Montgomery Glands: Are They A Sign Of Pregnancy?

Montgomery Glands / Tubercles: What Are They & Are They A Sign Of Pregnancy?
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Montgomery glands are located around the nipple and Montgomery tubercles are small bumps at the opening of these glands. These small bumps on the areola (the dark area around the nipple) and the nipple itself can become raised and bumpy at the start of pregnancy. However, sometimes a blockage in Montgomery glands, infection, or stimulation can also make the Montgomery tubercles appear larger.

Montgomery glands are sometimes referred to as areolar glands or Glands of Montgomery. They are sebaceous glands that excrete an oily substance to lubricate the skin surrounding the nipple. It seems that they also play a role in breastfeeding, and that is one of the reasons they tend to become more noticeable during pregnancy. It seems that as well as keeping the areola lubricated, the Montgomery tubercles help keep the nipple free from infection and therefore keep a nursing baby healthy.

This article looks at what the Montgomery glands and tubercles are and if they are one of the first signs of pregnancy. You will also learn what to do if an infection or blockage of the areolar glands causes discomfort and pain.

What are Montgomery Glands?

The glands surrounding the nipple are called Montgomery glands after William Featherstone Montgomery who was an obstetrician in the 19th century.

According to the Radiological Society of North America, the Montgomery glands are located in the darkened area around the nipple. They secrete a sebaceous substance and can also secrete milk during breastfeeding.1

The Glands of Montgomery have openings called tubercles (sometimes referred to as Morgagni tubercles) and these resemble small papules around the nipple that are about 1-2 mm in diameter. Dr. Avni Skandhan says that there are between 4 and 25 Montgomery tubercles around each nipple.2

Are Montgomery Tubercles a Sign of Pregnancy?

Noticing raised Montgomery tubercles could be a sign of being pregnant. Hormonal changes in your body and the breasts becoming ready for breastfeeding cause the Montgomery glands to secrete more sebum. This is also a reason why acne is very common during pregnancy because your hormones cause more sebaceous fluid that can clog up pores on your face and back.

According to the book Obstetric Dermatology, enlarged Montgomery tubercles can be observed during the first trimester. The bumpy nipple may be a sign of pregnancy as early as 6 weeks after conception. The Montgomery tubercles associated with pregnancy will look like small brown pimples on the areola around the nipple. The book stated that, for some women, enlarged Montgomery tubercles are one of the earliest visible signs of pregnancy.3

Regarding the changes to breasts during pregnancy, the Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health reported that enlarged nipple glands in the areola are common. It was reported that up to 50% of all pregnant women noticed Montgomery tubercles at the start of their pregnancy.4

The journal PLoS One reported that Montgomery tubercles are usually visible for the duration of pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Researchers found that the areolar glands excrete sebaceous and milky fluid and the areolar structures are noticeably larger during pregnancy.5

Other signs of pregnancy

Most women who are trying to conceive are very keen to look for the first signs of pregnancy. Many of these signs are noticeable even before a pregnancy test confirms that you are pregnant. What are the most common early signs of pregnancy?

Montgomery tubercles. As already stated, many women notice that they start to get bumpy areolas and the area around the nipple looks like it has small pimples. This is completely normal at the start of pregnancy and the nipple bumps will actually encourage your baby to breastfeed.

Implantation bleeding. Dr. Nivin Todd on WebMD says that about 6 to 12 days after conception or just before your period, you may experience implantation bleeding that lasts up to 2 days. This will look like pink or brown spotting and is a sign that the fertilized egg has attached to the lining of your uterus.6

Changes in breast size. Not long after conception, you may notice that your breasts get larger and, possibly, more tender. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the pain and discomfort should ease after a few weeks.7

Nausea. Nausea is also common among women at the start of their pregnancy. The feelings of sickness can happen at any time of the day and may result in vomiting or you may gag without bringing anything up.

Fatigue. Feeling extremely tired is another early symptom of pregnancy along with enlarged nipples. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that this is a result of more progesterone in your body.7

Need to pee more. Along with the other signs of early pregnancy, you may find that you need to pee more than usual. This happens because your kidneys produce extra fluid that you need to get rid of.

If you notice Montgomery tubercles in the darkened areola and you have other signs that you may be pregnant, you should visit your doctor for a pregnancy test.

Montgomery Glands and Pregnancy – Facts You Need to Know

What role do your Montgomery glands play during pregnancy? Here are some interesting facts about changes to your areolar glands and why you get bumpy nipples when you are pregnant.

Areolar glands lubricate the nipple area

Whether you are pregnant or not, the areolar glands help keep your nipple lubricated.

These sebaceous glands of the breasts secrete sebum which is an oily substance used to lubricate the skin and keep it healthy. According to Dr. Laura Martin from WebMD, Montgomery glands lubricate the nipple during breastfeeding.8

Montgomery glands become raised during pregnancy

Although about half of pregnant women notice enlarged Montgomery glands during their first few weeks of pregnancy, most pregnant women experience enlarged Montgomery tubercles near the end of pregnancy. The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care states that by the third trimester, the areolar area is enlarged and Montgomery tubercles are noticeable.9

Bumps on the areola protect the nipple from infection

There is some evidence that the tiny amounts of sebaceous fluid from the bumps around the areola help protect the nipple from infection.

The journal Dermato Endocrinology states that the sebum contains antimicrobial properties and also has an anti-inflammatory effect.10 This is important to protect a mother during lactation, keep the nipple glands free from infection, and make breastfeeding easier.

Montgomery tubercles help your baby find your nipple

The fluid excreted by your Montgomery glands also help your baby find the nipple.

