Many women notice changes in their nipples and areolas during early pregnancy. One of the most common changes is the darkening of the areola, as the pigment in the skin increases. However, some women may also notice that their nipples appear lighter or whiter in color. What causes nipples to go white in pregnancy, and is this normal?
What Causes Nipples to Go White in Early Pregnancy?
There are a few potential causes for nipples turning white or lighter in color during early pregnancy:
- Increased blood flow – More blood circulates during pregnancy, which can make veins under the skin more visible. This can give a bluish or whitish tint.
- Hormonal changes – Estrogen and progesterone levels rise dramatically in early pregnancy. This can affect pigmentation.
- Montgomery glands – These sebaceous glands around the areola grow and secrete oils in preparation for breastfeeding. Their secretions can cause paler nipples.
- Dryness – Nipples may become dried out, flaky, and lighter in color.
The areola (the circular area around the nipple) will typically darken during pregnancy. In contrast, the nipple itself may lose some pigmentation and appear lighter or whiter temporarily. This is primarily due to changes in blood flow, hormones, and glandular activity in the breast area during pregnancy.
Is This Normal?
In most cases, lighter or whiter nipples during early pregnancy are completely normal. Here are a few key points:
- Very common – Over 50% of pregnant women notice their nipples lightening in color to some degree.
- Temporary – The nipple color change is often most noticeable in the first trimester. Color typically returns to normal gradually after pregnancy.
- Harmless – Paler nipples do not indicate any medical problem and will not affect breastfeeding.
- Variable – Some women see dramatic lightening, while others notice just a slight change.
As long as the nipple lightening is not accompanied by pain, inflammation, oozing, or ulceration, it is considered a usual symptom of early pregnancy. The color change is not harmful to mom or baby.
When to See a Doctor
In rare cases, whitening nipples can be a sign of an underlying issue. See a healthcare provider promptly if you notice any of the following:
- Open sores, redness, swelling, oozing, or bleeding of the nipple
- Severe or sudden pain in one breast or nipple
- Itching, burning, or tenderness of the nipple
- A lump, mass, or thickening in or near the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Skin changes on the breast or nipple that progressively worsen
While not common, conditions like eczema, yeast infections, and inflammatory breast cancer can sometimes cause nipple changes in pregnancy. It’s always best to have any unusual symptoms evaluated promptly by an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Will My Nipples Stay White?
For most women, the nipple lightening during pregnancy is temporary. Here is how the color typically progresses:
- First trimester – Nipples whiten noticeably.
- Second trimester – Color begins to return gradually.
- Third trimester – Nipples regain close to pre-pregnancy pigmentation.
- Postpartum – Nipple color normalizes fully after delivery.
However, there are exceptions. Some women find their nipples remain lighter postpartum. Others may notice their nipples darken permanently after pregnancy. These long-term nipple color changes are harmless as well.
Can White Nipples Breastfeed?
Yes, you can still successfully breastfeed if you have whitish nipples. Here’s why:
- Milk production – The lightening is only skin deep, it does not affect milk glands deeper in the breast tissue.
- Nipple function – The nipple’s ability to deliver milk is not impaired by color changes.
- No effect on baby – Whitish nipples will not confuse the baby or make breastfeeding more difficult.
- Not painful – Paler nipples do not hurt, so breastfeeding is still comfortable.
Occasionally, the hormone changes postpartum can cause additional nipple lightening after delivery. But again, this does not interfere with a woman’s ability to nurse her baby. Rest assured that whitish nipples will supply quality breastmilk to your little one.
Will My Breastmilk Change Color?
No, breastmilk is not affected by nipple color. Here are a few key points about breastmilk:
- Production – Milk is made in the alveoli and ducts deep in the breast tissue. The nipple’s sole role is as a conduit for milk flow.
- Tint – Breastmilk can range from bluish to yellowish white. Its color comes from fatty acids, not pigment.
- Consistency – Whitish nipples do not change the nutritional content or consistency of breast milk.
- Normal variations – Many factors can cause breastmilk to naturally vary in color and composition.
While colostrum is thick and golden, mature breastmilk is typically a bluish white color. The particular pigments within your nipples do not migrate into the breastmilk itself. You can rest assured your breastmilk will nourish your baby regardless of nipple color.
Will My Nipples Return to Normal Pigment?
Usually, yes. For most women, the nipples regain normal coloring after breastfeeding ends. Here is a typical timetable:
- 0 to 6 months postpartum – The majority of color change reverses.
- 6 to 12 months postpartum – More gradual nipple repigmentation occurs.
- 12+ months postpartum – Nipple color stabilizes, with color often returning to pre-pregnancy state.
In some cases, however, nipples remain permanently lighter or darker after pregnancy and breastfeeding. But this is not harmful, just a natural variation. No treatment is necessary for nipple color variations.
Tips for Coping with Paler Nipples
Here are a few tips for managing or concealing lighter nipples during pregnancy:
- Moisturize – Use natural oils or creams to combat nipple dryness and flakiness.
- Exfoliate gently – Slough off dry nipple skin using a soft washcloth or loofah.
- Avoid irritation – Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and wear soft fabrics next to nipples.
- Conceal – Use nude or flesh-toned breast pads in your bra to hide nipple color.
- Love your body – Focus on the incredible changes of pregnancy, not just nipple color.
Remember, the nipple color change is temporary and does not signify any medical problem. Try to embrace your body’s beautiful adaptations for breastfeeding.
When to Contact Your Doctor
You should contact your obstetrician or midwife promptly about nipple changes if:
- Nipple pain, swelling, bleeding, open sores, discharge, or severe irritation develop.
- You notice a lump or mass within the breast tissue.
- Symptoms are significantly worsening or only present on one side.
- You have a history of breast cancer or high-risk factors.
- You have signs of infection like fever, red streaks, pus, or foul odor.
While usually harmless, in rare cases sudden nipple changes can indicate an underlying problem needing medical treatment. So speak to your provider right away if you have any concerns.
- It is very common for nipples to turn whitish or lighter during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Hormones, increased blood flow, Montgomery glands, and dryness cause the temporary color change.
- Unless symptoms like pain or oozing occur, paler nipples are harmless.
- Color typically returns to normal gradually after delivery.
- Lighter nipples can successfully breastfeed. The color does not affect milk or baby.
- See a doctor promptly if you have any nipple concerns or uncertainties.
Try not to worry about nipple color changes during pregnancy. Focus on taking good care of your breasts and trusting your body to nurture your baby. If you have any concerns, reach out promptly to your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.