How Do Breasts Change During Pregnancy?

Most women may notice some changes in their breasts during and after pregnancy, whether they are breastfeeding or not.

Common symptoms after birth; excessive swelling or leakage in the breasts. While many breast changes occur naturally after childbirth, it’s important to discuss any unusual or worrying symptoms with a doctor.

Symptoms that require medical attention include flaking of the breast skin, which can be permanent, causing bruising to your skin accompanied by a fever, and accompanying pain.

Below we have listed some of the most common breast changes that occur after pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Breast Changes During Pregnancy

Changes in the breast and nipples can be observed early in pregnancy and continue throughout pregnancy. The increase in hormones in the blood flow takes these changes into account.

Early symptoms may include:

  • breast tenderness
  • rapid growth of breast tissue
  • Swelling in the breasts
  • Prominent blue veins under the skin

During the second trimester, common breast changes observed include:

  • Darkening of the rounded areas surrounding the nipples
  • Fluid coming out of the nipple
  • Clogged milk ducts or lumps from non-cancerous tumors

Breast changes in the last trimester include enlargement of the breasts and leaky nipples with the development of stretch marks on the breasts.

Breast Changes After Pregnancy

Breast changes continue to occur after giving birth.

The most common are:

Leak

About 3-5 days after birth, milk comes. A good indication of this is that the colostrum – the dark yellow liquid that may be the baby’s first food – is lighter in color and thinner in consistency.

Some women experience leakage of milk from the nipples in the first few days. This can be observed in the following situations:

  • When the baby cries
  • When her breasts are so full
  • When they experience strong emotions
  • It can happen for no obvious reason

The leakage often subsides after the first few weeks, but some people experience it for longer.

Disposable or reusable breast pads can absorb this milk and prevent your clothes from getting stained. Reusable breast pads are available in online stores.

Swelling in the Breasts

Enlarged breasts are part of the postpartum experience. Breast fullness occurs thanks to milk.

Thanks to milk, you may experience the following symptoms in your breasts:

  • heavy, hard breasts
  • Skin that’s too hot to touch
  • lumps in breast tissue
  • Discomfort
  • Leaky nipples often accompany full breasts.

Breastfeeding women should try to eat frequently and healthily because breastfeeding reduces the fullness of the breasts. Within a few days, milk production begins to decrease or regulate in line with the baby’s needs.

Bottle feds should avoid releasing milk from the breasts during this time as doing so will cause the body to produce more milk.

Instead, wrapping a towel around the chest for your comfort may help. Ice packs can also help reduce the pain and feeling of warmth in the breasts.

How Does Breastfeeding Affect Your Breasts?

There may also be other relevant changes in the breasts during breastfeeding. These include:

tingling sensation

Breastfeeding women may experience a tingling sensation in their breasts during baby care. This may indicate the “emptying” of milk – the milk is released into the ducts, allowing the baby to drink. Over time, these feelings may become less noticeable.

It may not be possible to feel the loosening of the milk, and the presence of tingling does not reflect the amount of milk the baby is getting.

Breast Size Growth

Typically, the breasts remain enlarged for at least the first few months of nursing. They tend to feel softer and more empty right after feedings, and the breasts may get a little smaller than before when baby starts eating solid foods.

Generally, the breasts remain enlarged until breastfeeding is over. It can then revert to its original size, be smaller or stay slightly larger than before – every body reacts differently.

Changes in Nipples

In the early stages of breastfeeding, some women experience breast pain. This occurs as the woman and baby adjust to the nursing process.

If babies are not attached to the nipple correctly or are not sucking too much, it can cause their nipples to crack, leak or blister.

Nipple cream or breast milk can soothe sore nipples. However, if the pain persists, it may help to seek advice from a doctor or lactation consultant.

Will the Breasts Return to Normal?

Many women find that their breasts never look the way they did before pregnancy.

They may be smaller or larger, droop or develop stretch marks. Nipples may also look different. It is also possible for one breast to change more than the other.

It varies from person to person when breasts return to their pregnancy size. In general, breasts tend to return to their original size as the body maintains pregnancy weight.

However, the shape of the breasts can change permanently. This is because the revitalization that occurs when breast milk comes in can loosen the ligaments in the breast, causing the breasts to sag or droop.

Some women believe that if they bottle-feed their babies, they will not experience breast changes after pregnancy. This is not true because pregnancy causes most changes in the breast, whether breastfeeding or not.

Factors that have a more significant effect on the breasts than breastfeeding include:

  • Age
  • Genetic
  • weight gain during pregnancy
  • How many times a woman has been pregnant
  • be a smoker
  • breast size before pregnancy
  • Complications

Various complications involving the breasts and nipples can occur after pregnancy and breastfeeding. These include:

Breast Inflammation

This is an infection caused by a blocked milk duct. It usually develops in only one breast at a time. Signs and symptoms of mastitis:

  • Discomfort
  • a hard swelling
  • Red lines on the skin of the breast
  • Warm skin around the clogged duct
  • intense pain in the breast
  • Fire
  • pus or blood in breast milk

Although it can occur at any time during lactation, mastitis is more common in the first 3 weeks after birth. Bottle-fed women can also develop mastitis shortly after the milk comes in because their breasts are not weaned off their milk.

Moderate or severe mastitis usually requires antibiotic treatment. Untreated mastitis can develop into a breast abscess.

Fungal Infection

Nursing women can develop a yeast infection in one or both of their nipples. It usually occurs when the nipple is cracked.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching of the nipple
  • pain and tenderness
  • White fluid coming from the nipple
  • Pain in the breast after breastfeeding

Fungal infection can be passed on to the baby. In this case, it could be:

  • White patches on the tongue or in the mouth
  • Feeding difficulties, such as removing the breast and crying
  • Diaper rash

Breast Cancer

Pregnancy-related breast cancer occurs during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. Studies show that it affects about 1 in 3000 pregnant women.

Research from 2019 shows that younger women who have given birth recently have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, but pregnancy may reduce their risk of breast cancer over time.

It is important to seek medical attention if unusual breast changes occur, such as:

  • Painful, persistent or increasing lumps
  • Unusual nipple discharge
  • Shrinking or wrinkling of the breast skin

When to See a Doctor

Anyone who is concerned about breast changes that occur after pregnancy or during or after breastfeeding should speak to their doctor.

Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms of mastitis occur, especially if symptoms are severe or do not improve within 24 hours.

The doctor should look for breast lumps or unusual skin or nipple changes, so early detection can prevent the devastating effects of cancer.

Points to be considered

Most women observe various changes in their breasts after pregnancy, regardless of whether they breastfeed or not.

Even if the breasts do not return to their pre-pregnancy state, most of the changes are cosmetic, meaning they are not a medical concern.

However, occasional breast changes may indicate an infection or cancer. Both require further investigation and immediate treatment.

Regular breast exams can help people discover unusual changes in their early stages; It can help women become more familiar with their breasts.

Medical News Today, How do breasts change during and after pregnancy?, 2019

References:

breast care. (n.d.). https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/ob-gyn/obstetrics/after-delivery/breast-care.aspx

Common breastfeeding challenges. (2018). https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-challenges/common-breastfeeding-challenges

Keyser, EA, et al. (2012). Pregnancy-associated breast cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3410508/

Management of breast conditions and other breastfeeding difficulties. (2009). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK148955/

Nichols, HB, et al. (2019). Breast cancer risk after recent childbirth: A pooled analysis of 15 prospective studies [Abstract]. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2718682/breast-cancer-risk-after-recent-childbirth-pooled-analysis-15-prospective

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