While pregnancy brings changes to your whole body, inside and out, your breasts are among the first to transform. They become larger and are often sore or tender in the beginning, and these symptoms may be your first clue that a baby is on the way. But while some pregnancy changes are well known and expected, others send you to Google with questions like, why are my breasts veiny during pregnancy?
Romper spoke with Dr. Kurt Martinuzzi, Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, about why your breasts in particular develop a lot of these new veins during pregnancy. Turns out, it's very normal and a lot about volume.
To illustrate the increase in blood volume that accompanies a pregnancy, Martinuzzi points to a 900-milliliter drink from a fast food restaurant. By the time you deliver your baby, you'll have even more extra blood in your body than that large cup can hold — about 1,250 milliliters total according to Martinuzzi, who also notes that this is 40 to 50 percent more blood volume than your body contained before you got pregnant. As you can imagine, your body works hard to manage all this extra blood and transport it to the fetus. That's why you'll notice more prominent veins all over your body during pregnancy. "Your heart rate and the amount of blood the heart pumps increases in pregnancy, so each minute there is extra [blood] volume going through the veins," he says.
All this extra blood provides many benefits to the mother and her child. Martinuzzi explains that "the extra blood helps support the growing baby and provides nutrients to the placenta as well. The uterus puts pressure on the large arteries and veins in the abdomen and the extra volume helps keep blood pressure up. During delivery, all women lose some blood, so it's great that they have a full tank when they are near the time of delivery."
In addition to extra blood production, your breasts are getting ready to make milk. "During the first trimester, the breasts start to get larger and delicate veins become visible just beneath the skin. There are about 20 lobules in each breast that are preparing for milk production, which starts shortly after birth," says Martinuzzi.
Although you now understand how useful these extra veins are, you may still not like the way they look on your breasts and the rest of your body. Romper asks Martinuzzi when you can expect the veins on your breasts to disappear. "Blood volume returns to normal by the 6-week postpartum visit. Breast changes persist the entire year that most women breastfeed, but milk production is unrelated to pre-pregnancy breast size." So you should notice fewer veins on your body by the time your baby turns 6 weeks old, but breastfeeding will extend the visibility of veins on your breasts, as well as other changes.
Moms who don't breastfeed or who stop breastfeeding at a certain point should notice their breasts returning to some kind of "normal" appearance sooner. Just remember that, as Martinuzzi puts it, "Pregnancy is a miraculous time of rapid body changes. Changes in the appearance of your breasts during pregnancy are normal and healthy." (Even if it does look like some kind of weird road map across your boobs.)