Breasts undergo changes, with the growing pregnancy, under the influence of hormones, to prepare it for secretion of milk (lactation) and feeding the newborn. Oestrogen stimulates the development of nipple and areola and growth of ducts, while progesteron brings about proliferation of alveoli to prepare them for milk production. Hormones from the developing placenta also help in breast development. The nipples lengthen and secretion from the glands under the areola provide lubrication, which facilitates suckling.
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The breasts become larger. Their size increases by 5cm around 14 weeks of pregnancy and at term the overall increase is about 10cm. There is often pain in the early months of pregnancy.
It is due to physiological breast engorgement as there is increased blood supply. But this pain disappears soon. In the later stages of pregnancy, the cells lining the alveoli get distended with milk and secretes colostrum into the lumen Lactation starts after childbirth (parturition).
Breasts are periodically examined during the months of growing pregnancy (antenatal care). The young and anxious prospective mother needs to be educated about lactation and breast-feeding. This helps to relieve some discomfort, forewarns about possible problems one may encounter and could help in taking appropriate precautions.
There are two main reasons why you need to take special care of your breasts during pregnancy:
- Several changes take place in the breast at different periods of pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
- You need to prepare the breast for breast-feeding the baby after delivery.
Following are some tips:
Wear a brassiere that supports your breast firmly and also makes them feel comfortable.
Start wearing a maternity brassiere at the end of first trimester. These brassieres hold the breasts firmly without any discomfort to the nipples.
If you have large breasts, wear the brassiere throughout the day and night.
During the second trimester, small amounts of clear or yellowish fluid called’ colostrum’ that is secreted by the breast dries into a crust around the nipples. Wash away these crusts with water.
Avoid soap or any other cleansing solution to clean the breasts as they will make your skin dry and nipples sore. Secretion of colostrum indicates that the body is getting ready for breast-feeding.
If colostrum is secreted in large amounts, wear a cotton brassiere with a special absorbent layer around the nipples. Replace the pad whenever it becomes wet.
During the seventh or eight month of pregnancy, you need to do the following simple exercises to prepare the breasts for breast-feeding:
Massage your breasts gently.
Rub your nipples gently with a soft towel.
Gently roll each nipple between your thumb and finger four or five times each, twice a day.
Gently stretch each nipple to the side few times a day.
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