Most women understand that they may experience tenderness and soreness in their breasts after giving birth because of the hormone shifts. They also can comprehend the idea that breastfeeding (or refusing to breastfeed) can also cause pain and tenderness in the nipple area and throughout the breast.
However, there are many moms-to-be who didn’t know that nipple pain can start early on during the pregnancy and can last the whole nine months. Pregnant women can experience breasts and nipples that are sore, swollen, tingly, and extremely sensitive to the touch.
The cause of nipple pain and breast tenderness during pregnancy can be blamed on the excess of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that are coursing through a woman’s body at this sensitive time.
There is also more fat (the good kind) that is building up in the breast, and there is an increased blood flow to the area as well. All these changes are perfectly normal and necessary as the woman’s body is getting ready to produce milk to feed the child growing inside her. But, while the changes are “normal” that doesn’t mean they feel that way to the woman.
In addition to the nipple pain, a pregnant woman may notice that her nipples are more erect than usual. They may also protrude from the breast more, too. Though the fuller breasts and nipples might rival some adult movie stars, they are most likely incredibly tender and feel anything but sexy to the woman.
In addition, the mom-to-be might also notice the areola, the dark area around her nipple, is darker, spotted, and/or bigger. These changes can increase throughout the pregnancy.
It is probable that the areola will also be sporting Montgomery tubercles, little bumps that are actually sweat glands, which are designed to supply lubrication to the breast area. Again, these changes are necessary and normal but along with everything else shifting in a woman’s body, they can make pregnancy uncomfortable in many ways.
To combat the breast tenderness and nipple pain during pregnancy, a woman should make sure to tell her partner what is going on with her and what is acceptable and unacceptable at that stage in the pregnancy. This is especially important when it comes to being intimate together.
Wearing a good fitting bra throughout the pregnancy can also help make a woman’s breasts more comfortable and can potentially help to prevent stretching and sagging of the breast tissue later on. A breathable, cotton sports bra can be helpful when sleeping if a woman’s breasts and/or nipples are sore or uncomfortable while sleeping.
WhatToExpect.com. Web. 6 February 2012. “Symptoms and solutions: Breast Tenderness”. http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/breast-tenderness.aspx
Babycenter.com. Web. 6 February 2012. “Breast changes during pregnancy.” http://www.babycenter.com/0_breast-changes-during-pregnancy_262.bc
Reviewed February 7, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith