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Sensitive, Sore And Big Nipples In Pregnancy? Here’s The Reason Why

From an ever-growing uterus to swollen feet to increased blood volume, a woman’s body undergoes many changes whilst growing a tiny human. The enlargement of nipples is also one of them. Read on to find out why it happens and why it’s so normal…

Why are my nipples so big?

Nipples grow in size during pregnancy primarily due to – you guessed it – hormonal changes in the body. The main two hormones you have to thank are estrogen and progesterone which both dramatically increase during pregnancy.  

Estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of milk-producing cells in the breasts and cause the milk ducts to expand. As the milk ducts and milk-producing cells expand, the nipples and areolas (the dark area surrounding the nipples) also enlarge and become more sensitive.

I can accept they’re bigger but why are they so sensitive too?

Nipple sensitivity is usually one of the early signs of pregnancy and can be felt as early as the first few weeks after conception. Many women experience soreness or tenderness in their breasts and nipples, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy.

The sensitivity is caused by all the extra hormones which makes more blood to flow to the breasts and nipples. The nipples may become more prominent, larger, and darker in colour. They can also become more sensitive to touch, clothing friction, or even changes in temperature.

Does everyone get sensitive nipples when pregnant?

The symptom of nipple sensitivity really varies amongst pregnant women. Some women report just mild discomfort, while others have said that just having a shower results in extremely painful nipples. The good news is that nipple sensitivity usually subsides after the first trimester as the body adjusts to the hormonal changes.

What can I do to help ease nipple soreness?

Here are some tried and tested tips to help ease sore and sensitive nips:

  • Wear comfortable clothing: Wearing loose-fitting clothing and bras made of soft, breathable fabric can help reduce friction and irritation on your nipples.
  • Get a proper bra fitting: Breasts change so much during pregnancy and after birth too. So it’s important that your bras are working for you and not against you. Anything too restrictive or tight is going to make sensitive nipples more sensitive and, quite frankly, who needs that? A bra fitting will ensure you have the right shape, size and material to take you through each trimester.
  • Use nipple cream or lanolin: Applying a nipple cream or lanolin to your nipples can help soothe and moisturise them. We are big fans of this cream – and it doubles as a lip balm too – win!
  • Avoid using soap on your nipples: Soap can be harsh and drying on your nipples. Instead, just use warm water.
  • Apply warm or cold compresses: A warm compress can help relieve pain and discomfort, while a cold compress can reduce swelling and inflammation. Experiment with both to see what works best for you.
  • Take pain relief medication: If the pain is severe, you can take pain relief medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Always check with your midwife or GP first though before taking any medication during pregnancy.

Will breastfeeding make my nipples bigger?

Breastfeeding can cause all sorts of changes to your nipples, from the size to the shape to the overall appearance. A baby’s regular sucking motion during breastfeeding can cause the nipple to become longer and stretchier, which can lead to temporary nipple enlargement. However, this enlargement isn’t usually permanent and most women find that their nipples return to their pre-breastfeeding size and shape once baby is no longer breastfed.

When should I seek help?

While nipple sensitivity is a very common side-effect of pregnancy and breastfeeding, there are some situations where it may be necessary to seek a bit more advice. Here are a few instances when you should consider reaching out to your midwife or GP:

  1. Severe or Persistent Pain: If you are experiencing intense or constant pain in your nipples that does not improve with self-care measures, get in touch with your midwife to see if there is something else that might be causing the pain.
  2. Redness, Swelling, or Discharge: If your nipple sensitivity is accompanied by symptoms such as redness, swelling, discharge (other than colostrum during late pregnancy), or signs of infection, it is essential to seek medical attention. These symptoms could indicate an infection or other medical condition that requires assessment and appropriate treatment.
  3. Changes in Skin Texture or Appearance: If you notice any significant changes in the texture, appearance, or shape of your nipples or areolas, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Changes such as ulceration, skin thickening, or inversion of the nipple may warrant further evaluation to rule out any potential concerns.
  4. Fungal or Bacterial Infections: If you suspect a fungal or bacterial infection, such as thrush or mastitis, due to symptoms like intense itching, pain, or discharge, seek medical advice from your GP, health visitor or midwife. These infections may require specific treatment to resolve the issue effectively.

Sore and sensitive nipples are a common problem during early pregnancy but the sensitivity usually improves as the pregnancy goes on. However, each individual’s experience during pregnancy can vary, and it’s always better to err on the side of caution if you have concerns. If you’re worried, get in touch with your midwife or GP so they can assess you and offer specific advice.


Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.

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