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?
By now, it’s highly likely that you have noticed bumps surrounding your nipples, specifically surrounding the areola which is the area circling the nipple. These bumps form part of the Areolar glands.
Although the majority of these glands are located underneath the skin, it’s common for some to become visible due to swelling, and these portions visible on the skin surface are referred to as the Montgomery tubercles.
These glands get their name from William Featherstone Montgomery, an Irish 19th-century obstetrician.
Montgomery tubercles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are barely noticeable, while others have a similar appearance to goosebumps. It’s common to see up to 30 of these small, raised bumps encircling each nipple, though the average number is around 10 for most women. Both males and females have both areolar glands and Montgomery tubercles.
What Do They Do?
The secretions from Montgomery tubercles help to keep your nipples lubricated and therefore soft and supple whether you are pregnant or not. However, for pregnant women and new mothers, Montgomery tubercles are likely to become more visible as they enlarge.
These changes are due to the two major functions they serve for new mothers and newborn babies:
1. They assist with breastfeeding
Montgomery tubercles help the breastfeeding process in a variety of ways. First and foremost, they help babies easily locate your nipple and latch onto it for feeding time. The raised bumps allow your baby to easily feel and sense the nipple.
It is also thought that the secretions contain compounds that encourage the baby to feed and another popular theory is that the Montgomery tubercles make your milk and feeding time more alluring to your baby. During lactation, Montgomery tubercles themselves secrete milk for your baby.
2. They keep your nipples from getting damaged
The Areolar glands release oily secretions that play a major role in protecting and lubricating the nipples. This substance is secreted by tiny openings named Morgagni tubercles.
For mothers, one of the major roles these secretions play in keeping the nipples free of infection. During breastfeeding, teething babies can cause sore, dry and cut nipples, which in this state are prone to infection.
The secretions from the Montgomery tubercles help to keep these wounds moist and prevent cracking and infection.
Are Montgomery Tubercles an Early Sign of Pregnancy?
Montgomery tubercles can be a good indication that you are pregnant. One of the first signs women notice when pregnant is swollen breast tissue, which is often accompanied by swollen areolar glands, resulting in enlarged and visible Montgomery tubercles.
Noticing these can often be a sign of pregnancy. Sometimes, the Montgomery tubercles are not a uniform shape and size, but this is not cause for concern. Montgomery tubercles come in all shapes and sizes. It is just your body working with your hormones to get ready for your baby.
Ultimately, however, the only way to know for sure is to visit your family OB/Gyn to confirm the pregnancy.
During pregnancy, Montgomery tubercles usually appear early on, accompanied by darkened areolas, which get steadily larger to prepare your body for breastfeeding. These raised bumps can be visible from as little as 1 month into pregnancy.
This is largely as a result of the hormone called HCG which gushes through your body during the first few months of gestation. This hormone results in your body making many important changes in preparation for your baby’s arrival, including getting your 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 sometimes 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.
Ultimately, swollen Montgomery tubercles, similar to implantation bleeding are not a confirmation of pregnancy, the only way to confirm that is with an authorized pregnancy test and a visit to your doctor.
However, if you have confirmed that you are not pregnant and you do notice sudden changes in your breasts including swollen Montgomery tubercles, then the best step to take is to schedule an appointment with your physician.
Although very rare, discharge from the Montgomery tubercles and seemingly swollen breasts with no warning could be an indication of breast cancer. In any case, if you have any concerns, pregnant or not, it’s essential you seek professional medical advice from a licensed physician.