Leaking breasts during pregnancy – should I be concerned?
The last thing a pregnant woman expects is to leak breasts during her pregnancy. The thick, sticky, yellowish/orange fluid that is leaked out is actually not milk but colostrum. Colostrum is a fluid rich in nutrients for the baby. It is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies to help keep the baby healthy. It is low in volume but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn.
But the question remains: how early will milk start to come in pregnancy? Will there be breast milk right after giving birth?
Breast leaking in pregnancy
Leaking milk during pregnancy — or discovering dried breast milk on your nipples — is an unusual but entirely normal element of the process. This occurs as your breasts begin to generate colostrum in preparation for nursing.
During pregnancy, your body does everything it can to prepare for your baby’s arrival. Your breasts are ready to feed your baby if they emerge earlier than planned when your second trimester closes and your third trimester begins.
Your body’s colostrum production will be “on tap” as soon as your baby is born. It may leak even before the baby arrives.
Why some people leak more colostrum than others is unknown. You may leak colostrum and be unaware of it until you detect yellowish stains or dried-up flecks of colostrum on your nipples. Typically, there isn’t a lot of liquid.
It’s vital to understand that leaking colostrum during pregnancy does not imply that you’ll have an abundance of milk when your baby is born. Furthermore, not leaking milk during pregnancy does not imply that you will have less milk when the baby arrives.
Everybody is different, and some people simply appear to leak more milk than others – both during and after pregnancy.
Colostrum nipple discharge during pregnancy
Colostrum is a type of milk that is higher in nutrients than mature breast milk. It also contains several antibodies, including an important one known as immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA protects babies from infection and helps them build their immune systems.
Some of this colostrum may seep out of the nipples at the end of the pregnancy.
Image from iStock
Colostrum has various characteristics that set it apart from mature milk, which the baby will receive a few days after birth when your milk “comes in.” For example, colostrum:
- has more protein and less fat and carbs than mature milk
- protects your infant from infection, thanks to increased levels of secretory IgA
- preserves your baby’s intestines and aids in the establishment of a healthy microbiome
Your breasts will not be particularly plump when you are generating colostrum. That is normal. Your kid will get everything they need if you nurse regularly (8 to 12 times per day is ideal).
You will notice that your breasts feel fuller 3 to 5 days after giving delivery. This indicates that your body is preparing to produce more mature milk, which will be whiter in color and considerably more copious.
Tender breast during pregnancy
You may detect changes in your breasts soon after – or even before – receiving a positive pregnancy test result. Breast changes are frequently the first sign that you are pregnant.
Leaking breasts during pregnancy. | Image from iStock
By the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, your breasts should feel heavy, painful, and tender to the touch. Your nipples may darken, and you may detect tiny little bumps called Montgomery’s glands on your areolas.
All of these changes are due to your breasts preparing to become milk-producing factories.
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone cause changes inside your breasts as well. Milk glands and ducts begin to develop and multiply.
Alveolar cells in your breasts begin to generate colostrum between the 12th and 16th weeks. According to 2021 research leaking of colostrum does not usually occur until the third trimester of pregnancy.
Why do women’s nipples turn dark during pregnancy?
Pregnancy hormones cause your skin cells to create extra pigment, among other strange and unexpected effects on your body. That explains why your areolas (the skin around your nipples) have darkened and become larger.
Dark or black areolas, like many pregnancy symptoms and side effects, are most likely caused by growing levels of hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones may cause your skin to produce more pigment.
What is Montgomery’s Tubercles?
You might also note that this area is a little bumpier than usual. This is due to the development of tiny glands that will eventually exude an oily substance to keep your nipples from becoming dry and cracked when breastfeeding.
Montgomery’s Tubercles are those tiny bumps around your areola. According to studies, between 30 and 50 per cent of pregnant women notice Montgomery’s tubercles.
They may look strange, but their primary function is to lubricate and keep germs away from the breasts. If you’re breastfeeding, secretion of these glands may keep your breast milk from becoming contaminated before being ingested by your baby.
All of these breast changes are perfectly normal and are simply an indication that your body is getting ready to nurse your baby. After you’ve finished breastfeeding, the colour and size of your nipples should return to normal.
Should I be worried about my leaking breasts?
No, you should not be worried about leaking colostrum when pregnant. Leaking breasts is a relatively common symptom of pregnancy. Some women may experience leaking breasts as early as 14 weeks into their pregnancy, others may experience it much later or may not experience it at all.
Sometimes, one of your breasts may leak and at other times, both your breasts may leak. At the same time, some women may experience a lot of discharge and some may experience very little of it. Either way, it is simply your body’s way of preparing itself for breastfeeding the newborn.
That said, don’t worry if your breasts do not leak at any time during pregnancy. This too is normal and does not affect whether you can breastfeed after your baby’s birth.
What can I do about my leaking breasts?
If you are experiencing very heavy discharge, you can consider using disposable breast pads or nursing pads in your bra which are designed especially to absorb the colostrum and prevent unwanted and uncomfortable leaks. Breast pads are available in some pharmacies and Mothercare outlets throughout Singapore.
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How to relieve sore nipples during pregnancy?
Warm, moist heat has been shown in studies to be comforting for sore nipples and can help your skin heal faster. To utilize moist heat, wet a clean washcloth or cloth diaper, wring off the excess water, and place it immediately over your nipple. Repeat the process after it has cooled to room temperature. Many mothers feel that this treatment relieves the discomfort of engorgement, which can occur in conjunction with nipple irritation.
The finest treatment for breast pain is rarely prescribed (but talk with your doctor if the pain is intense). Instead, try the following home treatments to ease the pain and tenderness:
- Speak with your partner
Make sure your partner is informed of the issue and takes appropriate precautions. Tell him or her what and how much he or she can touch.
- Purchase a nice bra
If possible, have a specialist measure you for a supportive (but not too tight!) fit.
- Put on a comfortable breastfeeding bra
This is a must-have maternity accessory. Look for wire-free, unpadded versions with no hooks or snaps to wear at night. Position adjustments while sleeping can irritate sensitive nipples or aggravate tender breasts. Another acceptable choice is a cotton sports bra without an underwire.
- Use a cold compress
Cold packs on your breasts can help reduce pain. Wrap an ice pack in a washcloth or a bag of frozen peas and carrots in a dish towel to protect your skin.
- Take a shower
Do you dislike the cold? Warm water from the shower might also help to relieve pain.
- Dress comfortably
Overly tight tops, like an ill-fitting bra, might pinch your breasts and cause agony. Loose, flowing blouses and extra-large tees are the solutions.
- Inquire about OTC relief
If the other home cures aren’t working, consult your doctor about using over-the-counter pain medicine.
Image from iStock
Another natural remedy for nipple pain and healing is to gently rub or pat a small bit of milk into your nipple. Allow this to air dry before re-applying your nursing bra.
If there is a lot of swelling in the breast, reverse pressure softening can be a good cure or prophylactic strategy (there could be excessive swelling from IV fluids during birth or breast engorgement that makes it hard for the baby to reach or latch onto the nipple). Gently pressing the nipple base with one or two fingers can help to move some of the swellings away from the nipple.
Breasts leaking in pregnancy is normal. But if you are experiencing severe pain in that area, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor about it.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore
Updates by Matt Doctor
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