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Pregnancy is a time of change in a woman’s life. She undergoes many physical, emotional, mental, and social changes, as she and her body prepare to welcome a baby into the world, and to nurture it through its first few months of life. Thus, most physical and bodily changes that a pregnant woman encounters, are to help her and the baby have a comfortable experience, both during and after pregnancy.
All mothers know very well that one of the physical changes that accompany pregnancy is the increase in breast size. They get fuller than usual! But along with that, you might observe your nipples getting dark as well. Some women believe that dark areolas (the skin around your nipples) are an early sign of pregnancy, due because of the connection with an increase in breast size.
Let’s understand why this phenomenon takes place, and how to handle it!
Is Nipple Darkening Normal During Pregnancy?
When any physical change occurs in your body that is unexpected, surprising, or even a bit disliked, it will raise the most questions. Many women are used to how their breasts look on a normal day, and also have their own liking for them (probably because their partners like them, too!). So, any change that occurs might always not be a pleasant one, but it is absolutely normal! Dark areolas during pregnancy is a common change that occurs in most women. Also, apart from getting darker, your nipples could get larger, too.
What Causes Nipple Darkening in Pregnancy?
When thinking about all the changes taking place in your body, your first thought might be the right answer with regard to change as well. Hormones are the be-all and end-all for anything that occurs in your body when you are pregnant! To understand the answer to when do you get dark nipples during pregnancy, it is necessary to know what the hormones affect.
Firstly, your breasts are preparing to nurse your baby when it’s born. The hormones estrogen and progesterone are helping in the creation of the milk duct system, and of course, the nipples are a very important part of that, as your baby must latch onto them to receive the breast milk. Thus, your areolas and nipples are also getting ready for the breastfeeding process.
The pigment responsible for giving us different colours on our body is termed as melanin. This is present in various parts of the body, including our skin, hair, and irises. Due to the effect of the hormones and the fluctuation in their levels, melanin production in the skin begins to increase. This usually is stronger in areas where melanin is already present in higher quantities, such as your areolas and your nipples. At times, the melanin production can go off the charts, resulting in any existing scars or freckles to get dark as well. You might even observe some new dark patches forming on different areas of your body.
Now, none of these is cause for worry, since it is all a result of your body changing itself to accommodate the baby to be born. An evolutionary outlook on areola darkening points to the possibility that it simply makes it easier for the newborn baby to spot the nipple with his weak vision and begin breastfeeding.
Is This Darkening of Nipples Permanent?
The number of physical changes that take place in your body might make you want to keep some and get rid of some. We all know what larger areas of the body we want to stay large! But, many women wonder if their nipples and areolas will stay as large and dark as they are during their pregnancy. In most cases, your breasts and nipples will return as close as possible to their earlier state, following a few months of your delivery. However, some women might have those nipples as dark as they are for life. The experience is not the same for all women, and it can depend on each woman’s natural hormone levels.
Tips to Deal with Dark Nipples and Areolas During Pregnancy
1. Avoid the sun.
The darkening of nipples and areolas, along with other parts of your body, is primarily a result of over-pigmentation of melanin. Therefore, it is necessary that the melanin does not receive any more stimulation, in order to stop the darkening. This means taking care of your skin when you step out into the sun. You might be a fan of skinny dipping or sunbathing in the nude, but it is important to keep your breasts covered if you don’t want them getting darker. Exposure to sun causes cells to produce even more melanin, to be able to protect the skin from UV radiation. Make use of sunscreen as well, to keep the skin healthy.
2. Use over-the-counter lotions (with caution).
There are certain lotions and topical creams available in the market that take care of the darkened areas, and help reduce the concentration of melanin in those regions. These are made up of different chemicals that react with the skin and its inner layers, in order to carry out the lightening. These might be useful on normal days, but when you’re pregnant, it might not be the best option for you. It is best to get your doctor’s recommendation before using any of these lotions or creams, since the presence of a particular element or chemical could cause harm to your baby, or it could react adversely with your over-sensitive breasts.
3. Take care of your emotional health.
The darkening of areolas is not just a physical response – it is emotional as well! Yes, it is due to the fluctuating levels of hormones, but that fluctuation can also be a result of your emotional health. If you have been taking undue stress about your pregnancy, or are being exposed to environments that build on your stress (such as workload at the office or a pressure-filled environment at home), the darkening can get worse. The key to your health, your baby’s health and your skin’s colour are all the same – enjoying your pregnancy! Revel in the fact that a life is growing inside your body, and you get to be its mother. Complement your pregnancy with a balanced and nutritious diet, and treat yourself to your cravings now and then! When your mood is right, your nipple colour will be right as well.
Darkened areolas and dark patches on nipples during pregnancy are usually harmless. It is mostly a matter of mindset that causes most women to look at their darkened areolas as something unpleasant that affects their body image and self-worth. Learning to accept the natural changes to your body is how you can believe in the fact that a dark nipple does not change who you essentially are. You will still be loved as a mother, and will always be beautiful, no matter what!