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Tender Breasts and Pregnancy

Q: Could tender breasts mean that I am pregnant?

A: Many women normally experience breast tenderness and discharge after ovulation and think it is a sign of early pregnancy. Breast tenderness after ovulation is usually due to hormonal changes such as the increase in the hormone progesterone, which is produced by the corpus luteum, the area in the ovary where the egg originated. Not every woman who ovulates has this kind of breast tenderness or even discharge a sign of early pregnancy, and even women who do not ovulate can have tender breasts. Pregnancy can induce tender breasts, but this is usually not the very first sign of pregnancy and usually appears after you miss your period and you have a positive pregnancy test.

Common reasons for breast tenderness or discharge:

  • Progesterone changes after ovulation
  • Menstruation
  • Pregnancy --  Breast tenderness is often among the first symptoms of pregnancy, but as a sign of pregnancy it usually would not occur until after you miss your period
  • Puberty -- in both girls and boys
  • Breast feeding
  • Approach of menopause (once your menstrual periods have stopped completely, breast tenderness often goes away unless you are taking hormone replacement therapy)
    Intake of caffeine supposedly increases this sensation.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Given birth recently and your breasts are swollen or hard: Postpartum breast tenderness could mean that there is an infection, and only an examination can find out what is going on
  • Noticed a new lump associated with the pain that does not go away after your menstrual period
  • Persistent, unexplained breast pain
  • Discharge from your nipples, especially blood or pus
  • Signs of a breast infection, including localized redness, pus, or fever

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