One of the most common physical changes to occur while you’re pregnant is seen in the breasts. Soon after 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 progresses. The color can begin changing as early as the first or second week, and some women also experience Montgomery’s tubercles (tiny bumps on areolas). Hyper pigmentation (darkening of the skin) is also common in the external genitalia and anal regions during pregnancy.
Depending on your genetics, you have either brown or red pigmented areolas.
Causes of Darker Areolas
The main cause of darkened areolas is hormones. Progesterone and estrogen cause the body to produce more pigment. This is why many women see splotches and patches of darkened skin all over their bodies. These hormones also cause widening of the areolas, breast tenderness, breast swelling, leakage of colostrum, and the other changes that happen to the breasts.
Darkened areolas in women can also be due to aging, menstruation, or medications. Darker areolas are most noticeable during pregnancy, and in most cases they tend to return to their original color after childbirth, although they will most likely stay dark while you are breast-feeding. Other times, the darkened skin is permanent.
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 part of being pregnant and giving birth, as well as aging.
Certain types of skin darkening can be a sign of a serious problem, although generally this is not the case. If the color change is accompanied by pain, redness, or bleeding, then your healthcare provider should be notified.
Some medicated creams can be harmful and unsafe to use during pregnancy, so it’s important you speak with your healthcare provider before applying any type of cream or ointment to your breasts or other parts of your body to treat skin problems or changes.