What exactly are Montgomery Tubercles? Could they be an early sign of pregnancy? How could you test this theory? Here we investigate some of these questions further:
What are Montgomery Tubercles?
If you have nipples, it’s likely that you’ve noticed the small bumps surrounding the areola, which is the area surrounding the nipple. These are known as Montgomery tubercles, which are part of the Areolar glands. Though the Areolar glands are in the skin, there are some that become swollen and visible as small bumps coming from the areola. These are known as Montgomery tubercles.
Montgomery tubercles come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are hardly noticeable, while others almost look like oversized goosebumps. You may notice from 2 up to 28 tubercles on each nipple, though the average amount is 9 for each woman. Males and females alike have areolar glands and montgomery tubercles.
These glands get their name from William Featherstone Montgomery, an Irish 19th century obstetrician.
What Do They Do?
These glands develop ‘oily secretions’ that are developed to protect the nipples, as well as keep them lubricated. They are released by small openings named Morgagni tubercles. These secretions are to protect the nipple from infection.
Another reason these glands are important is that they also protect the nipple while breastfeeding. While breastfeeding, especially teething children, the nipples get cut and dry. Montgomery tubercles keep these cuts from getting infected while coating them with the fluid inside them, as well as lubricate the nipple to soothe the cracks and keep further cracking from occuring.
Montgomery tubercles are essential in two ways for upcoming mothers.
1. They assist with breastfeeding
Montgomery tubercles assist in the breastfeeding process in a multitude of ways. First and foremost, these glands secrete milk for your baby. Studies also show that they assist your baby in finding your nipple (due to the scent of the secretions) and boost your milk production (i.e. the more bumps you have, the more milk you produce). One theory is that these secretions actually have a positive impact on your child’s overall health.The last way that Montgomery tubercles assist with breastfeeding is that it’s theorized that the secretions make your milk more desirable to your baby.
2. They keep your nipples from getting damaged
Montgomery tubercles secrete a fluid that keeps your nipples hydrated, soft and supple. When breastfeeding, your nipples are prone to getting bit and drying out. The fluid secreted by the Montgomery tubercles keeps the cracked nipples from cracking even worse, while protecting them from potential infections.
Are Montgomery Tubercles an Early Sign of Pregnancy?
Montgomery tubercles can be a very good indicator that you are pregnant. The first thing that most women notice after becoming pregnant is the swelling in their breasts. Along with swollen breasts, your areolar glands swell as well, creating larger, more visible Montgomery tubercles. Noticing these can be a very good way to guess if you are pregnant or not, and fun! Sometimes, some get bigger than the others. This is no cause for alarm. Montgomery tubercles come in all shapes and sizes. It is just your body working with your hormones to get ready for your baby.
However, the only way to know for sure is to visit your family OB/Gyn to confirm the pregnancy.
In pregnancy, Montgomery tubercles usually appear early on, accompanied by darkened areolas, and get steadily larger to prepare your body for breastfeeding. These small bumps can appear as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy. This is mainly due to the ever-famous HCG hormone that rack’s your body during the first few months of pregnancy. HCG sends many messages to your body to prepare for your upcoming baby, including telling you areolar glands to get ready to breastfeed.
Of course, this is not the only early sign of pregnancy. Some other early signs of pregnancy are:
- Nausea – some say ‘morning sickness’ but it can happen at any time of the day.
- Bloating/Slight Cramping – This could be due to implantation bleeding.
- More Frequent Urination – when you have to pee every 5 minutes.
- Fatigue – feeling sluggish and tired, possibly accompanied by a headache (due to the rush of hormones).
What Else Can Cause Montgomery Tubercles?
Pregnancy isn’t the only thing that can cause swollen areolar glands. Some other causes are:
- Stimulation – If you stimulate the nipple(i.e. Rubbing, tugging, itching…) If you are getting intimate or are chilly, these bumps will rise automatically to protect your nipples.
- Premenstruation – Close to your menstrual period starting, your breasts may swell and your Montgomery tubercles may enlarge. This occurs because of the hormone surges during that time.
- Stress – It may sound weird, but stress and anxiety affect your body in many ways. If you are overwhelmed, you may develop Montgomery tubercles from the hormone surges associated with your stress level.
- Physical changes – Gaining or losing an excessive amount of weight in a short period of time could also be the cause of Montgomery tubercles.
- Blockage – If you smoke, have diabetes, or have had your nipple pierced, you are at higher risk of blockage in your areolar glands. When the areolar glands get blocked, they raise to form bumps. It’s almost like having acne on your areola. Most of the time, these fade on their own. However, there are some times that they may need to be squeezed to unclog the gland. This will almost look like pus.
- Infection – This is very closely related to a blockage. You will notice that it looks like a pimple, and oozes a solid, white substance when popped.
- To treat an infected, blocked, or abscessed, areolar gland, try using warm compresses to alleviate the swelling and pressing gently on the skin surrounding the area. This will raise all of the trapped fluid to the surface so that the small amount of pressure you add will help it work its way out, or drain.
These are much more common than women think. If the changes in your breasts and areolas are worrisome or unusual, schedule an appointment with your doctor. It is very rare, but discharge from the Montgomery tubercles and seemingly swollen breasts with no warning could be an indication of breast cancer. Though it is better to be safe than sorry, this is a very rare thing. Doctor’s from the Mayo Clinic recommend going to see a doctor if you have surpassed menopause and are experiencing discharge from only one nipple.