Breast pain can occur during the first, second or third trimester of pregnancy. Usually one of the earliest signs that you are expecting, breast pain can also occur in the final stages of pregnancy as your breasts become ready for your milk to come in shortly after the birth. While much of the discomforts of pregnancy are due to fluctuating hormones, with a little knowledge and gentle care you can reduce breast pain during pregnancy.
Tender breasts are often the first signal that you are pregnant, typically occurring approximately two weeks after conception. At this time, your body’s estrogen and progesterone levels rise to ready the breasts for milk production. Also, as soon as you are pregnant, the milk ducts in your breasts will start expanding in size. This can be painful. First-trimester tenderness typically feels similar to menstrual-cycle breast tenderness.
During the second trimester, your breast size will noticeably increase as your body prepares for the business of manufacturing and storing milk for your baby and excess fat stores also begin to build in the breasts. The level of breast tenderness experienced during the first trimester may decrease during this period. However, your nipples may become quite tender and remain so until the end of the pregnancy.
The third trimester usually sees a return of overall breast tenderness. This is caused by a new hormone, prolactin, which stimulates your milk glands to manufacture colostrum, the initial liquid your breasts produce before your milk comes in, if you elect to breastfeed. During this trimester, your breasts will feel heavy and full. They can account for approximately three pounds of your pregnancy weight by the end of gestation, according to MayoClinic.com.
Breast tenderness during pregnancy generally cannot be avoided, but you can take measures to reduce its severity.
Wearing a supportive bra is the first line of defense for pregnancy breast tenderness. A poor fitting bra that does not support your breasts will exacerbate the problem. Remember, your breasts are increasing in size throughout pregnancy, so bras with adequate support will be key to your comfort. Wearing a bra at night while you sleep may also reduce discomfort, according to the Cleveland Clinic website. Be kind to your breasts during bathing. Rough washcloths and vigorous scrubbing will irritate already tender nipples. Wash gently and rinse with care to avoid additional pain.
Breast tenderness that feels different than usual, is much more severe, or is accompanied by red skin, a rash or other problems should be evaluated by your doctor. Milk ducts can become infected and require treatment. If your breasts become inflamed and hot to the touch, call your medical professional to seek advice.