Health Conditions

Breast development, or the growth of a girl’s breasts, is often the first sign of puberty for females.

It can be a time of excitement as well as anxiety, as girls get used to their changing body.

Patients can be seen by Texas Children’s experts in Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

Causes & Risk Factors

Breast development is caused by hormones released by the ovaries at puberty. These hormones cause fat to accumulate, causing your breasts to enlarge.

What happens during breast development?

The first sign of breast development is slight swelling under the nipple, a stage of development called breast buds.

As your breasts first start to grow, they can be very tender and sore. They may also itch as your skin gets stretched. Buying a first bra can help protect new breast growth and minimize pain. If the breasts grow rapidly, stretch marks may occur in the skin. These will fade over time.

The breasts will continue to grow as the girl’s body fat increases during puberty. They become rounder and fuller. The areola (the area around the nipple) may get darker and larger and the nipple may become erect, or stick out.

It’s common for one breast to develop faster than the other. Over time it should even out, however many adult women find their breasts differ very slightly in size. This is completely normal.

When does breast development begin and end?

In general, breast development begins between the ages of 8 and 13.

A girl’s breasts are typically fully developed by age 17 or 18, however in some cases they can continue to grow into her early twenties.

How big will my breasts get?

Your breast size is primarily determined by heredity.

Because breasts contain fat cells, a girl’s breasts size will increase with weight gain.

Why do my breasts change during my period?

Changes in hormones during your monthly period can cause changes in your breasts.

These monthly changes may include swelling, pain, tenderness and in some cases changes in breast texture, with the breasts feeling more lumpy.

How breasts develop during puberty

1. What age do breasts fully develop?
2. How do breast start to develop?
3. Are my breasts normal?
4. Can I change the way my breasts develop?
5. Further support

1. What age do breasts fully develop?

Breasts usually start to develop around the age of 9 to 11, but it’s normal for them to start earlier or later.

If a girl’s breasts start to develop at a younger age, this doesn’t mean she’ll have bigger breasts than someone who starts to develop later. The rate at which breasts grow is different for everyone.

2. How do breasts start to develop?

When breasts start to develop, a small bump called a breast bud grows under the nipple and areola (the darker area of skin around the nipple).

The breasts get bigger and rounder as the fatty tissue and milk-producing glands inside the breasts continue to grow. The areola also gets bigger and darker and the nipples may stick out.

By the age of 17, a girl’s breasts will usually be fully developed, although this may take a bit longer.

You’ll probably notice that you and your friends grow in different ways. One girl’s breasts may start to develop first, but her friend may get her period earlier. Bodies don’t develop in any set order and everyone’s different.

Aching, itching or tender breasts

As the breast buds grow, you may notice tingling, aching or itching in your chest, and your nipples may swell or become tender. This is all normal.

After your periods begin, the changing hormones may make the breasts feel tender, painful or sore a week or so just before your period starts.

3. Are my breasts normal?

It’s common to worry about whether your breasts are normal. But normal breasts come in different sizes and shapes and everyone’s breasts are different. Find out more about normal breasts and nipples.

4. Can I change the way my breasts develop?

There’s nothing you can do to speed up or slow down breast development.

Creams and pills

Adverts for creams and pills often claim that they can make breasts bigger or smaller. Such creams and pills don’t usually make any difference to breast size – even if there’s a slight change in size it’s unlikely to last.


Massaging the breasts won’t affect their size. Massaging too hard might even hurt the breasts or irritate the skin and nipples.


Breasts are mainly made up of fatty tissue rather than muscle, so exercise won’t affect breast development. However, exercise in general will help keep the pectoral muscles behind the breast in shape, as well as help toning the body. It’s important to wear a sports bra that fits you well and supports your breasts during exercise.

Gaining or losing weight

Losing or putting on weight may affect breast size, but doesn’t always.

Sometimes girls put on weight during puberty. This is normal and it’s essential to have some body fat. Because breasts contain fatty tissue, gaining weight may increase the size of the breasts, and losing weight may make the breasts a bit smaller.

Sleeping on your front

Sleeping on your front won’t affect how your breasts develop or make them smaller. If your breasts are feeling sore you might find it more comfortable to sleep on your back or side.

Wearing a bra to sleep in

Whether you sleep with or without a bra is a personal choice, but neither will affect breast development. If you do sleep in a bra, make sure it’s comfortable and not too tight.


Cosmetic breast surgery is the only way to alter breast size – through either a breast enlargement with implants or breast reduction.

Breast enlargement or reduction surgery is available only to people over the age of 18, and may not be funded by the NHS. Surgery has potential risks and side effects – for example scar tissue and infection, reduced sensitivity and not being able to breastfeed.

5. Further support

Changes to your body during puberty can make you feel anxious or like you don’t have control. If you’re finding it difficult to cope, talk to your GP or you can call our Helpline and talk to one of our experts on 0808 800 6000.

Key Facts

  • Breasts come in many shapes and sizes.
  • Although most lumps or changes in your breast(s) are normal when you’re a teen, see your health care provider if you notice any new changes or lump(s).
  • A well-fitting bra helps prevent breast discomfort, back pain, and shoulder pain.

