Breasts undergo various changes throughout your lifecycle, during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond, nipples can change color, become darker or undergo various other changes as well. Breasts also are of different shape, size and color in different people. Its actually not the nipples but areola (area on the breast that’s darkening is the skin around the nipple).
There is nothing to panic if you suddenly look down and notice your nipples to be darker than normal. The various changes in a woman’s life at different stages induce nipples to change color as well. Major things that can make nipples dark include:
Pregnancy is the most critical part of a woman’s life and numerous changes occur within the body as she prepares for the delivery of her baby. Fetal growth in the womb is a strong indication for the breast to prepare itself for breastfeeding. Breasts become sore, they swell and become darker assuming that this makes it easier for the baby to identify the food source. Excess estrogen and progesterone hormones are produced to help in milk production and the breasts start changing in color and appearance as this hormone production increases. Soon after breastfeeding, darker nipples become light again.
Puberty is the time of life when breasts starts developing due to increase in estrogen production. Nipples also change in color, might become darker and become pointed or elevated from the surrounding skin as the breast develops.
Puberty initiates menstruation. Monthly ovulations change breast appearance at different points in the menstrual cycle. When you near your menstruation time, breasts also undergo changes-they become softer, swollen and nipples become darker when menstruation happens. Progesterone and estrogen hormones bear responsibility for these changes during periods that occur every 21-35 days.
Birth control pills too contain estrogen and progesterone in different proportions. These hormones are naturally produced by the body and when there is external supplementation too, they cause changes in the nipples in a similar way to puberty or menstruation. These clear away once you stop taking these oral contraceptives. Sometimes, these pills can also cause melasma which can form brown or grey skin pigment changes.
Babies are born with a poor vision and dark nipples are an indication to help the newborn locate the food source. Hormonal changes that enable milk production cause darker nipples, whether you would like to breastfeed or not! These nipples return to their normal color sometime after breastfeeding ends.
Individuals might have tiny hairs growing from their nipples due to various reasons mentioned at www.firsteatright.com and these hairs are darker than some other hair in the body. Such hairs give a dark appearance to the nipple when they grow close to the areola.
Breast cancer, the most predominant cancer form in women, can cause various changes in breast-size, shape, color, skin sores, inverted nipples, nipple discharge, pain and growing vein. Paget’s disease of breast starts in the nipple area bearing symptoms such as dark nipples, yellow or bloody nipple discharge, flattened nipple, itching or tingling sensation around the nipple and flaky/thick skin around the nipple. Any female after puberty can be attacked by this disease, but it is more commonly found in older adults.
A Matter of Concern
Life cycle developments and growth cause changes in the breast and nipples. Any abnormal changes such as peeling, flaking, redness, sores, itching, lumps, color changes in one nipple only and lumps indicate a bigger problem and it is crucial to meet a physician to get your breasts and nipples checked. Color changes often occur as a result of developmental changes such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and breastfeeding and these go away as smooth as they entered. Only if these color changes are accompanied by any other symptoms unrelated to the current event, it is necessary to meet a doctor.
Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.