CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

Early Pregnancy Signs: Darkening Areolas

Darkening areolas are the first of many changes in store for your breasts. Learn what causes them, and what to expect down the road.
save article
profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Updated July 2, 2024
pregnant woman wearing white tank top; darkening areolas
Image: Glamorous Images | Shutterstock

If you’ve noticed enlarged or dark areolas (the area around your nipples), you may be witnessing one of the first signs of pregnancy. But why do darkening areolas during pregnancy happen? And should you be concerned? The good news is that this is usually completely normal and can occur as early as a week or two after conception. Want to get the scoop on this surprising early pregnancy symptom? Read on to find out more about the causes of dark areolas—and when to seek medical attention.

Causes of Dark Areolas

If you’ve suddenly noticed darkening areolas during pregnancy, you might feel concerned or confused. So why do nipples get darker during pregnancy? Like many pregnancy symptoms and side-effects, dark or black areolas are most likely a result of your rising levels of hormones—namely, estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones may increase the production of pigment in your skin.

“Some scientists believe there may have been an evolutionary purpose for the growth and darkening of the areolas, which was to help the newborn baby find the nipple easier and facilitate latching,” explains Temeka Zore, MD, a California-based ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist with Spring Fertility in San Francisco.

It’s also not just dark areolas that you might begin to see in early pregnancy—the area immediately surrounding your areolas may begin to darken as well, almost resembling a web, which can make the areola look even bigger, says Sara Twogood, MD, an ob-gyn at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Some women may also notice bumps (resembling goose-bumps) pop up on the perimeter of their areolas. These are called Montgomery tubercles, sometimes also called Morgagni tubercles, and they become more visible during pregnancy and breastfeeding because your breasts get larger, Twogood says. Those Montgomery tubercles are your friends! They help lubricate your nipples, which will be welcome when baby latches on to nurse. “Their purpose is to secrete oil during breastfeeding to decrease bacteria transfer to the baby,” Zore explains, “and to provide lubrication to your areola and nipples, which may become cracked or dry during breastfeeding.”

Related Video

It’s important to know that there are a few other causes of dark areolas that have nothing to do with pregnancy. Some people experience darkening nipples as a result of taking certain oral contraceptives or during menstruation. It’s not common, but this could also be a sign of Paget’s disease, a rare form of breast cancer. It never hurts to reach out to your doctor if you experience darkening nipples or any other troubling symptoms.

Treatment for Dark Areolas

Because darkening areolas during pregnancy may play a role in nursing, these changes often remain after giving birth, especially for women who choose to breastfeed. “The areola will continue to enlarge and darken throughout pregnancy, usually reaching their largest size at the time of birth,” Zore explains. “If you choose to breastfeed, your areolas will likely remain bigger and darker during breastfeeding.”

Suffice it to say: dark or black areolas are a natural part of pregnancy and aren’t generally considered a cause of concern–so there’s really no need to take medical action. While there are creams and ointments on the market that claim to lighten skin color, you shouldn’t try them without consulting your doctor first. They may not be safe for use during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding.

What’s more, you may find that your areolas will lighten once you stop breastfeeding and your hormone levels return to normal. If the change bothers you, rest assured that your dark areolas and nipples will more or less go back to their normal size and color, Zore says, although it’s not unusual for the areolas to stay slightly darker than they were pre-pregnancy. When it’ll happen and to what degree will vary for each woman.

When to See a Doctor

Most of the time, darkening areolas during pregnancy are harmless, but there are some additional symptoms to be aware of; if you experience any of the following, consult your doctor:

  • Redness
  • Lumps
  • Flaking
  • Peeling
  • Itchiness
  • Tingling
  • Bloody or yellow discharge

Pregnancy can cause the skin to stretch, creating irritation and nipple fissures. But it’s always best to play it safe and seek out a doctor’s opinion about any nipple or breast concerns. And if you’re breastfeeding? The questions and complaints are probably just getting started! (Don’t worry, after the first few days and weeks, you’ll get the hang of it and the majority of your discomfort should subside.)

Frequently Asked Questions

When do areolas darken in pregnancy?

Typically, you’ll see darkening areolas during pregnancy in the second trimester, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). But due to hormonal changes, it’s also possible for this to happen much earlier.

Why do nipples get darker during pregnancy?

In short, nipples get darker during pregnancy due to the surge in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone increasing pigment production.

Are dark areolas a sign of pregnancy?

Dark areolas can be an early sign of pregnancy, but there are other potential causes of dark areolas—so be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to know for sure.

How dark do areolas get during pregnancy?

Your nipples can appear significantly darker than usual during pregnancy. Experts say that the area surrounding your areolas may begin to darken too, making them look larger.

Remember, your body is going through a lot of changes, and hormones can do quite a number on you, so don’t panic if you notice your nipples suddenly have dark or black areolas—just be proactive and talk to your OB or midwife. It never hurts to ask questions or discuss concerns.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Sara Twogood, MD, an ob-gyn at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She’s also the author of Ladypartsblog.com, a site that covers topics relating to fertility and pregnancy. She received her medical degree from Albany Medical College.

Temeka Zore, MD, a California-based ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist with Spring Fertility in San Francisco. She earned her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Changes During Pregnancy

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

pregnant woman drinking water at home
Dealing With Excessive Saliva in Pregnancy? Here’s Why
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting by pool on hot summer day
8 Cool Tips for Surviving a Summer Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman with milk stain on shirt
When Does Milk Start Leaking During Pregnancy?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman eating a salad in kitchen at home
Why You Might Experience Loss of Appetite in Early Pregnancy (and Beyond)
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting on couch with feet up
How to Relieve Swollen Feet During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
closeup of hands on pregnant belly
How to Relieve Swollen Hands During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman holding a hot cup of tea
How to Relieve a Sore Throat in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
toilet paper holder on red background
Why You Might Have Blood in Your Stool While Pregnant
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman holding ultrasound photo over belly
How Much Does the Uterus Grow in Pregnancy?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting on couch with blanket
Why You Might Be Feeling Cold in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
smiling pregnant woman feeling belly while sitting on couch at home
7 Ways to Get Baby to Move in Utero
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman drinking a glass of water
Why You Might Have a Dry Mouth in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman with round ligament pain
What Round Ligament Pain Feels Like—and How to Find Relief
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman with hip pain sleeping with pregnancy pillow
What to Do About Hip Pain During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
tired pregnant woman napping on the couch
Pregnancy Fatigue: Why You're Exhausted—and What to Do About It
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
close up of pregnant woman with hands on lower back
How to Relieve Back Pain in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman wearing a bikini on the beach
What’s the Deal With So-Called ‘Pregnancy Glow?’
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pensive pregnant woman looking down by sunny window
How to Treat (and Prevent) a Yeast Infection During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
close up of pregnant belly, side view
How Your Vaginal Discharge Can Change During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
doctor checking woman's eyes with flashlight
Why You Might Experience Some Blurry Vision in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List