Breast changes are normal during pregnancy and might continue until delivery, and beyond. Hormonal fluctuations, increased blood flow, and the production of colostrum could result in pain and discomfort in the breasts (1).
You can manage these changes with good care. This MomJunction post gives you tips on how to breast care during pregnancy.
Tips For Breast Care During Pregnancy
Breasts begin to engorge and turn sensitive during pregnancy. The nipples may also become dry and pigmented and develop cracks. The following measures can help you take care of your breasts during and after pregnancy.
1. Breast massage
Massaging your breasts can help with blocked ducts, stretch marks, and cracked nipples. Take some moisturizer or olive oil and rub around the nipples in a circular motion, using your fingertips. Pull the nipples gently outwards. Continue for about five minutes.
A good breast massage is likely to
- boost the supply of milk post-delivery and improve breastfeeding.
- soften the breasts, smoothen the mammary glands, and increase milk flow.
- envigorate the nipples and areola for easy sucking.
- Do not put excessive pressure on the breasts.
- Use only your fingertips for massaging.
- Stop massaging if you experience any pain.
- Do not excessively massage the nipples when you are in the final stages of pregnancy.
2. Stay active
Follow an exercise regimen and have a healthy diet. Gentle stretching activities could tone the upper body. Arm stretches could help provide strength to the breast muscles and may reduce breast pain.
- Do not overdo physical activities.
- Check with your doctor or fitness specialist before taking up any exercise routine.
3. Use right-fitting maternity bras
A comfortable maternity bra, preferably made of cotton, can help as the breasts stretch during pregnancy. Also, sports bra could be comfortable (2). They keep the muscles below the breasts toned and strong and may prevent sagging.
- Do not use tight-fitting or ill-fitting bras.
- Underwire bras may not be comfortable.
4. Check your nipples
Flat nipples do not stand out much or do not stick out when cold or sexually aroused. Inverted nipples pull inward upon stimulation and look dimpled, indented, or flat in the center. Both kinds of nipples offer a poor latch for breastfeeding. If your nipples are inverted or flat, you may consider wearing breast shells after checking with your doctor. The shells place gentle pressure on your breasts, thereby drawing the nipples outward (3).
- Do not wear breast shells if you are at a risk of premature labor.
5. Follow good hygiene practices
Your nipples may leak out a small amount of colostrum, your first breastmilk. You may use a cotton cloth or disposable nursing pad to absorb the fluid (4). If wearing a pad is not comfortable, you may consider cleaning your breasts using a clean cloth dipped in warm water.
- Do not use soap or alcohol-based cleaning agents. They might cause drying and soreness.
General Precautions To Take
To avoid discomfort, you may take the following precautions.
- Wash your breasts with clean, warm water every day.
- Check your breasts regularly for any changes, and if you happen to see any changes, let your doctor know about it.
- Do not keep your breasts damp as they may cause cracks in the nipples.
- Avoid scrubbing your breasts with rough cloth or towels. Just pat them dry after a shower.
- Maintain a healthy body weight by having a balanced diet.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake.
Breast changes may not be profound or similar in all women. Some might find them growing, leaking, or sagging, while others may notice minimal changes. In either case, it is good to take care of your breasts and check with your doctor in the case of any unusual changes.
2. Exercise During Pregnancy; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2019)
3. Flat or Inverted Nipples; University of Rochester Medical Center
4.A Mother’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth; VCU Health (2017)
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- How To Reduce Breast Pain During Pregnancy?
- 6 Common Breast Changes That Occur During Pregnancy
- 7 Effective Treatments For Relieving Engorged Breasts