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Breast soreness and pain (mastalgia in medical terms) is one of the most common symptoms during pregnancy. The pain usually occurs around 4 – 7 weeks and lasts throughout the 1st trimester.
Mastalgia varies from woman to woman. The pain can range from mild soreness to a stabbing pain. Some may feel tenderness while some may feel that their breasts are heavier than usual. It can occur on a single breast or both, the full breast or a localized area only.
Apart from that, the lady lumps / chesticles (two milk – secreting and glandular organs on a woman’s chest) will continue to grow exponentially in size throughout pregnancy. This is because the milk ducts are culminating the supply of colostrum – precursor to breastmilk and the newborn’s first food right after childbirth [which will begin to leak around week 38].
On the bright side, the breasts may continue to grow but the soreness and pain will subside after the 1st trimester. The breasts will also [almost] return to their pre – pregnancy size a few months after birth.
Types of breast pain
Cyclical breast painPregnancy week by week
Cyclical is the most common types of breast pain which occurs during a monthly cycle. It is characterized by soreness and heaviness caused by the expansion of milk ducts. The pain affects both breasts and radiates through the armpits and the arms.
Cyclical breast pain occurs in a regular schedule, it sets right before the period begins and during the 1st day of the menstrual flow. The pain usually becomes more severe before the period ends and permanently disappears when menopause sets in.
This type of pain is associated with fibrocystic breast tissues which refer to the lumpy and even breast tissues caused by the fluid – filled cysts.
Non – cyclical breast pain
Non – cyclical is a type of breast pain which does not follow any scheduled pattern. It is characterized by a stabbing and burning pain which only occurs in one breast of women ages 30 – 50. Furthermore, non – cyclical breast pain is caused by the following:
- Fibroadenoma (fibroadenomas in plural form) – are the non – cancerous tumors in a gland. This usually occurs in women ages 13 up to their early 20s and are common in the African – American race
- Benign breast cyst
- Breast injury
- Pain may stem from surrounding muscles and tissues
Signs and symptoms
- Unexplained cause of breast pain
- Persistent breast pain
- Clear or bloody nipple discharge
- Signs of infection such as fever, pus, inflammation, or swelling
In addition to soreness of breasts, expectant mothers will likely notice and experience changes in her breasts such as the following:
- Ultrasensitive nipples which results to achiness and tingling sensation
- Extra tender nipples
- Protruding nipples
Areolas are the dark area around the nipples, and here are the following changes of areolas during pregnancy:
- Darker and bigger areolas
- Increased spots
- Appearance of Montgomery tubercles – are sweat glands that looks like goosebumps which lubricates the areolas
- Veins, which carry the milk from the mother to the soon – to – b baby become bluish
Causes of breast soreness and pain
Breast soreness and pain is harmless [in most cases] and there are a variety of causes as to why it occurs:
Fluctuating pregnancy hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are the main reason for the soreness and changes in the breasts.
Breast soreness and pain (which often occurs during the 1st trimester) is a major indicator of pregnancy. Breast pain caused by pregnancy feels more extreme, lasts for a longer period, and is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Moreover, the types of pregnancy below can also contribute to Mastalgia:
- Teenage pregnancy
- Ectopic pregnancy
Pre – menstrual syndrome
Pre – menstrual syndrome (PMS) is the most common cause of breast soreness and pain. It is the body’s way of responding to estrogen fluxes which results to swelling and tenderness.
Atypical prolactin levels is a single breast hurts more than the other.
Puberty causes breast pain on both girls and boys.
Mastitis (also called as breastfeeding mastitis) is a breast infection which exclusively affects breastfeeding mothers. Aside from breast soreness and pain, mastitis is also accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Breast and nipple discharge
- Puffy lymph nodes
- Flu – like symptoms
Did you know that breast pain is not a necessary indicator that a person is affected with breast cancer? In fact, breast pain is just a rare symptom of that type of cancer.
The only cancer connected to breast pain is the inflammatory breast cancer, which only affects 1 out of 5 breast cancer diagnoses in America.
Fibrocystic breast disease
Fibrocystic breast disease causes the breasts to look and feel lumpy which results to breast soreness and pain. In some cases, sore lumps are caused by breast cancer. On the bright side, having fibrocystic breasts is not a definite sign of developing cancer.
