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Breasts Before and After Pregnancy: What to Expect?

Pregnancy is undoubtedly beautiful, and the result even more so. The female body undergoes various changes during and after pregnancy to support the life of the fetus and newborn baby — and the breasts are no exception.
A woman experiencing breast growth during pregnancy

Anatomy of the breasts

The reality is that breasts before and after pregnancy experience changes of all kinds. It’s not uncommon for a pregnant woman to wonder what exactly the variances between boobs before and after pregnancy will be. 

The main function of breasts is to produce breast milk, providing nutrition to newborn babies. The breast is divided into four quadrants for ease of description: upper outer quadrant (UOQ), lower outer quadrant (LOQ), upper inner quadrant (UIQ), and lower inner quadrant (LIQ). The breasts are supported by Cooper suspensory ligaments.

Breast parenchyma is divided into segments containing mammary glands that consist of 20 to 40 lobules, drained by lactiferous ducts that open individually into the nipple. These lobules and ducts are the primary pathways for milk from the mother to the baby. Essentially, they’re glands that — with the right hormonal stimulation — produce milk, while the ducts are tube-like structures that carry the milk. The milk leaves the mother’s body via the nipples. 

The fatty tissue in the breast is influenced by the hormone estrogen. As estrogen levels become elevated in adolescent females during puberty, they cause breasts to develop. 

But what exactly is going on with breast growth during pregnancy? Do your breasts stay large after pregnancy? And how can you prevent saggy breasts after pregnancy?  

The fact is that changes will occur. Your breasts will grow during your pregnancy, and yes, there are ways to prevent saggy breasts after pregnancy. Let’s explore these variances in more detail below. 

Breast growth during pregnancy 

During pregnancy, your body is adjusting to the growing fetus and preparing to support the baby post-partum. Breast growth during pregnancy is part of this process, as the body is undergoing changes to eventually help supply the newborn with milk. 

Your nipples may darken, appear bigger, and begin to stick out due to hormonal changes throughout your pregnancy. Experts believe that this is to help the newborn baby figure out where to latch on for breastfeeding, since the vision of a newborn is still developing in the first year of their life. 

Your breasts may begin to feel tender and sensitive as they grow. Increased blood flow may also make the veins in your breasts appear darker. Some women with breast growth during pregnancy may notice stretch marks appear. This happens due to the quick growth of the breasts over a short period of time.

The body further pumps out estrogen and progesterone, especially at the beginning of your pregnancy. Progesterone drives the growth of the milk glands, while estrogen causes the milk ducts to develop. Women typically experience significant breast growth during pregnancy in the first trimester — in some cases by two cup sizes or more.

Breast tenderness usually tapers off midway through pregnancy. However, every pregnancy is different. Women may experience breast tenderness changes in different ways. Some women may have breast leakage, which is often colostrum, the first form of milk produced by the breasts. Breast pads or similar products may help prevent the fluid from getting on your clothes. The Montgomery glands — the small bumps on the nipples — may become more noticeable during this time, as well. 

The milk glands may continue to contribute to breast growth during pregnancy until the birth of the baby.

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Breasts after pregnancy 

Your breasts after pregnancy receive signals from the hormone prolactin, and, immediately after birth, estrogen and progesterone levels fall. Prolactin causes the breasts to begin making milk. Your baby’s sucking or crying may also stimulate milk production. It typically takes a couple of days or more for the body to produce milk. In the meantime, your baby breastfeeds and receives the colostrum, the aforementioned forerunner of milk.

It’s absolutely normal for it to take time to get breastfeeding down pat. Try not to feel discouraged if you can’t get your newborn to breastfeed right away. Discussions with your doctor or nurses may help you improve on it and gain confidence. 

Common issues may also arise with the breasts after pregnancy. If your newborn does not properly attach to the whole areola, the nipple may become sore or cracked. If this happens, seek out the advice from your doctor or OB/GYN. 

Breast engorgement is a common postpartum pain and happens when the breasts become overfilled with milk. This frequently occurs when your body first starts producing milk, and the pain and tenderness can often be alleviated by breastfeeding or using a breast pump.

