Breasts and Pregnancy: Ch-Ch-Ch-ChangesMeredith Carroll
I’m not from the camp that bigger is always better. I always envied the girls in school who had no boobs at a time when my expanded rapidly. The flat-chested look was and remains more appealing to me than, say, the women of The Real Housewives franchise, none of whom have much of anything real in their lives, including what’s below their chins and above their navels. I continuously envy grown women who can go braless outside of the home without causing rubbernecking delays wherever they tread. Sadly, I am not one of those women, which has meant that pregnancy has not been gentle to my bra size.
There’s no doubt that breasts change when you’re with child, but exactly how they change depends where you’re at in your pregnancy.
Take a brief look at your breasts during pregnancy, by trimester:
In case you haven’t noticed, the areolae get darker during the first few months. Experts say this is likely so your newborn will have a higher success rate at spotting the target of its food source once it’s born. In my case, my baby will have to be blind to miss it, and then we’ll have a whole other problem. In preparation for breastfeeding, a host of hormones stimulates the growth and expansion of the breast’s milk-producing lobules.
Get ready to start hearing the word “colostrum.” Like, a lot. It’s a thick, yellowish substance that will feed your baby for the first few days while you’re waiting for your milk to arrive.
If needed, your breasts could dispense food by week 16 of your pregnancy. Your body is even so smart that it knows if you did have a baby that soon, your milk would need to contain high amounts of protein, iron, sodium, fat and anti-infective properties, all of which would be available in your supply. By 24 weeks, blood flow to the breasts doubles and holds steady until delivery, which all works to support the ongoing production of milk.
By the time you hit the third trimester, tiny milk-making cells inside the alveoli begin to multiply and will keep going until they’re filled to the brim with colostrum. There are also little grooves in each areola called Montgomery glands that produce a lubricant to protect your nipples. Thanks, Montgomery glands, for looking out for the girls.
Keep in mind that you produce milk according to supply-and-demand. When the nipple is sucked, the brain receives a signal that gives the go-ahead to additional milk-making hormones. One of the hormones is oxytocin, which aids in shrinking the uterus, often resulting in some abdominal cramping while nursing.
While lactating, breasts can swell by more than a pound. Which, for people like me, is, like the last thing I ever want to hear.
Are you thrilled, bummed or somewhere in between about what’s going on with your breasts during pregnancy?
Image: Wikimedia Commons