be in for another whole set of changes, so hang tight. In fact, if you are breastfeeding, the daily happenings of your breasts will pretty much occupy all of your head space for the first few weeks and months. But the incredible thing is that from the very moment our boobs realize a baby is on its way, they are doing some pretty extensive and intricate preparation for nourishing our little loves.
Women’s bodies are pretty dang miraculous, if you ask me. Don’t you think?
Ice cream makes everything better. Even breast milk ice cream. A store in London started selling breast milk ice cream, and they couldn’t keep the stuff in stock—despite the fact that they had 15 different, um, sources. The flavor is called Baby Gaga and is infused with vanilla and lemon zest and sells for around $22 per serving. No word on whether an at-home ice-cream kit would work with breast milk the way it does with regular milk. Or if the guests at your next dinner party would appreciate a homemade dessert that’s quite so homemade.