Tender/ Swollen Breasts

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Tender, swollen or uncomfortable breasts are a very normal in pregnancy. 

What causes tender/swollen breasts during pregnancy?

A week or two after conception, hormonal changes– estrogen and progesterone- might make your breasts and nipples tender, ultra-sensitive or sore. They also might feel fuller and heavier. The area around the nipples, called the areola, may also darken. Hormonal changes are responsible for this discomfort but it is natural. This sensitiveness will probably last through the first trimester. 

In the second trimester, breast tenderness improves though nipple tenderness might continue throughout the pregnancy. Estrogen and progesterone continue stimulating the breasts milk-producing glands which may cause the breasts to get larger and accumulate additional fat tissues in them. With the increased blood flow in the area, bluish veins may appear below the skin’s surface. 

In the third trimester breast tenderness is also common.  Breasts may have grown by as much as 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram). Near to the due date, nipples could start leaking colostrum — the yellowish fluid that will nourish the baby during the first few days of life. 


How to cope with tender/swollen breasts

  • Wear a bra that provides firm support or a sports bra so your back doesn’t suffer, especially during the pregnancy’s final months.
  • Choose cotton bras or those made from natural fibers.
  • Go up a bra size (or more). The bra should fit well without irritating the nipples. Maternity or nursing bras, provide more support and can be used after pregnancy in case of breastfeeding.
  • Wear a cotton sports bra during the night to feel more comfortable while sleeping.
  • Fold a cotton handkerchief or gauze pads or nursing pads into each bra cup to absorb leaking fluid. Change them as much as needed so that your skin doesn’t get irritated.
  • Wash your breasts with warm water only without soap or other products that may cause dryness. 
  • Avoid any touching or rubbing that may be painful. 

There are products on the market which you can choose to buy to help protect your skin and minimise discomfort during pregnancy and breast feeding.  Your pharmacist or doctor will be able to help.

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