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Q&A: Help! My breasts are big and sore.

Blame it on hormones! Your whole body feels like it is going through so many changes it can be tough to know what is normal. Breast changes are definitely part of the pregnancy package!

Most women report breast tenderness and enlargement as one of the first physical clues of pregnancy.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Tenderness: This is related to your new, surging hormone levels. Extreme tenderness will diminish as you move towards the end of the first trimester. Make sure you wear a supportive bra.
  • Increase in size: Your enlarging milk glands and an increase in fat cause this sudden change. Some women can increase a full cup size! During your pregnancy the change in size and weight of your breasts accounts for about four pounds of your overall weight gain. To accommodate this change, make sure your bra is supportive and comfortable. (You may even opt to have a professional fitting done to insure the greatest comfort.)
  • Darkening and enlarging nipples and areola: This larger and darker areola can act as a “bull’s-eye” for the baby to see “the dinner table.” You may also notice some small bumps on the areola; these are called Montgomery’s tubercles. They secrete an oil that will help to lubricate and keep the nipple and areola supple.
  • Larger, more prominent veins: This is due to the increase in blood flow in your breasts.
  • Leaking colostrum: The early super-charged, immunity-rich milk your baby will drink right after birth starts forming in your breasts early on in pregnancy. Not all women leak, and leaking is no indication of your ability to produce milk. Some women think they have an infection when they see leaking or crusting of the milk on the nipple. No worries! Gently wash your nipple with a washcloth. In some cases, where there is significant leaking, you can wear a nursing pad to absorb moisture.
  • Stretch marks and/or itchiness: With the increase in size of your breasts, your skin may feel itchy or tingly from the stretching of your skin. You may also notice some stretch marks. Some women apply creams and oils to their breasts and abdomen to avoid these marks. Whether or not you get them really depends on your skin and genetics.

If you have questions about your changing body, make sure you ask your doctor or midwife. For more information on breastfeeding contact a board-certified lactation consultant.

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