Your body goes through some major changes during pregnancy, not least your breasts. At times they might be uncomfortable and sore, and they're bound to need a bit of extra TLC at this time.
What's happening to my breasts?
As soon as you conceive, your body starts producing the pregnancy hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and these will affect just about every part of your body in one way or another, including your breasts. You'll also start producing prolactin, the hormone which triggers the production of milk.
You might notice changes in your breasts very early on – in fact, they might be a giveaway that you're pregnant. Many women experience tenderness and soreness, particularly around the nipple area, and most women find their breasts start getting bigger, and begin to feel heavy.
In addition, the areola, the darker skin around your nipple, might go darker still – and the little bumps there (called Montgomery glands) might become more prominent.
Don't worry, they're working hard to produce extra sebum (or oil) which is designed to moisturise your nipples in preparation for breastfeeding.
Incidentally, if you don't notice much difference to your boobs, you shouldn't be concerned – some women find not a great deal happens.
Give them some support
As your breasts increase in size, your usual bras are bound to feel uncomfortable and by the time you are 10-12 weeks pregnant, you will probably need to go and be measured for some new ones.
Do get measured properly (even if you haven't done so since your teens!) because having a correctly fitting bra will help enormously with the changes your boobs will go through as the weeks go by.
You might find that bras without underwires are more comfortable now – you can get extremely good support these days from non-wired ones, and because your breasts might continue to increase in size, you may decide to wear a bra in bed and elasticated ones will definitely be preferable.
Don't buy too many though – you might need to be re-fitted perhaps another couple of times before you're considering nursing bras. And let's face it, good bras don't come cheap!
When it comes to nursing bras, if you want to get one before you baby is born, wait as long as you can, because your bosom will increase again rapidly as you approach delivery. Buy only one, because you might find that, with engorgement, you breasts become bigger than you ever imagined they could be!
My breasts really hurt!
It's normal, but can be incredibly uncomfortable. Most women get some breast tenderness before menstruation, but the discomfort during the early part of pregnancy can be oh, so much worse. You'll probably want to avoid lying on your front, and maybe get a big 'HANDS OFF!' sign to attach to yourself (he can look, but not touch!).
You might find a warm bath helps to ease the pain, but if not, you can take some paracetamol, which is considered safe to use during pregnancy. Do avoid ibuprofen though, it's thought it can increase the risk of miscarriage. Ask your midwife if you're concerned about your discomfort.
They've gone lumpy, should I be worried?
Some women develop a few breast lumps during pregnancy and in the vast majority of cases, they give no cause for concern. They might be fibroadenomas (where fibrous breast tissue has thickened and lumped together), cysts (which are filled with fluid), or galactoceles (which are cysts filled with milk).
Breast cancer is rare in women of a child-bearing age and even rarer in pregnancy – however, you should continue to check your breasts and if you find any lumps, mention it to your midwife or GP who will check for you.
I'm months away from giving birth and my breasts are leaking
Surprisingly enough, your boobs are capable of producing milk from the second trimester onwards, despite the fact that it won't be needed for some time!
You might notice, from around halfway through your pregnancy, that your breasts leak a little bit. What they are producing is colostrum – the pre-milk substance which your breasts make before the milk 'comes in', a day or two after giving birth.
Colostrum has some massive benefits for your baby – it's full of nutrients and, importantly, antibodies, which will protect your baby in the first few days after they are born. When you're 20 weeks pregnant, however, colostrum is less useful – and can be a bit embarrassing if it's causing wet patches on your top. Pop to the chemist and buy yourself some breast pads. They're absorbent and comfortable and can be slipped inside your bra – no-one will no they're there.
My nipples leaked and I noticed some blood
When you're pregnant, your breasts will have more blood vessels than usual, and their rapid growth can sometimes lead to a little blood leakage. It's probably nothing to worry about at all – but mention it to your midwife or GP.
You'll probably also be able to see the veins in your breasts much more prominently. This, too, is normal – your entire body is full of much more blood than normal.