The Crazy Ways Your Breasts Change in Pregnancy

Your belly isn't the only part to grow and change when you're pregnant. Here's what happens to your breasts, from those first little twinges to the big baby buffet.

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The first hint you're expecting

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The first hint you're expecting

Surprise—that soreness in your breasts may not be PMS after all! About 10 days after conception, your placenta starts releasing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone that kicks off estrogen and progesterone production (hCG is what turns the pee stick positive in a pregnancy test). All those hormones kick-start the development of the milk glands in your breast, so your boobs may know you're expecting before you do, explains Erika Nichelson, M.D., an OB/GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "I was probably about half a second pregnant when I noticed that my breasts were extremely sensitive," recalls Dawn, 40, a mom of two in New York. "The slightest breeze on my chest made me wince!"

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A sudden growth spurt

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A sudden growth spurt

As a surge of estrogen increases blood flow and enlarges your milk ducts, you can expect to go up about one cup size in your first trimester, but if you're eagerly awaiting bigger boobs and they never appear, don't worry, says Dr. Nichelson. "I've had three children, including twins, and my breasts never got bigger," she explains. "Everyone is different and size doesn't necessarily matter when it comes to breastfeeding."

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Time to go bra shopping!

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Time to go bra shopping!

If your trusty 34Bs suddenly feel as tiny as a training bra, and your favorite lingerie feels soft as sandpaper, get yourself to a maternity store, stat. "At about three months, I hated all my underwire bras and I begged the salesperson to find me some comfortable ones," says Cari, 39, a mom of two in Boston. "She found me a suportive bra that was also super comfy and it made a huge difference." Olivia Capone Myers, style director at Destination Maternity, suggests you get fitted for maternity bras as soon as your breasts begin to grow in their first trimester: "Looking for at least three to four hooks in the closure to ensure comfort throughout your pregnancy, and make sure it fits on the tightest hook when you buy it so you can loosen it as your body grows," she recommends. Capone Myers also recommends buying a sleep bra, which will gently support your girls at night during pregnancy and when you begin nursing.

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Look, but don't touch them!

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Look, but don't touch them!

Ah, the irony: As your breasts get more bodacious, your partner may be eager to explore your new curves, but sore nipples can make your boobs a no-touch zone. (Though some women find the new sensitivity actually enhances sex.) One time you definitely will want to touch them? To get at that itch. "Ice packs, over-the-counter Benadryl cream, or menthol-based moisturizers can help with discomfort when the skin is itchy from growth," says Tsipporah Shainhouse, M.D., a Los Angeles dermatologist who works extensively with pregnant women.

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What's up with the weird nipples?

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What's up with the weird nipples?

A few months in, your boobs can start to resemble an abstract painting—squiggly red and blue lines leading to dark, bumpy nipples. The blue lines are enlarged blood vessels, the pink stretch marks are from your expanding skin, and the dark nipples are thanks to estrogen, which causes hyperpigmentation everywhere (you may also notice a dark line down your belly called the linea nigra, and dark spots on your face, known as melasma). "This effect is more noticeable in dark-skinned women, who naturally have more pigment in their skin, but it usually lightens up a few months after delivery or after you finish breastfeeding," says Dr. Shainhouse. You may also notice your nipples becoming enlarged and raised, as they prepare for feeding, and the little bumps called Montgomery's tubercles, which produce oil to moisturize the nipples, becoming more prominent. Dr. Nichelson recommends putting a glob of Lansinoh lanolin cream on nipple pads and inserting those in your bra for relief.

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The first little drops of milk

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The first little drops of milk

As your body gets ready to feed your baby, you may start dripping colostrum (the nutrient-dense liquid your breasts produce before your milk comes in) days, weeks, or even months before there's a baby around to lap it up. "I'm 38 weeks pregnant, and for the last week or so, every time I'm in the shower and my breasts get all warmed up, I notice they leak a little," says Julie, 30, a mom-to-be in New Jersey. "I love seeing my breasts get ready for the baby—I hope she's a good eater!"

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Hello, honeydews!

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Hello, honeydews!

The most momentous change in your breasts happens three to four days after you give birth, when your body goes into full-on milk-production mode. "My breasts grew a little when I was pregnant, from a small B to a small C, but the craziest moment came four few days after I gave birth, when I was getting undressed for the shower, and I caught a glance in the mirror—all of a sudden I looked like a porn star!" says Leslie, 39, a mom of two in Chicago. "They went back down when I finished breastfeeding, but I realized I loved how I looked with bigger breasts—I'm very tall, so they balanced me out. I bought some padded push-up bras to get the same effect without being pregnant again."

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