Can Leaking Breasts Be a Sign of Preterm Labor?

At some point during pregnancy, your breasts will begin producing colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish liquid that will serve as the first food your baby will need, before your milk comes in. Some women will not notice colostrum until after the baby is born, but you might notice some leaking from your breasts during pregnancy. This is normal and is not a sign of preterm labor

A pregnant woman sitting on the floor. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

About Leaking Breasts During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body is preparing for everything it will need to do during labor and after birth. Leaking breasts are a side effect of your body's preparation to produce colostrum and milk to feed your baby after birth. Your breasts might leak randomly, but they are more likely to leak during sex or breast and nipple stimulation. Especially if it occurs during sex, leaking breasts could be accompanied by Braxton Hicks contractions. However, neither of these symptoms are a sign of preterm labor.

Time-Frame for Braxton Hicks Contractions

In most pregnancies, your breasts won't start to leak until the third trimester, if at all. However, leaking can begin much earlier -- as early as 12 weeks pregnant. If your breasts do leak near the beginning of your pregnancy, you'll notice that the fluid is very thick and yellow. Toward the end of pregnancy, your colostrum will become paler. Even if your breasts begin to leak very early in pregnancy, it's not an indication that your baby will be born premature.

Causes for Concern

The signs of premature labor include regular contractions that increase in intensity, back pain, pressure in your vagina, vaginal discharge or bleeding, and decreased fetal movement. If you do have preterm labor, your breasts will not exhibit any symptoms.

Dealing with Leaking Breasts

Leaky breasts are normal but uncomfortable. The simplest way to deal with leaky breasts is to use breast pads to absorb the moisture. The amount of fluid that your breasts will leak during pregnancy is usually not very significant, so a few pads should be sufficient. You can buy disposable pads or reusable cloth pads. Breast pads will come in handy after your baby is born and your milk comes in as well. You might want to go ahead and switch to maternity bras if you haven't yet, and choose some with enough padding to hide the shape of the breast pad so it doesn't show through your clothes.

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