Not all women go through this, but leakage from the nipples during pregnancy is quite common. Why does this happen? This happens because your body begins producing milk just weeks before the baby is about to arrive. Hence, nipple leakage is standard during the final trimester of pregnancy. Using absorbent breast pads readily available at pharmacies can help you through this condition.
Is It Normal for Boobs to Leak During Pregnancy?
The straight answer to the question is, Yes. Breasts leaking during pregnancy is considered to be a regular thing. Just a heads up for the pregnant mommies to be, it is nothing to be ashamed of as well!
The female breasts are working to produce protein-rich food to feed the baby right after their birth. This is academically called colostrum, a precursor for the secretion of breast milk to feed a newborn child.
Some women might be leaking breast milk more, some less, and some not at all. All possibilities exist, and none is known to be abnormal or unhealthy for the mother and her unborn child.
Also read: 10 dry fruits to have during pregnancy
When Do Breasts Leak During Pregnancy?
Research suggests that discharge from the nipple during pregnancy (commonly called Nipple Discharge or colostrum) is considered to be absolutely normal during the last few weeks or the final trimester of pregnancy.
However, breast milk production during pregnancy begins before it starts leaking from the breast. The production usually begins during the first trimester.
Milk leaking from a woman's breasts is also often not a cause of concern right after she has undergone childbirth and during the breastfeeding period.
What Causes Boobs to Leak During Pregnancy?
All pregnant women should know that milk leaking from the breast during pregnancy is completely natural and usually not a cause of concern. Certain factors cause this discharge from the nipple during pregnancy.
The reason behind breast leaking during pregnancy (clear fluid or a fluid milkier in appearance) are the hormones at work. Until you deliver, the hormones called estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin keep you from actively producing much lactose. Studies have found that prolactin and oxytocin are the hormones that cause nipple discharge (colostrum initially and then breast milk).
The chances of leakage increase when the breasts are stimulated during sex or if they are rubbed against your bra while working out or carrying out some other heavy activity.
Breast Leaking During Pregnancy 2nd Trimester
Breast leaking during pregnancy’s 2nd trimester is common as estrogen levels increase during this period. Your breasts will inevitably feel bulky or full as the milk ducts develop.
You might notice your boobs leaking during pregnancy in the first few weeks of the second trimester. This is because your boobs will begin to produce colostrum (the first stage of breast milk formation). You could be unaware that your body is creating colostrum, or you may start to experience leaking breast milk at this time. It's fine to check to see if there's any colostrum flowing out, but don't overstimulate the nipple because it could cause preterm labour.
Breast Leaking During Pregnancy Third Trimester
Colostrum is rich in proteins, immunoglobulins and antibodies. It will protect the baby from infectious diseases and help it get the first meconium poop out. It's the best food for a baby's first days, as it's easily digestible and contains just the correct balance of nutrients.
The colostrum will most likely be pale or clear by the time you give birth. It will continue to discharge from the nipple during pregnancy and until several days after the delivery when it will transform to developed breast milk. For the time being, pick up a couple of nursing pads to absorb the milk, and no one will notice.
Is it a Sign of Trouble When Milk Comes from Breast During Pregnancy?
The breasts of pregnant women undergo some significant physiological changes during their pregnancy, according to research. These changes are mainly hormone-induced. The changes are natural and usually not a sign of trouble, per se.
However, it so happens that the changes in your breasts developed (or observed) during pregnancy may not be just a cause of pregnancy. They can sometimes be indicative of some underlying tumours (benign or otherwise) and other health disorders.
It is highly advised that you keep in regular touch with your gynaecologist and discuss the changes you observe in your body. Do not regard your changes as 'natural' changes related to pregnancy, all by yourself.
Hormones and Breast Discharge
Hormones and breast discharge are intertwined when it comes to pregnancy. Hormones play a significant role in producing milk that gets discharged when pregnant. Although the ideal time for colostrum production is shortly after birth, some women might also experience the production during pregnancy. This early production is often a consequence of hormonal changes in the body.
However, milk leaking or breast discharge doesn’t always have to be linked to pregnancy. There might be other reasons like:
- during sex, in response to the nipple or breast stimulation
- while taking a hot shower
- thyroid problems and hormone-related illnesses, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- in people who take medicines, such as contraceptive pills or antidepressants.
