Question: Nipple discharge in pregnancy

Q: “I’m 25 weeks pregnant and for the last week or so I’ve noticed a discharge from my nipples. It was a creamy colour but is now like watery blood. Is this something to worry about?”

A: The creamy discharge you mention is quite normal. This is probably ‘colostrum’ – a special type of breastmilk for feeding your baby for the first few days of his or her life. It’s very rich in antibodies and other substances that protect against infection. All women produce colostrum during pregnancy – but not everybody notices it leaking out.

The watery, blood-stained discharge you mention is not common, but some women do experience this during pregnancy. The blood supply to your breasts is dramatically increased, and the milk ducts and milk-producing cells become larger and more numerous.
These changes combine to make the breasts more fragile, so that a small amount of trauma may cause slight bleeding. This may last for several days, and may be made worse by trying to squeeze the breast or express out milk (to see if there is still blood!).

Although I think this is what’s happening, do tell your GP about the bloody discharge next time you have an antenatal appointment. He or she will show you how to check your breasts for signs of more underlying disease. Please don’t panic – there’s unlikely to be a serious problem. But we should all know how to examine our breasts, pregnant or not.
Hannah Hulme Hunter, Babyworld Midwife.

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