Women’s breasts come in many shapes and sizes. There is no perfect shape or size for breasts. Normal breasts can be large or small, smooth or lumpy, and light or dark.

Your breasts start growing when you begin puberty. During puberty the hormone levels in your body change, which causes your breasts to develop and your periods to start. Many factors affect when you are going to begin puberty and develop breasts, including heredity (the way certain characteristics are passed down from generation to generation), weight, exercise, nutrition, stress, and chronic illnesses.

How do breasts develop?

The inside of your breasts is made up of fatty tissue and milk-producing glands, called mammary glands. The dark area of your breast around your nipple is called the areola. As your body starts to develop, a small lump grows under the areola and nipple. This lump is called the breast bud. As the buds get larger and rounder, the breasts grow.

As your breasts develop, the areolae get bigger and darker. Areolae and nipples can range in color from light pink to purplish to light gray depending on your skin color.

When will I get breasts?

Your breasts start growing when you begin puberty and the hormone levels in your body change, causing your breasts to develop and your menstrual periods to start. Heredity (the way certain features are passed down from generation to generation), nutrition, weight, exercise, and chronic illness determine when you are going to begin puberty and develop breasts. Most girls’ breasts begin growing when they are about 9 or 10 years old, but some girls may start developing breasts earlier or later than this age.

How long will it take to get breasts?

It takes different people different amounts of time to develop breasts, usually between 3 and 5 years. The age when you start to develop does not have an effect on the final size of your breasts. For example, if you develop earlier than most girls, this doesn’t mean that you will have bigger breasts than most girls.

Does everyone develop breasts at the same time?

No. It’s normal for some girls to start to develop breasts when they’re 8 or 9 years old, while others don’t start until they’re 11 or 12. Every girl has her own “clock” that her body follows. For example, girls who do gymnastics, dance, track, or another very active sport may go through puberty at a later age. Even if your development is normal, it can be hard if you seem to be either the first or the last one among your classmates or friends to develop breasts. Talk to a parent or an adult that you trust and tell him/her how you are feeling. If you develop early, remember that other girls will soon catch up.

It’s important to talk with your health care provider if you haven’t started any breast development by the time you’re 13 years old.

Is there anything I can do to increase the size of my breasts?

Heredity is the most important factor in determining breast shape and size. No creams, special exercises, or clothing will permanently change your breast size. Your breasts may change with weight loss or gain or after a pregnancy, but for the most part, the size of your breasts stays the same once you’ve finished puberty. Also, breast size has no effect on whether a woman will be able to breastfeed her baby.

When and how will my breasts make milk?

Inside a woman’s breasts are tiny pockets called alveoli. After a woman gives birth, her brain’s hormones tell the alveoli to produce milk. When her baby sucks on her nipple, the sucking draws milk from the alveoli through the milk ducts and out small holes in the nipple. When the mother stops breast-feeding her baby, her alveoli slowly stop making milk.

Normal Breast Development

My breasts are uneven. Is this normal?

It’s very common for your breasts to grow at different rates while they’re developing. Usually, they’ll look about the same size by the time they’re done growing. If you have a size difference and it bothers you, try a foam or gel insert that fits into your bra or bathing suit. These inserts are sold at specialty bra and lingerie shops and in department stores.

Most women have breasts that are not exactly the same size. However, sometimes breasts can be noticeably uneven (different by more than a cup size) after you have started your periods and your breast development has finished (3-5 years from when they started developing). If you are unhappy about the difference in your breasts’ sizes, you can talk with your primary care provider about using gel inserts and about the benefits and risks of corrective surgery.

My breasts are very large, and they make my back hurt because they’re so heavy. It’s also hard to exercise, because I get sore breasts. What can I do?

Some girls feel that their breasts are too large. Often, they’re not worried about how they look, but they’re bothered by breast pain, back pain, shoulder pain, dents in the shoulders from bra straps, rashes, skin problems under the breasts, or difficulties with exercising. Girls can also feel badly or self-conscious if they are teased about their large breasts.

If your breasts are very large, there are some options that can help.

  • First, find a well-fitting bra to minimize and support your breasts. Look for a bra that has wide shoulder straps and supportive cups. If you need help with measuring for a bra, see a trained salesperson working at a department store or a lingerie store for help.
  • If you are overweight, working to reach a healthy weight may also help.
  • The last option is to have breast reduction surgery. This type of surgery, which is done by a plastic surgeon, removes some of the extra breast tissue to decrease pain. It’s a serious decision and operation. Talk to your primary care provider to get more information.

Is it normal to have hair around my nipples?

Some girls have hair around their nipples. This is completely normal. If the hair bothers you, it’s best to cut it with small scissors. Plucking or shaving the hair can cause infection.

My nipples point inward instead of out. Is this normal?

If your nipples point inward instead of out, you have “inverted nipples.” Between 10%-20% of all girls have an inverted nipple on at least one breast. This is normal and will not affect your health in any way. If you have inverted nipples, it’s important to keep them clean to avoid getting an infection in the folds of skin around your nipple.

