pregnancy

Why do nipples get darker during pregnancy? A paediatrician shares the fascinating reason.

From weird cravings, to itchy skin and darkened skin (also known as melasma), women’s bodies do some pretty incredible things in order to prepare themselves for the arrival of a baby.

However, one of the weirder side effects of being ‘with child’ is getting darker nipples, a symptom which often happens at the very beginning of your pregnancy, and can affect both your actual nipple and the areola – or the pigmented area surrounding the nipple. This could also accompany other symptoms like sore, tender breasts, or an increase in breast size.

To answer why this happens, Melbourne paediatrician, Dr Daniel Golshevsky, a.k.a. Dr Golly, spoke to hosts of Mamamia’s Year One podcast, Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes, to explain the science behind the change.

Why do your nipples darken during pregnancy?

According to Dr Golly, a woman’s nipples will darken during pregnancy to suit their baby’s lowered eyesight and “visual acuity”.

“It’s estimated that a newborn, within the first month of life, has the acuity of six on two four,” he said.

“What that means is that baby can see from six metres what you can see from 240 metres. It’s pretty terrible. Really, a newborn can only differentiate between light and dark.”

“This is the reason why your nipples get darker during the later stages of pregnancy because the baby can then differentiate between what is the areola and what is skin.”

Dr Golly: on our official Dream Team. Image via Facebook.
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Does that mean young babies can't see?

Not quite.

The truth is, despite their vision being pretty poor, babies can still see you moving from day one.

"They may not be able to see your features, but they can certainly see that you are there in front of them and you may be moving around," he said.

"That starts very early on, so they can see black or white, or light and dark from the very beginning. They can also notice when things are moving, so it really starts straight away."

However, even if you wanted to speed up their sensory development, there's unfortunately not a lot you can do.

"It's really quite surprising how little you need to do, other than being a good, responsible, safe parent in order to promote development. They pretty much do it by themselves."

If you want to hear more from our Year One Podcast, then come right this way.

You can listen to our conversation on Year One, right here.

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