Why Am I Lactating While Pregnant?

The process of breast milk production is known as lactation. During pregnancy, a number of changes occur as hormones tweak your body system and prepare your breast tissue for the task. Lactation begins when a pregnant woman approaches childbirth.

Why Am I Lactating While Pregnant?

The breasts start producing milk in readiness for the baby even before delivery. But before production of real breast milk, your breasts produce colostrum. This is what leaks in some women when they are still pregnant.

Milk-producing tissues begin forming at around the 16th week of pregnancy, and because every woman is different, some women may experience breast milk leaks for a long time during pregnancy. Others don’t experience any milk leaks. The important thing to know is that whether you leak or not, it won’t affect lactation when your baby is born.

When breasts start producing colostrums, it will be very thick and yellow in color. This, however, changes and as delivery time approaches, it becomes almost colorless. In many cases, colostrums leakage increases as the time to give birth approaches.

Colostrum is a rich source of proteins, vitamin A and sodium chloride. It also contains carbohydrates, lipids and potassium, although their levels are lower than those in normal breast milk. Other ingredients of colostrum include immunoglobulins – antibodies passed to the baby from the mother to help provide passive immunity. This helps “arm” the baby’s body with protection well before his/her body develops its own capacity to fight illnesses.

While breasts can discharge some fluid at any time, this is more common when you are massaged or sexually stimulated. Lactating while pregnant may also cause tenderness, swelling or enlargement of your breasts.

Other Causes of Nipple Discharge

In addition to colostrum leakage, nipple discharge during pregnancy may have other causes which include:

  • Friction caused by bra or other clothing
  • Infection
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Breast cancer

When to See Your Doctor About Nipple Discharge

Although it is normal for your breasts to produce a discharge during pregnancy, some discharge may have other serious causes. Always take time to examine the discharge. Consult your doctor as soon as possible if you notice the following:

  • Bloody discharge
  • Discharge from only one breast
  • Spontaneous discharge, occurring without stimulation

How to Deal with Lactating While Pregnant

Breast milk leakage can cause a lot of embarrassment. However, you can take a few steps to take control of the problem. Discuss with a healthcare professional concerning the amount of colostrum your breasts are secreting.

While there is little to do to change this, breast pads can help absorb the leaking colostrum. There are two types of breast pads: disposable and washable. By wearing the pads inside supportive bras, you can reduce the discomfort brought by the leakage and breast tenderness. Your doctor may recommend allowing time every day for air-drying your breasts. Airing may also help reduce secretion of colostrum.

In case of lactating while pregnant, it also makes sense for you to avoid wearing fancy shirts and blouses while you are leaking colostrum. This will save them from discoloration which might upset you even more. Opt for clothes designed for pregnancy and maternity purposes, and buy nursing pads.