If your nipples used to point out but have suddenly turned in, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider.

What are stretch marks? Are they normal?

Stretch marks are red or purplish spoke-like lines that appear on the skin during times of rapid physical growth (such as puberty or pregnancy). During puberty, stretch marks on the breasts are very common and completely normal. Other common places for stretch marks are on the hips and thighs. Over time, the stretch marks will fade to match your normal skin color.

If I have a rash around the nipple area on my breasts, does that mean that my breasts are infected?

Usually, yes. A rash can be a sign of an infection, especially if one breast is swollen and tender, if there’s discharge, or if you have a fever. You can also get a rash on the skin under your breasts, which is usually either a heat rash or a yeast infection. If any of these signs of infection are present, call your primary care provider. Sometimes a hair root around your nipple area can become infected. When this happens, one or more tiny red bumps appear. The tiny red bumps are called folliculitis.

Is breast pain or tenderness normal?

You may feel a tingling or aching in your chest when your breast buds start developing. After you start to get your periods you may notice that your breasts become tender or sore a few days before you get your period each month. Not everyone has soreness. If your breasts are tender, check with your primary care provider. Your HCP may suggest taking over-the-counter pain medicine (such as ibuprofen) to help with the symptoms. Older teens who are bothered by breast pain before periods may benefit from taking low dose oral contraceptive pills. Some, but not all, individuals have found relief after quitting caffeine.

What if I have a discharge coming from my breasts?

Discharge from your breast(s) could mean that your breast(s) are infected, that a breast duct is dilated (widened), or that you have a hormone imbalance. The discharge may be on just one side or from both breasts. When a milky discharge comes from a young woman’s breast when she is not breast feeding, it’s called galactorrhea. This condition can result from taking certain medications such as birth control pills or medicine for mood disorders, from being pregnant or recently being pregnant, from low thyroid hormone levels, or rarely from a benign (not cancerous) pituitary tumor. Your body may be making extra amounts of prolactin, which can cause galactorrhea. A brown or bloody discharge may come from dilated breast ducts or small polyps in the breast ducts or glands beneath the areola (Montgomery glands). There may also be a blue area under the nipple. A small amount of yellow discharge sometimes occurs around the time a girl starts her period. You should call your primary care provider if you have breast discharge and/or local breast tenderness, pain, redness, or fever.

I have small bumps around my nipple. Is this normal?

These bumps are normal. The medical term for them is “periareolar glands of Montgomery.” They play a role during lactation (during the time when a woman’s body makes breast milk). If these glands become inflamed, red, and/or you notice drainage of clear to brownish fluid, you should make an appointment with your health care provider.

How to reduce breast pain before period? You may treat pain in breast before period with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. These medicines may also help in relieving the menstrual cramps.

Females with moderate to severe breast pain before period should visit their physician who may recommend the best possible treatment. Diuretics may reduce water retention, swelling, and tenderness. But you should use these medicines carefully under the direction of your doctor.

Oral contraceptive pills may relieve your symptoms of swelling and pain in breast before period. You should ask your doctor about these pills if you have severe breast pain before period and you don’t want to conceive in the near future.

If you have severe breast pain before period your physician may prescribe the medicine Danazol that is used in the treatment of endometriosis and fibrotic breast disease. However, this medicine may cause serious side effects; hence, it should only be given in cases where other treatment options don’t work.

How to reduce breast pain before period with lifestyle remedies? You may manage period and breast pain by making certain lifestyle changes. You may wear a sports bra to support your breasts when the symptoms of pain and swelling are the worst. You may also wear the bra during the night so that it can provide extra support to your breasts while sleeping.

Diet may play a vital role in causing breast pain before period. Alcohol, caffeine, and foods containing high amounts of salt and fat may increase premenstrual discomfort in breasts. Eliminating or reducing these foods and beverages from your diet during the week before your menses start may help in managing or preventing the symptoms of pain in breast before period. Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet that contains a large number of whole grains and vegetables.

Certain minerals and vitamins may also help in relieving breast pain before period and other premenstrual symptoms. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin B-6 have all been reported to soothe symptoms. If you take any vitamins or supplements, check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you.

You may also include a variety of foods that are a rich source of these nutrients in your diet. Some of such foods are, corn, olive, canola and safflower oils, peanuts, spinach, hazelnuts, carrots, oat bran, bananas, brown rice, and avocados.

Breast pain a week before period: should you be worried?

The levels of progesterone hormone peak during the week before you get your menses. Progesterone causes swelling of the milk glands resulting in symptoms of breast pain a week before period along with tenderness and swelling of breasts. Hence, having premenstrual breast pain week before period is completely normal and you shouldn’t worry about it.

Breast pain 2 weeks before period: what does it indicate?

Breast pain 2 weeks before period may occur due to hormone fluctuations, which happens around the middle of the menstrual cycle or when you are ovulating. The breast ducts enlarge due to the estrogen hormone. This may result in breast pain 2 weeks before period along with soreness and heaviness of breasts.

