Almost as soon as you get pregnant, you'll notice changes in your breasts. These changes are normal as your breasts get ready to feed your baby after pregnancy.
Common breast changes during pregnancy
Tingling, swelling, sensitivity or tenderness
- For many women, tenderness in the breasts is one of the first signs of pregnancy.
- It is caused by increased amounts of female hormones in your body.
- Your breasts may also tingle with temperature change.
Larger breast size
- During early pregnancy, fat builds up in the breasts. The milk glands increase in size.
- By six weeks, your breasts may be noticeably larger—by as much as a full cup size or more.
- Your breasts may keep growing in both size and weight throughout the first three months of pregnancy.
Itchiness and stretch marks
- As your breasts grow, the skin will stretch.
- You may feel itchiness or develop stretch marks.
- During pregnancy, there is an increased supply of blood to the breasts.
- This may cause bluish veins to appear just under the skin.
Darker nipples and areolas
- The nipples will grow darker and may stand out more.
- The areolas (the skin around the nipples) darken and grow larger.
- The small glands on the surface of the areolas become raised and bumpy.
- These bumps produce an oily substance that keeps your nipples from cracking or drying out.
- Toward the end of pregnancy, some women find that their breasts are leaking a fluid.
- This fluid is colostrum (the fluid that nourishes your baby for the first few days after delivery before your breasts start to make milk).
- Colostrum may leak on its own or may leak during breast massage or sexual arousal.
What you can do
You may not be able to reduce soreness or tenderness in your breasts. But you can do some things to ease some of the discomfort.
- A good maternity bra can provide some relief. It will also support your back muscles.
- As your breasts get larger, make sure your bra fits well and doesn’t irritate your nipples.
- Maternity bras usually include extra rows of hooks so you can adjust the size as your body changes.
- Cotton bras are more comfortable than synthetic ones because cotton allows the skin to breathe.
- A maternity bra or a pregnancy sleep bra (a soft, nonrestrictive cotton bra) may give your breasts added support and make you more comfortable during the night.
- Wear disposable or washable breast pads if you are leaking colostrum.
- Allow your breasts to air-dry a few times each day and after showering.
- Avoid soap on your nipples and areolas. Washing with soap tends to dry out the skin in this area.
- Try using just warm water.
When to talk to your health care provider
If you do not have any breast changes during pregnancy, other factors may be involved. If you had breast surgery (for instance, a biopsy or implants) before becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider or a breastfeeding specialist.
Last reviewed December 2013
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know you're pregnant?
Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:
If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.
Is my baby moving enough?
You'll start feeling your baby's kicks at around the 28th week of pregnancy. By this time, your baby's movements are usually well established and some health care providers recommend keeping track of these movements.
- Track kick counts at about the same time each day when your baby is active.
- Track kick counts shortly after you've eaten a meal (when your baby may be most active).
- Sit or lay on your side, place your hands on your belly and monitor baby's movement.
- Mark every movement down on a piece of paper. Don't count baby's hiccups.
Keep counting until you've felt 10 movements from baby. If baby doesn't move 10 times within 1 hour, try again later that day. Call your health provider if your baby's movement seems unusual or you've tried more than once that day and can't feel baby move 10 times or more during 1 hour.
When will I start feeling my baby move?
Popcorn popping. A little fish swimming. Bubbles. Butterflies. Tickles. These are common words used by women to describe their baby's first movements. Also known as "quickening," it's a reassuring sign that your baby is OK and growing. This milestone typically starts sometime between 18 to 25 weeks into pregnancy. For first-time moms, it may occur closer to 25 weeks, and for second- or third-time moms, it may happen much sooner.
At first it may be difficult to tell the difference between gas and your baby moving. You might not feel movement as early as you are expecting to feel it, but you'll notice a pattern soon. You'll start to learn when the baby is most active and what seems to get her moving.