We all know that a woman’s body undergoes tremendous changes during and after pregnancy. The focus of these changes seems to be on her stomach and vagina. While those two areas certainly experience a lot of changes during and after pregnancy, a woman’s breasts also undergo their own changes. These changes are a normal part of pregnancy and post pregnancy and many go along with breast feeding. Knowing what to expect is a good way to be prepared for whatever changes may come.
It Starts With Engorgement
Breasts start to get bigger during pregnancy as they get ready for breastfeeding. For the first few days after delivery the breasts fill with fluid called colostrum.
The next major change is when a woman’s milk comes in, about 3 or 4 days after birth. The breasts may become enlarged, firm and uncomfortable. This is breast engorgement as the breasts become full of milk between nursing. Women should try to express all their milk as often as possible to empty breasts and may want to consider pumping breast milk as well as nursing.
Don’t Forget About the Nipples
Nipples are certainly part of women’s breasts and they undergo changes as part of the overall changes to breasts after breastfeeding or pregnancy. As breasts prepare for nursing during pregnancy nipples enlarge and often darken in color. Nipples may become very sensitive, may chap and crack and sometimes bleed. Sore nipples are a very common issue that affects breasts after breastfeeding. Make sure to expose nipples to air and moisturize your skin. Also consider wearing breast shells in clothing to prevent chafing.
What About Sagging and Changes in Appearance?
Nursing can make the breast skin and tissue stretch. Women report this leaving them with a stretched when they stop nursing and breasts try to go back to pre-pregnancy shape.
Many women are anxious that breasts after pregnancy or breastfeeding will sag. However, current research indicates breastfeeding alone is not responsible for sagging breasts. It also depends on the number of pregnancies a woman has had, if she has a large pre-pregnancy breast size, age, and body mass index.
Other Breast Changes
Every woman’s breasts are different and as such each woman may experience different breast changes after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some women experience having one breast slightly misshapen after breastfeeding due to breast engorgement being resolved.
It is also not unusual for the contours of a woman’s bust line to change as breast tissue swells with milk and then shrinks after nursing. Sometimes, one breast returns to pre-pregnancy size while the other breast stays larger, droops or flattens. Sometimes one breast ends up a full cup size larger than the other from breast changes after breastfeeding.
Stretch marks may make an appearance on breasts after pregnancy or even during pregnancy. This is due to rapid breast growth during pregnancy as breast get ready to lactate.
While breasts may return to their pre-pregnancy size as a woman weans her baby and also returns to her pre-pregnancy weight, the truth is breasts after pregnancy are never what they were before pregnancy.