Breast pain during period

The breast pain that starts a week or two before a period may persist during your period and taper off gradually after the periods are over.

Tracking breast pain in Clue can help you determine if it is cyclical and related to your menstrual cycle.

Top things to know

  • Breast pain is a common premenstrual symptom, typically occurring in the 5–10 days before the start of your period

  • Cyclical breast pain is a normal part of the menstrual cycle and usually not a cause for concern

  • For relief, try supportive bras, warm or cold compresses, massage, medications, herbs and supplements, diet changes, and/or meditation

How breast pain is related to the menstrual cycle

Cyclical breast pain (also called mastalgia) is a common premenstrual symptom that occurs in a predictable pattern related to the menstrual cycle.

It usually happens during the luteal phase (after ovulation and before the period) and resolves once the period starts. People taking hormones for birth control, fertility treatments, management of abnormal bleeding, or menopausal hormone therapy may also experience breast pain related to the changes in hormone levels in these treatments.

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How to know if your breast pain is cyclical

Cyclical breast pain is typically experienced at a certain time each menstrual cycle, and with certain symptoms:

  • Breast pain experienced 5–10 days leading up to the start of a period, that goes away after the period starts (1)

  • Breasts that feel aching, heavy, and tender, but the pain can also feel sharp or shooting (1)

  • Breasts that feel swollen or lumpy in the days before your period starts (2)

Breast pain can sometimes be severe enough to impact physical activity and sex (2). Some people also report breast pain interfering with school, work, and sleep, though this is less common (2).

Science-backed remedies for breast pain

Even though cycle-related breast pain is common and affects many people, there isn’t much research on how to relieve it. But here are some simple things you can try:

Bras. Wear a well-fitted and supportive bra (3,4). Most people are wearing the wrong bra size. If you’re able to get properly fitted for a bra, this could help decrease breast pain, especially for people with larger breasts. There are also online communities that can help with bra sizing at home. Consider sleeping in a soft bra if breast pain is affecting your sleep (3).

TLC. Use warm compresses or ice packs (whichever feels better) and gentle massage (3).

Medications. For most people, taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe and it’s a reasonable step to try to relieve breast pain, but there is a lack of evidence to determine whether this would work any better than a placebo (5).

Supplements and herbs. Vitex agnus-castus (also known as chaste tree) is an herb that has been found to improve a variety of premenstrual symptoms, including breast swelling and pain (6-8). Some people may benefit from taking evening primrose oil (or its active component gamma-linolenic acid), Vitamin E, or the two together, but the research has provided inconsistent results (3,5,9). Powdered flaxseed may decrease the intensity and duration of cyclical breast pain (6,10). One study showed that Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) may help relieve premenstrual breast pain, but more research is needed (11).

Dietary changes. Research suggests that diets higher in fat may play a role in cyclical breast pain (12). Two studies have shown that decreasing the intake of fat in the diet may improve cyclical breast pain (13,14).

Meditation and relaxation. People with breast pain who practice progressive muscle relaxation daily may have a decrease in pain (15). The use of mindfulness meditation can help improve premenstrual symptoms overall (16).

If these remedies don’t help

See your healthcare provider if the breast pain is severe and does not improve with these steps. They will be able to discuss other options, such as starting or changing prescription medications (9,17).

Things that don’t appear to help

Some interventions have proved to be ineffective or inconclusive. Vitamins B1 and B6 have been studied, but don’t appear to be effective in reducing breast pain (3). Decreasing caffeine has been studied, but the evidence is inconclusive (3). The use of diuretics has also not been shown to work (3).

Learn about your body and women’s health

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What’s the biological reason for cyclical breast pain?

The cause of cyclical breast pain is likely hormonal due to its pattern in relation to the menstrual cycle, but the exact hormone (or hormones) involved is not known (3). Some theories include excess estrogen or prolactin, or deficient progesterone during the luteal phase, but studies have had conflicting results (3). Still, cyclical breast pain is a common experience after ovulation (18).

Other theories about the cause of cyclical breast pain include fluid retention and lipid (fat) metabolism (3). Swollen milk ducts have also been found in people experiencing both cyclical and non-cyclical breast pain (19).

A note from the science team at Clue

When you track in Clue, you’re helping scientists to understand more about breast pain.

Laura Symul, a scientist at Stanford, is currently studying how breast pain is reported by Clue users from different demographic backgrounds, to see if the data reveal patterns that have not been described in scientific research yet.

Read more about how tracking in Clue advances science here.

Breast pain is common and normal

While this likely won’t fix the discomfort you may be feeling, it sometimes is reassuring to know that many other people are dealing with the same thing, and that it is part of your body’s normal pattern of changes over the cycle.

Cyclical breast changes that include pain, tenderness, and swelling affect about 7 out of 10 premenopausal people (2,20). Many people worry that breast pain means they have breast cancer, but breast pain alone—particularly when it is cyclical—is not a common symptom of cancer.

If breast pain is worrying you, going to see a healthcare provider for an exam and more information may help relieve the anxiety and maybe even some of the breast pain (21).

What else should I know about breast pain?

