Why Do My Boobs Hurt When Im on My Period?

Woman Sitting on Couch

Is pain, swelling and tenderness in your boobs a normal part of your period? According to experts, cyclical breast tenderness is. It happens when estrogen causes your milk ducts to enlarge and progesterone stimulates the formation of your milk glands.

The symptoms usually occur right before your period and should go away once your menstrual flow starts – This quote is a consequence of the website editorial team’s analysis Erotic Ecstasy. But the pain could also be a sign of a condition that needs medical attention.

1. Hormonal Changes

Fluctuating hormone levels can definitely play a role in breast pain during the first part of your menstrual cycle. “Rising estrogen in the first half of your cycle may cause your breasts to get bigger, while progesterone causes your milk ducts to enlarge and swell, which can result in tenderness,” women’s health expert Jennifer Wider tells SELF.

Another potential culprit is a hormone called prolactin, which stimulates milk production in breastfeeding mothers and can cause soreness in women who’ve never had children. This is particularly true if you’re taking a hormonal medication that requires prolactin for efficacy, like oxytocin or nipple growth hormones.

To reduce pain, try wearing a soft non-underwire bra or switching to a compression t-shirt instead of a loose one (which can bounce around and make your boobs feel even more sore). And, as always, avoid salty snacks, which can increase water retention, making your nipples heavier and therefore more painful. Try switching to low-sodium alternatives, like roasted kale chips or pretzels. Plus, try to stick to a light exercise routine because high-impact activities can exacerbate your boob pain.

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2. Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Many women have fibrocystic breast changes that cause them to feel lumpy, sore or swollen around their period. These symptoms are normal and don’t increase your risk of breast cancer, an ob-gyn tells SELF. “The fluctuating hormone levels that occur in the menstrual cycle can make your breast tissue swell, feel more lumpy or tender, especially in the outer area of the breast,” she says. This type of pain, called cyclical mastalgia, is usually more intense in the days leading up to your period and tends to improve once your period starts.

Your doctor can tell if your pain is due to fibrocystic breast changes by doing a clinical breast exam. They will feel (palpate) your breasts and the lymph nodes in your underarm and lower neck to check for lumpiness or other signs of breast tissue abnormalities. Your healthcare provider may also recommend a warm soak or ice pack to reduce the pain. In addition, certain vitamins and supplements like evening primrose oil and a diet low in caffeine can help relieve your pain.

3. Excessive Exercise

There’s a lot going on with your body when you’re on your period. It’s a time of increased activity and hormone changes that can make your boobs feel sore and tender. This is normal and nothing to worry about, but if your breast pain is severe, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s not something more serious.

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Some medications can cause breast soreness and pain, including antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and antibiotics. If you’re taking any of these and experience breast pain, talk to your doctor about switching your meds.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen and aspirin) can reduce breast pain and swelling by inhibiting prostaglandins, which cause inflammation. You can also try limiting your caffeine intake, which some women find helps reduce pain. Lastly, exercise can help — but it’s important to choose low-impact activities like swimming and walking. Heavy lifting and high-impact workouts like running can actually make the pain worse. Try wearing a supportive bra while exercising and taking a light-duty pain reliever before hitting the gym. Also, try drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate breast pain and tenderness.

4. Stress

In addition to a host of other symptoms like cramps down there, mood swings and headaches, periods can also cause breast pain. This cyclical breast pain is usually the result of monthly fluctuations in the levels of female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can stimulate the milk ducts and lobules in the nipples, leading to tenderness and swelling.

This pain usually happens about three to five days before the start of your period and tends to stop once your bleeding starts. But if you experience pain that’s not cyclical, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it. Pain that doesn’t go away can be a sign of an infection or a problem with a nipple or breast lump.

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A few simple self-care steps can make your boobs feel better. For example, avoiding salty foods and drinking lots of water can help reduce fluid retention in the nipples. And wearing a snug-fitting bra can ease the strain on breast ligaments. In addition, regular exercise boosts endorphins that act as natural painkillers. Try swimming, jogging or walking for about 30 minutes each day.

5. Infection

Cyclical breast pain, which happens in the week or so before your period, is normal. It’s caused by fluctuating hormone levels and affects both breasts. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, lumpiness, heaviness or a feeling of tightness. The pain can vary in intensity and may extend to the armpit and chest.

If you have cyclical pain that is severe or doesn’t go away, contact your doctor. The pain could be caused by a bacterial infection in your nipples or uterus, which is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID usually results from STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea, but can also occur from other invasive medical procedures and medications, including the insertion of an IUD or an abortion.

Your doctor will probably recommend a combination of home remedies and over-the-counter treatments, such as taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (like ibuprofen or naproxen) or reducing your caffeine intake. They may also order an ultrasound or mammogram to make sure there isn’t an underlying issue, such as a cyst or a blood clot, that needs treatment. (17)