For pregnant women, it can be amazing how much your body changes to prepare for the birth of your child. And while these changes are miraculous and beautiful, it’s important to monitor your body to ensure the health of both you and your baby.
Pregnant moms should consider breast health, both during and after pregnancy, whether they plan on breastfeeding or not. Here are some common questions I hear from patients about breast health.
How will my breasts change while I’m pregnant?
While each woman is different, many report similar breast changes during pregnancy.
- Your breasts may get larger and more sensitive or tender.
- The skin around your nipples and areolas may darken in color.
- Your breasts may start leaking a substance known as colostrum. This can start as early as the second trimester.
Wearing comfortable, supportive bras without underwire and wearing loose-fitting clothes can also alleviate most of the discomfort associated with breast changes. During and after pregnancy, it’s also a good idea to see a fitting specialist to be sure you’re purchasing the best bras for you.
What can I do during pregnancy to prepare for my baby’s birth?
It’s important to be aware of the changes to your breasts while you’re pregnant. You know your body better than anyone else, so if something feels off, you should let your doctor know.
Pregnancy is a good time to form a breastfeeding plan for when your baby arrives. You can consider taking a breastfeeding course, like the one offered at Swedish Medical Center, to learn the basics of breastfeeding before your baby arrives.
What about breast health after my baby is born?
If you choose to breastfeed your child, some women prefer to make a plan for how long to breastfeed and how to wean a child from breastfeeding. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Your doctor can help you form a healthy breastfeeding plan.
To avoid cracked or bleeding nipples, you should clean your nipples gently with water and apply antibacterial ointment after each feeding. Keep an eye out for common symptoms of breast infection, which include redness, significant tenderness, warmth of the skin and swelling in one spot.
What types of infections are most common?
There are many different types of breast infection that breastfeeding women can experience. The most common are:
- Mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue that occurs most commonly in breastfeeding women. Common symptoms of mastitis include breast warmth or tenderness, breast swelling and pain on one side of your breast. You may also experience a fever or flu-like symptoms, including aching and fatigue.
- Candida infection, or yeast infection, is a fungal infection that typically occurs on the skin. A common symptom is sudden, sharp or shooting pain while breastfeeding. If you have a vaginal yeast infection or your baby has oral thrush or diaper rash, these can also be indications of an infection.
What should I do if I’m breastfeeding and I’m going back to work?
It’s always a good idea to be familiar with the laws and your employer’s policies for pumping at work. The U.S. Department of Labor’s guide to Breaks for Nursing Mothers is a great place to start. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you always need to have enough milk for your baby. You should have plenty of back-up milk in case something doesn’t go according to plan.
Here are some additional resources I found helpful as a new mom, when I experienced a breast infection and went back to work full-time while breastfeeding:
Staying in tune with your breast health during and after pregnancy provides many benefits for you and your child. Many women choose to see their doctor for lactation support before and after childbirth to prepare for breastfeeding.
If you have additional questions, you can always reach out to your OB/GYN. To schedule an appointment with myself or any of the Mountain Vista OB/GYN and Midwifery staff, call 303-788-8808 or visit our website.
** This blog post was written to serve as informational guidance about breast health and should not be taken as concrete medical advice, nor do the views above reflect the views of Mountain Vista OB/GYN and Midwifery or the HealthONE organization. As with any medical questions or concerns, it’s imperative to make an appointment with your physician for proper counseling.
Elizabeth Newell, MD, practices at Mountain Vista OB/GYN and Midwifery. She completed her undergraduate degree in molecular psychobiology at Binghamton University and received her medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago. Dr. Newell chose OB/GYN as her specialty in order to follow her patients through all stages of life. She enjoys the balance between primary care and surgery the field provides. She is passionate about educating patients so they can be empowered to make their own healthcare decisions.