Pain that is not cyclical (meaning that it’s not related to the menstrual cycle or doesn’t go away) could be due to something in the breast or rib cage like inflammation, infection, or injury, or could be a sign of cancer (17). Non-cyclical breast pain that is persistently in one spot—especially if there is also a breast lump—should be evaluated by a healthcare provider (17).

Breast pain can also be a sign of early pregnancy. If it’s possible that you’re pregnant, your breasts may be tender and your period could be late. Taking a pregnancy test could be a good idea.

to track breast pain and your cycle so that you can better plan for and manage your symptoms.

Sore boobs and 11 other signs of pregnancy

Taking a pregnancy test is the sure-fire way to tell whether you’re pregnant, but what happens if you want to find out if you have a bun in the oven before the pregnancy test is able to work?

Well, it’s hard. A woman’s body doesn’t necessarily ring any bells or blow any whistles to let her know conception, implantation and pregnancy has taken place. Different women display different early symptoms of pregnancy – and some may show absolutely none.

Women won’t notice pregnancy symptoms until the fertilised egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus, which occurs between seven to 10 days after ovulation. The embryo needs to produce a hormone known as HCG – Human Chorionic Gonadotropin –which is the marker the pregnancy test measures to accurately proclaim a woman is pregnant.

American website BabyMed says a urine pregnancy test is not expected to be positive until three to four days after implantation (at the very earliest), which is about 10 days after ovulation and fertilization and four days before the next period is due. About 51 percent of pregnant women have a positive pregnancy test two days before their next expected period, says the website.

The longer you wait to test after ovulation, the more accurate the pregnancy test will be, and the darker the potential positive test line may be. Pregnancy testing should ideally be done from the day your period would have been due.

A missed period will probably be your first physical sign of pregnancy. That’s because instead of shedding its lining, the uterus is building up its lining to prepare for the implantation of the fertilized egg. Soon after your first missed period, you may also notice that your breasts feel sore and that you’re more tired than usual.

You may experience signs or symptoms of pregnancy within a week of conception. However, it is possible you may not experience any symptoms for a few weeks. It’s also important to understand that the signs and symptoms of pregnancy may be related to something other than pregnancy, too!

Early sign of pregnancy: missed period

Not all women experience a missed period in those early weeks after conception – this is not only confusing, but can lead to miscalculated due dates and worry that the pregnancy may not continue. A few experience what is called an ‘implantation bleed’ instead of a normal period, even though they have conceived a baby.

This is where a light bleed occurs as the growing baby burrows into the lining of their mother’s uterus, usually about 12 days after the egg has been fertilised, or ‘conceived’ in the fallopian tube. An implantation bleed will typically occur just before, or around the time, the next period would have been due. However, it is usually not as heavy, or as long as a normal period.

  • Read more about missed periods

Early sign of pregnancy: extra blood flow and temperature changes

The amount of blood in a pregnant woman’s body increases by 40 to 45 percent during pregnancy, creating cardiovascular changes and increasing blood flow to various organs of the body. This extra blood flow boosts body metabolism by about 20 percent, creating more body heat and making pregnant women less likely to feel the cold.

A pregnant woman’s core body temperature will often rise to about 37.8°C, when it is normally 37°C. The extra blood not only helps the body meet the metabolic needs of a growing foetus but also flows to other organs like the kidneys. The extra blood flow to the woman’s skin can also contribute to nose bleeds and bleeding gums.

  • Read more about temperature and blood flow changes

Early sign of pregnancy: breast changes and sore boobs

Some women experience breast changes after conception as a ‘pre-menstrual’ sign, and therefore may sense changes even before they know they are pregnant. Most will not notice any changes until after six weeks of pregnancy, when blood flow changes make the breasts extra sensitive.

  • Read more about breast changes

Early sign of pregnancy: needing to wee

The extra blood flow going through a pregnant woman’s body can make her kidneys produce up to 25 percent more urine soon after conception. This increased urine production peaks by about nine to 16 weeks of the pregnancy, then settles down.

  • Read more about needing to wee

Early sign of pregnancy: cramping and bloat

Many women worry when they feel mild cramping, tugging and pulling in the early weeks after conception. If there is no bleeding associated with the cramping, then it is probably normal. If you have strong or severe cramping or pain, you should contact your local doctor or pregnancy caregiver for guidance and advice.

  • Read more about cramping and bloat

Early sign of pregnancy: feeling sick

Morning sickness plagues up to 85 percent of all pregnant women. Mainly a feature of early pregnancy, morning sickness usually begins around the fourth week of pregnancy and continues until around 12 weeks when it begins to resolve itself. For an unlucky minority, morning sickness can continue well into the second trimester and in rare circumstances, some pregnant women suffer morning sickness for the entire duration of their pregnancy.

  • Read more about morning sickness

Early sign of pregnancy: strange tastes and increased saliva

Many women notice they produce more saliva. Some women find excessive salivation during pregnancy makes morning sickness and nausea more unpleasant. The medical term for excess saliva is ‘ptyalism’ (pronounced ‘tie-al-ism’). Ptyalism can happen on its own but it is usually associated with nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) during early pregnancy. Dysgeusia is the medical term for a change in your sense of taste, which in pregnancy can be a sour or metallic taste that persists even when you’re not eating.

