Why are my breasts so sore and tender now that I'm pregnant?
Increased hormone levels during pregnancy boost blood flow and cause changes in breast tissue, which may make your breasts feel swollen, sore, tingly, and unusually sensitive to touch. Some women describe the sensation as painful, or as an extreme version of how their breasts feel right before their period.
Breast tenderness can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. It usually starts around 4 to 6 weeks and lasts through the first trimester.
What other breast changes can I expect during pregnancy?
Your breasts go through many changes to prepare for nursing your baby. You may notice:
- Breast growth. Starting around 6 to 8 weeks, you may notice your breasts getting bigger, and they'll continue to grow throughout your pregnancy. It's common to go up a cup size or two, especially if it's your first baby. Your breasts may feel itchy as the skin stretches, and you may even develop stretch marks on them.
- Veins and pigment changes. You may be able to see veins under the skin of your breasts, and after the first few months, your areolas (the pigmented circles around your nipples) will also get bigger and darker.
- Bumps on the areola. You may not have noticed the little bumps on your areolas before, but they may become much more pronounced now that you're pregnant. These bumps are a type of oil-producing gland called Montgomery's tubercles.
- Leaky breasts. Around your third month, your breasts start producing colostrum, the immune-boosting milk your baby will get when he first starts nursing. During the last few months of pregnancy, you may leak a small amount of this thick yellowish substance, although some women start to leak earlier, and some never leak at all.
- Lumpy breasts. Sometimes pregnant women develop lumps and bumps in their breasts. These are usually harmless and could be milk-filled cysts (galactoceles) or benign breast tumors (fibroadenomas). It's unusual for a woman to develop anything serious (like breast cancer) during pregnancy, but it's important to let your healthcare provider know about any lumps that develop.
What can I do during my pregnancy to ease breast pain and discomfort?
Your best bet is to buy a few good, supportive bras, so you may want to get fitted by a knowledgeable salesperson in a large department store or specialty shop.
You may find that underwire bras are less comfortable now – and may not be a good option for breastfeeding moms. Also, cotton bras will be more comfortable and breathable than those made from synthetic materials. To prevent chafing, look for soft material with no seams near the nipple.
When shopping for comfortable bras to wear during pregnancy, you could try:
- Maternity and nursing bras. Start out with a maternity bra for extra support and comfort. Maternity bras usually have extra hooks and don't have underwire cups. If you'll be breastfeeding, you might want to switch to a nursing bra during your third trimester.
- Sleep bra. You don't have to buy a special pregnancy bra to feel comfortable. Regular sleep bras typically have many of the same features a maternity bra has, like wider straps and a soft cotton lining. Maternity stores often sell these soft, nonrestrictive cotton bras too.
- Sports bra. When you exercise during pregnancy, it's especially important to wear a supportive bra that fits properly because your breasts are heavier. A good sports bra can provide the additional support you need and minimize discomfort.
Consider buying your bras with a bit of room to grow because you may go up a size or two (both in cup size and chest circumference) as your breasts grow and your belly expands. Choose the ones that fit when the clasp is on the tightest setting, so you'll have some room to let them out. This is definitely a good idea if you end up buying a nursing bra before you give birth.
I haven't noticed any breast changes during my pregnancy. Does that mean something's wrong?
Many pregnant women experience breast changes, but plenty of others don't – and that's normal, too. It's not necessary for your breasts to grow bigger, leak, or feel sore to indicate that you're having a healthy pregnancy or that you're ready to breastfeed. Some women's breasts simply don't change much during pregnancy.
However, you may notice changes when your milk comes in after your baby is born.