One of the most common physical changes that occur while you’re pregnant is seen in the breasts. From conception expectant mothers begin to notice breast tenderness, swelling of the breasts, stretch marks and darkened areolas. Your areolas are the skin around your nipples, and because of the increase in hormones during pregnancy, many women see this skin darken as the pregnancy continues. The color can begin changing as early as week 1 or week 2 and some women even experience Montgomery’s tubercles (tiny bumps on areolas) too. Hyper pigmentation (darkening of the skin) is also common in the external genitalia and anal regions during pregnancy.
Based on your genetics, you have either brown or red pigmented areolas. The color can range from pale yellow to black, but usually stay paler among light-skinned people and darker among dark-skinned people.
Causes of Darker Areolas
The main culprit for the darkened areolas is the sex hormones. Progesterone and estrogen cause the body to produce more pigment. This is why many women see an even change, splotches and patches of darkened skin all over their body. These hormones are also the cause for the widening of the areolas, breast tenderness, breast swelling, leakage of colostrum and the other changes that happen to the breasts.
Other causes of darkened areolas in women can be due to aging, menstruation and medications. However, darker areolas are most noticeable during pregnancy. It varies from woman to woman, but in most cases the color tends to regress back to its original color after child birth. Other times, the darkened skin is permanent. The color will most likely stay dark while breast feeding, since babies suck on the areolas too.
Treatment for Darkened Areolas
Unfortunately there isn’t too much a woman can do to treat the darkened skin, especially while pregnant or nursing. The change of color is not a life-or-death situation. It’s a natural and normal process of being pregnant and giving birth, as well as aging.
Certain types of skin darkening can be a sign of a serious problem, however generally this is not the case. If the color change is accompanied by pain, redness or bleeding then your health care provider should be notified.
Some medicated creams can be harmful and unsafe to use during pregnancy, so it’s important you speak with your health care provider before applying any type of cream or ointment to your breasts or other parts of your body to treat skin problems or changes.