  • Read more about increased saliva

11 facts about pregnancy in Australia90133

11 facts about pregnancy in Australia

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Early sign of pregnancy: dizziness and fainting

Fainting during early and middle pregnancy can be caused by a woman’s blood vessels naturally relaxing and dilating under the influence of the hormone progesterone, lowering her blood pressure. Fainting is not usually a problem, just a little embarrassing if you do it in public! During the first trimester, dizziness is thought to be related to the increased blood supply and changes in the circulatory system.

  • Read more about dizziness

Early sign of pregnancy: tiredness

Tiredness. It is normal for a woman to feel tired at different stages of her pregnancy – and entire life. Some newly pregnant women become extremely fatigued during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is not unusual to have 10 or 12 hours sleep, only to get up and still feel lethargic and tired. As your body adjusts to the enormous metabolic changes that are necessary to grow your baby, the tiredness and fatigue usually subside (around 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy), bringing renewed energy and vigour.

  • Read more about tiredness

Early sign of pregnancy: headaches

Gruelling headaches tend to happen in the early days of pregnancy thanks to the abundance of hormonal changes in the weeks after conception. Headaches during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy may be caused by hormonal changes, but may also be due to the normal increase in blood volume circulating in the woman’s system during pregnancy.

  • Read more about headaches

Early sign of pregnancy: constipation and wind

Stomach bloating or inability to go to the toilet is a common first trimester pregnancy symptom, which tends to reappear again in the last trimester.

  • Read more about constipation

Early sign of pregnancy: changes to libido

Sex and libido – the very cause of conception – undergoes either positive or negative changes in the early weeks after conception. For some women, sex becomes a celebration of their pregnancy and brings with it a sense of freedom, because contraception is no longer a concern. Others are turned right off!

  • Read more about changes to libido

Normal Breast Development and Changes

What is normal breast development?

Breast development is a vital part of a woman’s reproduction. Breast development happens in certain stages during a woman’s life: first before birth, again at puberty, and later during the childbearing years. Changes also happen to the breasts during the menstrual cycle and when a woman reaches menopause.

When does breast development begin?

Breasts begin to form while the unborn baby is still growing in the mother’s uterus. This starts with a thickening in the chest area called the mammary ridge or milk line. By the time a baby girl is born, nipples and the beginnings of the milk-duct system have formed.

Breast changes continue to happen over a woman’s life. The first thing to develop are lobes, or small subdivisions of breast tissue. Mammary glands develop next and consist of 15 to 24 lobes. Mammary glands are influenced by hormones activated in puberty. Shrinkage (involution) of the milk ducts is the final major change that happens in the breast tissue. The mammary glands slowly start to shrink. This often starts around age 35.

What breast changes happen at puberty?

As a girl approaches her teen years, the first visible signs of breast development begin. When the ovaries start to produce and release (secrete) estrogen, fat in the connective tissue starts to collect. This causes the breasts to enlarge. The duct system also starts to grow. Often these breast changes happen at the same that pubic hair and armpit hair appear.

Once ovulation and menstruation begin, the maturing of the breasts begins with the formation of secretory glands at the end of the milk ducts. The breasts and duct system continue to grow and mature, with the development of many glands and lobules. The rate at which breasts grow is different for each young woman.

Female breast developmental stages

Stage 1

Preteen. Only the tip of the nipple is raised.

Stage 2

Buds appear, and breast and nipple are raised. The dark area of skin around the nipple (the areola) gets larger.

Stage 3

Breasts are slightly larger, with glandular breast tissue present.

Stage 4

The areola and nipple become raised and form a second mound above the rest of the breast.

Stage 5

Mature adult breast. The breast becomes rounded and only the nipple is raised.

What cyclical changes happen to the breasts during the menstrual cycle?

Each month, women go through changes in the hormones that make up the normal menstrual cycle. The hormone estrogen is produced by the ovaries in the first half of the menstrual cycle. It stimulates the growth of milk ducts in the breasts. The increasing level of estrogen leads to ovulation halfway through the cycle. Next, the hormone progesterone takes over in the second half of the cycle. It stimulates the formation of the milk glands. These hormones are believed to be responsible for the cyclical changes that many women feel in their breasts just before menstruation. These include swelling, pain, and soreness.

During menstruation, many women also have changes in breast texture. Their breasts may feel very lumpy. This is because the glands in the breast are enlarging to get ready for a possible pregnancy. If pregnancy does not happen, the breasts go back to normal size. Once menstruation starts, the cycle begins again.

What happens to the breasts during pregnancy and milk production?

Many healthcare providers believe the breasts are not fully mature until a woman has given birth and made milk. Breast changes are one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. This is a result of the hormone progesterone. In addition, the dark areas of skin around the nipples (the areolas) begin to swell. This is followed by the rapid swelling of the breasts themselves. Most pregnant women feel soreness down the sides of the breasts, and nipple tingling or soreness. This is because of the growth of the milk duct system and the formation of many more lobules.

