Most women experience breast tenderness at some point in their lives. Breasts may feel achy, have shooting pains, or simply feel full and heavy. By the time we get pregnant, most of us have already experienced the discomfort that breast tenderness brings. Sore breasts typically occur due to hormonal fluctuations. Pregnancy, puberty, and menopause are times when normal fluctuations are high.
What causes breast tenderness?
- Ovulation: It is normal for a woman to experience breast tenderness after ovulation, and most of the time breast tenderness after ovulation is due to hormonal changes. During this time, an increase in the hormone progesterone, which is produced by the corpus luteum (the area in the ovary where the egg originated) can cause achy or sore breasts.
- Pregnancy: Breast soreness due to pregnancy rarely, if ever, occurs before missing a period. It is often one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. If you missed your period and you have breast tenderness, it makes sense to do a pregnancy test.
- Other reasons For breast tenderness:
—Menstruation: your period also causes hormonal surges
—Puberty, in both girls and boys
—Approach of menopause (once your menstrual periods have stopped completely, breast tenderness often goes away unless you are taking hormone replacement therapy)
No matter the cause, caffeine is thought to increase this sometimes painful sensation, so being mindful of your caffeine intake may help alleviate the discomfort. If you have a hard time weaning away from coffee completely try opting for a good decaf or herbal tea instead.
If your discomfort becomes more pronounced, you may want to think about taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the tenderness is caused from PMS, your period, or menopause. However, if you think you may be pregnant, speak with your doctor first before taking any medication.
When should you call your doctor?
- If you've given birth within the last week and your breasts are swollen or hard
- If you've noticed a new lump associated with the pain that does not go away after your menstrual period
- Have persistent, unexplained breast pain
- Discharge from your nipples, especially blood or pus
- Any signs of a breast infection, including localized redness, pus, or fever