Caring for your breasts during your pregnancy
Updated: Apr 20
Your breasts will go through inevitable changes throughout your pregnancy and postpartum period. Stay comfortable with these self-care tips from Dr Tan Yia Swam, Clinical Director of Thomson Breast Centre!
Common Changes in your breasts during pregnancy.
The expectant mother will experience many normal physiological changes to prepare her body for breastfeeding, such as;
Increase in size of your breasts
Tenderness of the breast
Darkening of nipples and areolas (the skin around your nipples)
Darkened veins along with your breast (due to the increased blood supply to your breasts)
Your breasts may start leaking a yellowish, thick substance known as colostrum
Nipples stick out more, and the areolas and nipples will grow larger
Small glands on the surface of the areolas may become raised bumps
Common non-cancerous variations to breasts include hormonal changes (fibrocystic changes), fibroadenomas, cysts, lipomas, and accessory (extra) breast tissue.
How can you properly care for your breasts during this period?
Dr Tan observes that a properly-fitted bra with good support is critical in helping expectant mothers feel more comfortable throughout the pregnancy. Opt for bras that do not have underwire; a deep band beneath the cups and wide shoulder straps will also provide the maximum support you will need. Remember to continue with breast self-examination even during pregnancy! Very often, lumps detected during pregnancy are clogged milk ducts - these are red, tender to the touch, hard lumps in your breasts. Do use warm compresses and massages to clear the duct within the day, or it may lead to further complications.
What if you identify a breast lump during pregnancy?
Pregnancy related breast cancers make up about 3% of all breast cancers. Whenever a pregnant woman feels a lump, Dr Tan recommends the patient seek a medical opinion, keeping in mind that most times it will turn out to be nothing serious!
The doctor will first find out how you detected the lump. how long it has been present and if you have detected any changes, so as to get an idea what the lump is likely to be.
Next the doctor will conduct a breast examination to confirm the presence of the lump, and check for any other symptoms such as skin changes or nipple discharge.
Most patients will then be recommended to get an ultrasound scan - this will give additional information as to weather this lump is benign or cancerous. IF there is any concern that the lump may be cancerous, your doctor will advise you as to the pros and cons of having a biopsy, which can be done safely even during pregnancy.
For pregnant women diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment protocols will be modified for the patient. Depending on which trimester of the pregnancy she is in, the breast surgeon, oncologist and the ob-gyn will discuess with the couple what is best for the patient and her baby.
For pregnant women diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment protocols will be modified for the patient. Depending on which trimester of the pregnancy she is in, the breast surgeon, oncologist and the ob-gyn will discuss with the couple what is best for the patient and her baby.
What are the complications to look out for whilst breastfeeding?
Engorgement of the breasts and blocked ducts are commonly experienced during breastfeeding and are caused by hormonal changes within the body. These should be resolved naturally within the next 1-2 feeds.
If your breasts are inflamed and sore, or you start to feel unwell, you might have mastitis. If left untreated, it may progress to a milk collection (galactocele) and when infected, become and abscess. This build-up of pus in the breast usually makes the skin look red and swollen, and feels warm and tender to touch.
if the lump is persistent, it may not be a blocked duct. It is good to see a doctor for a physical examination, and many breast surgeons will be able to do an immediate ultrasound check to confirm if the lump you feel is 'real', or just prominent breast tissue.
Thomson Breast Centre
Thomson Medical Centre, 339 Thomson Road, #03-03
Phone: 6252 5535