By the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, the breasts are fully capable of producing milk. As in puberty, estrogen controls the growth of the ducts, and progesterone controls the growth of the glandular buds. Many other hormones also play vital roles in milk production. These include follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin, oxytocin, and human placental lactogen (HPL).

Other physical changes happen as well. These include the blood vessels in the breast becoming more visible and the areola getting larger and darker. All of these changes are in preparation for breastfeeding the baby after birth.

What happens to the breasts at menopause?

By the time a woman reaches her late 40s and early 50s, perimenopause is starting or is well underway. At this time, the levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to change. Estrogen levels dramatically decrease. This leads to many of the symptoms commonly linked to menopause. Without estrogen, the breast’s connective tissue becomes dehydrated and is no longer elastic. The breast tissue, which was prepared to make milk, shrinks and loses shape. This leads to the “saggy” breasts associated with women of this age.

Women who are taking hormone therapy may have some of the premenstrual breast symptoms that they had while they were still menstruating, such as soreness and swelling. But if a woman’s breasts were saggy before menopause, this will not change with hormone therapy.

Your breasts can communicate a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Use these signs to learn what your breasts are telling you — and see your medical care provider if you suspect something is up.

(A quick note for hypochondriacs who are concerned about breast cancer: Generally speaking, symmetry is good and change that exceeds that of your normal cycle could be cause for concern.)

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1. It could mean you’re gaining weight. After puberty, your breasts grow when the rest of you gets bigger. Weight gain could happen for any number of reasons: You could be eating more, moving less, skimping on sleep, or super-stressed. While a couple pounds here and there are usually NBD, an excessive increase in body fat can up your risk of developing various cancers, according to The National Cancer Institute.

2. It could mean you’re getting your period, you just started a new birth control, or you’re pregnant. Hormonal changes can trigger a breast tissue growth spurt, explains Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., an ob-gyn and clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine. As long as both breasts are doing the same thing, it’s probably no reason for concern.

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3. It could mean you’re losing weight. Because your breasts are made up of fatty tissues, breast bulk can be the first thing to go when your weight loss efforts start to work. If you’re effortlessly shedding pounds and cup sizes, and you can’t figure out why, see a health care pro to rule out the scary stuff, like an overactive thyroid or a chronic disease.

4. It could mean your cycle is starting. What goes up (your cup size) must come down — so if your breasts swell leading up to the first day of your period, they’ll shrink once your period starts and your hormones relax.

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5. It’s probably NBD. No one’s breasts are perfectly symmetrical — and different-shaped breasts are fine and normal, Dr. Minkin says.

6. Or, it could be a sign of breast cancer. When one breast changes shape significantly, it could signal an abnormality linked to breast cancer, says Dr. Minkin. Don’t freak — just see your doctor right away for a formal exam.

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7. You might be allergic to something — like the underwire in your bra, which may be made of nickel, which is a common irritant. Or it could be soap residue or an itchy sweater. Many women have a breast cancer phobia and freak at the slightest sign of irritation. “Just remember that hydrocortisone cream doesn’t cure breast cancer,” says Dr. Minkin. Treat your rash with a topical hydrocortisone cream. If it goes away within a few days, you’re good to go. (Otherwise, you know what to do: See your doctor.)

8. It could mean you have inframammary intertrigo. It’s a fancy way of saying the crease between the bottom of your breast and the skin beneath it is rubbing and causing inflammation — a common occurrence in the summer. An antibiotic or steroid cream, OTC cortisone, or Neosporin can reduce inflammation while the right-size bra can keep your breasts off your chest to separate the skin in the first place.

9. It might mean you need to wash your bra. Wearing and re-wearing the same bra or sports bra may seem like a good way to extend its life. But IRL, it can foster bacterial and fungal infections — especially if you tend to sweat beneath your breasts.

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10. It could mean you’ve gained and lost weight. Any time your weight yo-yos, the breasts expand and contract, which can result in stretch marks on the breasts, says Barry Weintraub, M.D., a New York City-based cosmetic plastic surgeon and a national spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgery. This is true particularly after pregnancy and in women who are born with skin that’s not so stretchy.

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11. It’s probably NBD. “This is not related to breast cancer,” Dr. Weintraub says. “Different women just have different pigmentation patterns.”

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12. It’s probably NBD. Dr. Minkin chalks this up to normal variation.

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13. It’s probably NBD. The breast is designed for milk production, and those bumps are just the ends of milk ducts. They sometimes puff out a bit, so it’s normal to have small, pimple-like bumps on your areolas.

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14. You could have a benign cyst or cancerous tumor. Calmly call your health care provider to schedule a screening as soon as you can. She can tell you whether you’re feeling normal breast tissue or have cause for concern.

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15. It could mean you’ve been exposed to testosterone cream or gel. Some guys use the stuff to boost sex drive — but rubbing up against said guy can expose you to the hormone and its side effects, Dr. Minkin explains. This could include hair growth in random places.

