It is a rich source of essential amino acids, fats, vitamins and minerals and fluid, that is more than enough to sustain the newborn’s needs in the first six months of life. It helps provide the baby with essential immunoglobulins which provide protection from infections as well as chronic diseases.
Besides the baby, it also gives several benefits to the mother. It is not only the most convenient option for a new mother, but also helps her get back to pre-pregnancy weight faster, provides contraceptive benefits, and helps mother to child bonding.
Studies also reveal the women who have breastfed are at a lower risk of developing cervical cancer compared to those who have never breastfed in their lifetime.
It is extremely important to have a breast examination done at the first antenatal visit. Pregnancy is probably the first time in her life, that a woman visits a doctor or gets her breasts examined by a medical professional.
It helps identify physiological variations such as inverted, retracted, flat nipples, as well as pathological conditions such as fibroadenomas, cysts and even malignancies of the breast.
Once these are identified, it allows enough time to take corrective steps, well before delivery so as to avoid surprises and difficulties in breastfeeding immediately after the baby is born.
Common variations noticed in pregnant women are flat nipples, inverted nipples, and hard areolae. There are commercially available nipple formers that could be used after the 8th month of gestation, to improve these conditions. A simple examination at the doctor’s clinic, followed by learning the technique of self-breast examination is important for every woman.
Dos and Don’ts
- Know your body and report to your doctor if you notice any unexpected breast changes.
- Be aware that the breast size would change during the course of pregnancy and wear comfortable breast support accordingly.
- Do not stimulate the breasts by frequent handling as this would lead to preterm labour.
- Do not express the antenatally noticed lactation, as this too, is physiological.
- Do not wear tight fitting brassieres.
- Do not use any commercially available products for breast correction, unless you consult your doctor first.
The author is a Gynaecologist at Zen Multispecialty Hospital in Chembur, Mumbai