Studies published in the journal PLoS One found that the odor from the breast gland fluid around the nipple helped the nursing infant find the nipple. This was especially important for nursing mothers when they were breastfeeding their first child.5

Fluid from nipple glands help protect the health of your nursing baby

There is also some evidence that the tiny amount of fluid from the nipple bumps can have a positive impact on the health of your baby.

The journal Early Human Development published a scientific study showing that the number of areolar glands that excreted fluid was linked with neonatal growth. Also, mothers who had more Montgomery glands that excreted fluid had a better breastfeeding experience than those who had less.11

The more nipple bumps you have, the easier breastfeeding is

It seems to be that the more Montgomery glands you have, the easier breastfeeding becomes.

The study published in the journal Early Human Development also showed that having more Montgomery glands sped up the onset of lactation. Also, fluid excreted by the Montgomery glands also had a positive effect on the baby’s behavior during breastfeeding.11

In fact, some researchers have suggested that mothers don’t wipe off any fluid that the nipple area secretes as this may hinder the uptake of the baby feeding from the breast for the first few times.5

Bumps around nipples make mother’s milk more desirable to the baby

Because of the fluid excreted by the glands around your nipple, your baby can actually tell the difference between mother’s milk and other milk.

Studies have found that infants can tell the difference between cow’s milk, cow milk-based formulas, flavored milk, and mother’s milk. The presence of Montgomerian secretion in the mother’s milk made the milk more desirable to the baby and created a more positive response from breastfeeding. The researchers found that odor from milk that contained secretions from the areolar glands was more desirable for infants.5

Montgomery glands can secrete milk

Montgomery glands can also secrete tiny amounts of milk while the mother is lactating.

Dermatologist Dr. Caroline Mahon says that this milky fluid is perfectly normal. However, you should not try to squeeze the bumps in the areolae as that could cause inflammation and pain.12

Other Causes of Enlarged Montgomery Glands

Some women notice that their Montgomery tubercles are enlarged even when they are not pregnant. Here are some of the other reasons why you might notice that you have bumpy nipples without being pregnant.

Stimulation

A very simple explanation for raised pimple-like bumps around your nipple is stimulation. Being sexually aroused or the cold can cause the Montgomery glands to contract and become raised.13

Blockage

A blockage in one or more of your Montgomery glands could cause raised bumps in the colored area around your nipples. Although this is not common, it can happen if you have had your nipple pierced, smoke or suffer from diabetes.

According to Dr. John Jacobson on MedlinePlus, the area under the areola could become swollen and tender. You may also notice some leaking or discharge from the nipple area. The inflamed abscess can be treated with a warm compress or doctors may drain the abscess if it is large.14

Infection

Breastfeeding or an abscess can cause an infection in the Montgomery glands.

Dermatologists say that, on occasion, bacterial organisms can enter the milk ducts and cause abscesses or swelling in the nipple. Also, infections are common if there is any kind of obstruction in the Montgomery glands.12

How to Treat Swollen Montgomery Glands

If you have swollen Montgomery glands due to a blockage or infection, a warm compress is usually all you need to ease the discomfort quickly.

According to the Radiological Society of North America, you may notice some milky white discharge from the Montgomery glands if you have an infection, blockage, or abscess.1

Warm compress for swollen Montgomery glands

Dr. Caroline Mahon, a dermatologist from New Zealand recommends placing a warm compress to help treat inflamed or infected glands of the areolae.12 This is what you should do:

  1. Dip a clean washcloth in hot water and squeeze out the excess.
  2. Place the warm cloth on the affected nipple and leave for 10-15 minutes to increase blood flow and speed up healing.
  3. Every so often, dip the cloth in hot water to keep the compress warm.
  4. Repeat 3 times a day until discomfort from your inflamed nipple has gone for good.

Doctors from WebMD say that you should never try to squeeze, drain, or puncture swollen Montgomery glands. This can cause further irritation and may spread any infection from the nipple bumps further into your breast tissue.15

When to See a Doctor

It’s rare that small bumps around your nipple are a sign of anything serious. More often than not, Montgomery tubercles are an early sign of pregnancy and will be visible all the time while you are breastfeeding.

However, if you notice any unusual changes in your breast, for example, if your nipples become bumpy for no reason, you should see a doctor for a checkup. According to researchers from the National Cancer Institute, nipple changes and discolored discharge isn’t always a sign of cancer. However, you should speak to your doctor about these nipple changes.16

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend seeing a doctor if you have nipple discharge from only one nipple and have been through the menopause.17

Please read my article on some unconventional signs of breast cancer to learn about other warning signs of breast cancer.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. RSNA. Nipple-areolar complex.
  2. Radiopaedia. Montgomery glands.
  3. Obstetric Dermatology. A practical guide.
  4. J Epidem Global Health. 2017 Mar;7(1):63-70.
  5. PLoS One. 2009; 4(10): e7579.
  6. WebMD. Implantation bleeding and pregnancy.
  7. MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
  8. WebMD. Breast cancer and the normal breast.
  9. J Family Med Prim Care. 2014 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 318–324.
  10. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Mar-Apr; 1(2): 68–71.
  11. Early Hum Dev.2012 Feb;88(2):119-28.
  12. DermNetNZ. Lactation and the skin.
  13. Radiopaedia. Montgomery tubercles.
  14. MedlinePlus. Subareolar abscess.
  15. WebMD. Swollen glands – prevention.
  16. Cancer. Breast changes and conditions.
  17. MayoClinic. Nipple discharge.
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