The Surprising Truth About Breast Leakage During Pregnancy

After another long day of pregnancy, you may get undressed and notice some small clear or yellow drops dried inside your bra cups— but don't be alarmed! Those drops are colostrum, the nutrient-rich precursor of breast milk. And while breast leakage may be one of the lesser talked about symptoms, it is relatively common and can be a completely normal part of pregnancy. 

First Trimester

It is highly unlikely that you will be experiencing breast leakage during your first trimester. However, behind the scenes, your body is already hard at work laying the foundation for future milk production.

As soon as pregnancy begins, your body starts to undergo a plethora of amazing changes to nurture and support your growing baby. During the first trimester, one symptom many women notice is sore breasts. This is normal, as your body will be experiencing hormonal shifts that make these changes possible. 

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Second Trimester

As you turn the corner to the second trimester, your breasts will actually begin making colostrum as early as 12 to 18 weeks! It is possible for your body to start leaking small amounts of colostrum as early as the second trimester, but far more likely to happen later in your pregnancy as you near birth.

Third Trimester

By the time you are in your third trimester, your body is putting the finishing touches on your baby's new body. It will begin preparing for labor and the baby that will be arriving! 

Breast leakage is not unusual during the final weeks of pregnancy, especially when paired with nipple stimulation, such as during sex or exercise when your clothing rubs against your breasts. As your expected delivery date draws near (or once it has passed), some individuals will even utilize nipple stimulation to assist in jump-starting labor. Because of this, it is not recommended that you squeeze your nipples for colostrum until at least 37 weeks, when your baby is considered full-term and not at risk for premature delivery. 

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When to Worry 

While breast leakage is common and, in the vast majority of cases, not a concern, there are times when it is worth paying extra attention and communicating with your healthcare provider to ensure there is nothing concerning going on. 

Here are some signs you may want to bring up with your doctor or midwife:

  • Significant leakage: having leakage is not the same as experiencing a constant, regular flow. It is worth mentioning to your healthcare professional if you notice more than a couple of drops at a time. 
  • Thick consistency: Colostrum of a thick consistency, especially if accompanied by an unusual odor, could signify infection and should be addressed. 
  • Pink or red discharge: Blood present in leakage could also be a sign of infection. Have your doctor or midwife check to be safe. 

If you are uncomfortable or concerned about leakage showing through your shirt, you can wear some breast pads inside your bra to absorb any extra liquid. Otherwise, take heart that this symptom is completely normal and a good sign that your body is doing everything it can to prepare for the big day. On the other hand, if you don't experience breast leakage, that is completely normal, too, and it doesn't mean your breasts aren't going to produce milk. Our bodies are amazing, and milk production is just one of the many wonderful things they can do!

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