Intraductal papilloma is the non – cancerous breast tumors in the milk ducts.
Perimenopause refers to the stage of a woman’s (women ages 45 – 55) life shortly before menopause sets in. Breast pain indicates either the reproductive system is proceeding for the next menstrual cycle or the reproductive organs are nearing to stop its function.
Fat build – up
Most expectant mothers gain weight during pregnancy, and fat build – up in the breasts is one of the contributing factors.
Increased blood flow
Blood flow increases in the breasts during pregnancy. This is to prepare the milk ducts for future breastfeeding sessions.
Pectoral exercises (also called as pecs workout) are activities that engage the pectorals, can strain the chest muscles such as the pectoralis major – muscle tissues underneath the breasts.
Pain from these types of workouts is always confused with breast soreness. But this type of pain is simply caused by the straining of pectorals.
Carrying heavy objects
Carrying heavy objects (which is correlated to pectoral exercises) also strains the pectoral muscles.
Wearing the wrong bra
Choosing and wearing the wrong bra can cause some serious consequences to the breasts. To know if she is wearing the wrong one below are following indications:
- Band and wings of the bra are short which results to a very tight fit
- Cup size are too small
- Underwire are pushing, pinching, and poking the breasts the entire day
- Providing inadequate support which is unable to control breast movements (bouncing up and down) which pulls the tissues
Three – cup – a – day habit
Did you know that too much coffee consummation can cause the breasts to sore? It is believed that too much coffee consummation have an effect on breast sensitivity. In fact, some women find that cutting back the caffeine consummation has diminished the soreness and pain.
In line with this, studies show that having a three – cup – a – day habit can cause soreness and pain especially to women with fibrocystic breasts [who are said to be more vulnerable to chesticles pain].
Prevention and precautionary measures for sore breasts
To prevent breast soreness and pain, enlisted below are the following precautionary measures that one must consider doing and/or taking:
Ways to ease and prevent sore breasts
Wear a nursing bra
Invest in a good nursing bra when expecting a baby. Wearing a nursing bra prevent the breasts from stretching and sagging.
Wear a cotton sports bra
Wear a cotton sports bra to ease the pain during the following situations below:
- If her breasts feel uncomfortable when lying in the bed
- Big breasted women who engage in exercises during pregnancy
To ease sore breasts after a pecs workout or lifting a heavy object, place some heating pads on the chest.
Management options for breast soreness and pain
If the level of Mastalgia becomes intolerable, this needs some extra medical care or immediate medical attention. There are also a variety of management options and medications available to ease the pain.
When to visit the doctor
To know when it is time to visit the doctor, here are the following situations that need a medical consultation:
- Breast pain persists for 3 weeks longer
- Breast soreness becomes severe with no fluctuations in the pain levels
- Have noticed or felt suspicious symptoms
Treatment options for breast pain
Before the treatment the doctor will consider the patient’s age, medical history record, physical causes (injury and/or scarring) and level of pain. That said, here are the treatment options for the corresponding levels of pain:
For cyclical breast pain
- Dietary adjustments
- Reduce coffee intake
- Lessen sodium intake
- Eat a very low – fat diet
For non – cyclical breast pain
A doctor will order a mammogram (x – ray for the breasts) to determine the suitable treatment for the patient.
For severe sore breasts
For severe cyclic breast pain
- Tamoxifen Citrate
For cystic breasts
- Needle biopsy – a procedure which involves pricking a needle into the cyst to collect a sample of tissue for testing
Medications for sore breasts
The medicines that a woman is taking can either ease or worsen breast soreness and pain. Below are the medications she must need to take:
- Nonsteroidal anti – inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin
- Birth control pills (particularly oral contraceptives) – hinders ovulation which in turn prevents cyclical pain. These types of pills also maintain the stable level of estrogens.
- Primrose oil supplements eases breast soreness and pain. It is considered as the alternative to over – the – counter pain relievers
- Anti – biotics – take anti – biotics to treat mastitis immediately. Untreated mastitis can lead to subareolar breast abscess and pre – period pain.
- Vitamin E supplements
- Vitamin B complex
- Calcium supplements
- Magnesium supplements
- Estrogen blockers
Medicines to avoid
On the other hand, expectant mothers or trying – to – conceive women must consult the doctor first before taking any medicines. Below are the medicines that she must avoid