Normal release usually does not indicate a problem. Although, if the pattern of discharge modifications or discharge begins without stimulation, it could imply an infection or other serious problem.
How to Stop Breast Discharge
Stopping breast discharge is not always doable. Some beneficial options include:
- abstaining from breast stimulation
- compressing the boobs with warm soaks
- If a person notices a strange discharge in their breast milk or suspects that a duct is becoming clogged, they should nurse more often.
When should you consult a doctor?
Women should consult a doctor:
- If they feel breast swelling, pain or changes in shape
- If they discovered a bulge in their breast
- Breastfeeding is too difficult.
- The red or bloody discharge does not disappear by itself.
When Do Women Start Producing Milk?
There is no right or exact answer to “when do women start producing milk”. While colostrum production should begin as early as in their 16th week of pregnancy and should begin immediately after birth, its presence and concentration differ significantly from the breast milk after birth.
This is because colostrum, or "first milk," serves a particular purpose for your baby than later breast milk, even if both are vital to your baby's health and development. While most newborns lose weight, mothers should understand that it’s normal to express small milk volumes just after the delivery.
In a Nutshell: Is it Normal for Your Breasts to Leak During Pregnancy?
Breasts or boobs leakage is considered a typical symptom in the final trimester of pregnancy. However, if you notice constant leakage or if the liquid is a worrisome colour, visit a gynaecologist immediately.
Also read: Indian foods to avoid during pregnancy
FAQs On Boobs Leaking During Pregnancy
When Do Pregnant Women Begin Leaking Milk?
The body starts producing colostrum in the first trimester of pregnancy, but breast milk in moms-to-be usually doesn't leak till much later in the pregnancy, if at all. So, when does milk start leaking during pregnancy? Prolactin is the hormone concerned for milk production after your baby is born. It begins to increase while you're in the third trimester.
Breast milk isn't abundantly found when you're pregnant, particularly early on in pregnancy. This is due to high estrogen and progesterone levels that control milk production. Colostrum can leak out a little if prolactin levels slightly surpass progesterone and estrogen.
When does Milk Start Leaking from Your Breasts During Pregnancy?
Discharge from the nipple during pregnancy first starts somewhere in the third trimester for most pregnant women. But keep in mind that some pregnant ladies might not have to go through the whole experience of breasts leaking during pregnancy at all!
Is Breast Leaking During Pregnancy a Sign of Labour?
Leaking breast milk during pregnancy is completely normal and usually isn't closely tied with signs of the onset of your labour. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, when your breast milk seems to be leaking a little more, it indicates your hormones completing their last set of preparations before the baby's arrival.
Is It Ok to Squeeze Breast While Pregnant?
If pregnant women are recommended to collect colostrum, they generally "express" these initial drops of fluid by arousing their breasts by hand instead of using a breast pump. Women collect anything from none to a few drops, a teaspoonful, or more.
Women could induce frequent womb contractions and give birth early by stimulating their breasts and expressing milk during pregnancy. This is because breast stimulation increases the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in milk let-down and womb compression.
As a result, women who require a cesarean delivery are recommended not to express themselves while pregnant.
Can I Breastfeed My Husband During Pregnancy?
It's natural to be concerned about breastfeeding your partner. For instance, if your companion also breastfeeds, you may guess if you'll have quite enough breast milk to nurse your baby, particularly if you struggle with your milk supply. However, the extra arousal at your breast can actually help you produce more breast milk. You can also feed your baby before spending intimate time with your partner to ensure they get complete nutrition and hydration.
Do Leaky Breasts Mean Labour Is Near?
Is breast leaking during pregnancy a sign of labour? It is common for colostrum to begin leaking a few weeks before labour. This, nevertheless, does not necessarily indicate that labour is imminent. Some women develop colostrum as early as 16 weeks pregnant, and their boobs may leak all through the pregnancy, while others may never leak.
Ji Hoon Yu, Min Jeong Kim (2013) Breast diseases during pregnancy and lactation (Obstetrics and Gynaecology Science) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784111/
Karima R, Sajadi-Ernazarova (2021) Breast Nipple Discharge (U.S. National Library of Medicine) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430938/