Blocked milk ducts may cause further problems. These are evident through small but painful lumps and may be prevented by massage, switching positions when feeding, and avoiding wearing tight-fitted clothing. Again, discussions with your doctor are advised. 

Most women begin weaning their babies off of breast milk after 6 months — though when and how to stop breastfeeding varies and may be different for each woman. Once you’ve weaned your little one off of breastfeeding, your nipples and breasts may return to their previous size. Your body takes up the remaining milk. 

However, if you have not returned to your pre-pregnancy weight — which is not necessarily expected — your breasts may remain bigger after pregnancy. Of course, this varies from woman to woman. Since the skin on the breasts has been stretched, it may contribute to the often-unwanted ‘saggy’ appearance. 

How to keep breasts big after pregnancy 

A woman breastfeeding her baby to keep her breasts big after pregnancy

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, but many women experience sagginess or decreased volume in their breasts after pregnancy. So is there a how-to to keep your breasts big after pregnancy? Various sources and experts offer the following advice:

  • Breastfeed your baby. Unless told otherwise, it isn’t recommended to steer clear of the natural process of breastfeeding.
  • Gain weight when breastfeeding. An average woman requires 2,000 to 2,500 kcal/day. The caloric requirement increases by 300 kcal/day during pregnancy and 500 kcal/day when breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is frequently your body’s way to shed the weight after pregnancy. However, gaining a slight amount of weight during this time may help maintain the fullness of the breasts.
  • Keep estrogen production up. Tofu, soy products, flax seeds, topical creams, or lotions with phytoestrogens may contribute to estrogen production in the body, which can help maintain the volume of your breasts. Make sure to check with your doctor before consuming or apply any new lotions, especially if you are still breastfeeding.
  • Regularly massage your breasts. This helps increase blood flow, encouraging cell growth and maintenance.

Some individuals take the cosmetic surgery route after pregnancy. Cosmetic surgery involves the use of implants that can be placed above or under the pectoralis muscle to permanently change your breast size. This is another one you’ll definitely want to discuss with your doctor. 

How to prevent saggy breasts after pregnancy 

Let’s dive into a few tips and tricks to prevent saggy breasts after pregnancy. It’s probably the most commonly asked question and one of the biggest body concerns that new moms worry about. It’s safe to say that pregnancy alters your breasts for good, but you may be able to prevent unwanted sagginess post-partum and post-breastfeeding. How? Let’s take a look!

Wear a bra throughout and after your pregnancy. Your girls need the support and it can minimize the work of gravity when it comes to pulling them down. However, don’t wear your bra at night as there are various adverse effects that can occur from doing so.

Ensure that your bra fits you properly and provides the support you need. Choosing the right bra is critical. You don’t want to wear something that is too small or lacks adequate support. You also don’t want something that’s too big and allows your boobs to sag. If breast sagginess is a concern, go for regular bra fittings throughout your pregnancy or hunt for an adjustable type.

Strength train the chest. Toning up the muscles around the breasts may keep them from sagging downward — and some exercises may be able to be performed throughout your pregnancy. Check with your doctor or fitness expert to determine what options are right for you and when.

Stick to a healthy diet. ‘You are what you eat’ is cliché, but not entirely far off from the truth. Eat a balanced and healthy diet during and after your pregnancy. Your boobs will thank you.

Remember, pregnancy and post-pregnancy are beautiful times. Enjoy them! Your body is an incredible and powerful machine. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. And remember to make sure to consult with your doctor before taking any of the above advice. They know you, your health, and your baby best, and will be able to give you the most pertinent advice and information regarding your situation.

https://www.emedicinehealth.com/breast/article_em.htm#breast_changes_during_pregnancy

https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/changing/pregnancy-breast-changes-before-and-after-baby/

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/have-i-got-breast-cancer/breast-changes-during-after-pregnancy

https://www.livestrong.com/article/68259-maintain-breast-size-after-pregnancy/

https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/postpartum/how-to-prevent-sagging-breasts-after-pregnancy/

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