16. You could have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you find yourself suddenly sprouting chest hair, your testosterone levels might be elevated due to PCOS, a condition where your ovaries or adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of male hormones, resulting in cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on the ovaries, and other symptoms such as acne and irregular periods. Because PCOS can result in infertility if left untreated, see your doctor for a formal diagnosis if these symptoms sound familiar.

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17. It might mean you left shampoo or soap residue on your breast. Just rinse off with water and apply hydrocortisone cream for some sweet relief.

18. Or you’re allergic to your clothing. A new bra can contain dye or other compounds that elicit a reaction — and the same goes for a wooly sweater. Apply hydrocortisone cream and change clothes or bras to see if the itch goes away.

19. Or you’re getting your period. Sometimes changes in your hormones (the ultimate scapegoat!) can trigger itchiness leading up to your period.

20. Or you could have Paget disease. It’s also known as nipple carcinoma, a very rare form of breast cancer. Look for itchiness around the nipple and areola; flaky, crusty skin; a flattened nipple; and yellow or bloody discharge — and see your health care provider ASAP if any of these symptoms sound familiar.

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21. It might mean you’re getting your period. It’s pretty common to experience changes in your breasts — from the texture to sensitivity — in the days leading up to your period. And it’s normal to wonder whether these changes signal something more serious (like a cancerous tumor)

To find out whether your symptoms are related to your cycle or are cause for concern, Dr. Minkin recommends taking a tried-and-true combination of vitamins on days when you’re uncomfortable: 200 milligrams of vitamin B6, 300 milligrams of vitamin E, and two 500-milligram capsules of evening primrose oil. Then wait one menstrual cycle. If the soreness and lumpiness doesn’t go away, see your doctor, who can confirm whether you’re feeling normal breast tissue or something off. (Most of the time, tumors don’t cause pain. So breast pain can actually be a good sign — even if it only occurs in one breast as opposed to both.)

22. It might mean you’re OD-ing on caffeine. Caffeine can sometimes aggravate breast soreness — so cutting back on coffee and sodas (in addition to taking the supplements listed above) can help bring your breasts back to baseline.

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23. It could mean you’re feeling stimulated. The breasts are designed for milk-making, so a little leakage that resembles milk just means they’re just doing their thing. It can happen in response to physical stimulation — and you don’t have to be pregnant or nursing to experience it, Dr. Minkin explains. If the odd drop bothers you, there are some medications that can help.

24. It might be because you’re taking an antidepressant or antipsychotic. Some prescription meds elevate your levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production. The vast majority of the time, this isn’t dangerous — it’s just a pesky side effect.

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25. You could have a noncancerous tumor. Also known as a papilloma (an overgrowth of milk ducts), it warrants a visit to your health care provider for investigation — especially if you notice this symptom in only one breast, which isn’t a great sign, Dr. Weintraub says.

Alexa Fishman

26. It might mean you’re aroused. Nipple firmness rarely has anything to do with breast tissue abnormality unless there’s some sort of asymmetry, Dr. Weintraub says. It’s just a contraction of the small muscles around the nipple and is associated with stimulation before or after sex.

27. It might mean you’re cold. When sex is the last thing on your mind and your headlights are on, the simplest explanation is that the heat is off.

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28. There could be breast cancer behind your nipple. Any kind of dimpling in the nipple or breast can indicate a cancer is growing back there. So if your first impulse is to see a doctor ASAP, you’re right on the money.

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29. You don’t really have dense breasts. Most women who think they have this condition are sorely mistaken: The lumpy tenderness you feel during certain weeks of your cycle is very different from having “dense breasts,” a clinical diagnosis that can only be detected through a mammogram.

30. You might have a greater risk of undetected breast cancer. But this is pretty controversial: Some doctors say it’s more difficult to detect tumors through dense breast tissue — it’s why many prescribe ultrasounds to double-check. The problem is that it’s all too easy to get a false positive cancer diagnosis via ultrasound — which can trigger unhealthy amounts of anxiety all for naught.

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31. You may be more susceptible to skin cancer. Pale, translucent breasts are a predictor of fair skin, which makes you especially susceptible to sunburn. But as long as you don’t worship the sun and apply sunscreen liberally to exposed skin, you shouldn’t have any major problems.

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32. You could have breast cancer. If your formerly smooth breast starts to feel rough (like an orange peel), with a hardened areola and nipple, cancer could be present, and you should definitely get it checked out, Dr. Weintraub says.

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33. You could have a benign cyst. If it feels round and smooth, and it wiggles, it’s probably a benign, fluid-filled cyst. (Not a tumor.) Take the vitamin combo suggested in no. 21 and wait one cycle to see if it goes away. If it persists, your doctor can do an ultrasound to check out things.

34. It could be breast cancer. While the vast majority of breast pains and masses are a normal result of fluctuating hormones, “whenever you notice a breast mass, the question is always: Is this cancer or could it turn into cancer?” Dr. Minkin says. It’s a question your health care provider is best suited to answer — so make an appointment to get checked out if you’re concerned.

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Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.

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