If you have recently given birth, you know that bodily changes such as stretch marks and swollen feet can be part of pregnancy. You also may have noticed that your areolas, the round pigmented areas around your nipples, changed in color and texture. It generally is not indicative of a health problem.
Increased Melanin Production
Pregnant women commonly get blotchy darkened areas of skin on the face and in areas of the body that are commonly exposed to the sun, according to BabyCenter. This condition is called chloasma or melasma gravidarum. You may be uncertain why the area around your nipple got darker during pregnancy. Pigmented areas of your body, such as your areolas, freckles, scars and birthmarks, can also darken during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that boost your body’s production of melanin, the substance that colors your skin, eyes and hair. Your areolas may darken in patches if they already have freckles or other pigmented areas.
Areolas may look like they have darkened patches if their natural bumps, called Montgomery’s tubercles, increase in size and raise up. These oil-producing glands tend to enlarge during pregnancy to lubricate and protect the area around the nipples. Direct skin sensitivity or irritation is another possible cause of dark patches of skin on the areolas. Pregnancy hormones can increase your sensitivity to substances such as chlorine and soaps, according to BabyCentre U.K. This can lead to irritating rashes or blemishes in sensitive areas such as your nipples.
The parts of your body with increased pigmentation should fade within months of childbirth, though your areolas may never return to their original color, according to Ask Dr. Sears. Consult your doctor or a dermatologist if months have gone by and the darkened areas of your areolas are bothering you. Depending on the cause of the dark patches, your doctor may suggest you try laser treatment or a lightening agent such as a cream with hydroquinone. However, she may also advise against using them if you are breast-feeding or intending to become pregnant again soon. If the darkened patches of skin are related to irritation and dryness, you may be able to reduce the problem by using a gentle moisturizer, avoiding irritating fragrances or soaps and wearing loose-fitting cotton clothing.
In some cases, skin discoloration can indicate a more serious condition such as skin cancer. Contact your doctor as soon as possible if your affected areola or areolas are painful, tender, red or bleeding, or if you notice that a mole in the area has changed in shape, size or color, according to the March of Dimes.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Signs of Pregnancy
- BabyCenter: Breast Changes During Pregnancy
- BabyCenter: Skin Darkening During Pregnancy
- Ask Dr. Sears: 11 Common Skin Changes During Pregnancy
- March of Dimes: Your Pregnant Body: Skin Changes
- Cosmopolitan: Dry, Flaky Nipples
- BabyCentre U.K.: Skin Changes During Pregnancy