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Breast Pain: Period or Pregnancy? Symptoms and Possible Causes

You may have breast pain before period, but also during menstruation and after it. You may also have sore breasts during pregnancy — how can you distinguish what it’s telling you about? Let’s find the causes of breast pain before period vs. early pregnancy and other symptoms.
A woman having breast pain

Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, is commonly present in women. The pain may occur as breast tenderness, tightness in breast tissue or as a sharp burning pain. 

The pain is generally categorized as noncyclical or cyclical. Cyclical breast pain is linked with your menstrual cycle and it usually gets better after your periods. This pain may be described as heavy, dull or aching. It may be associated with swelling or lumpiness of breasts. It generally affects both the breasts, particularly the outer and upper portions and may radiate to your underarms. 

The noncyclical breast pain isn’t related to your menstrual cycle. It may be intermittent or constant and is described as sore, burning or tight. It generally affects single breast and may be present in a localized region of the breast. 

Breast pain before period

Pain in breast before period along with tenderness and swelling is a common complaint present in women. These symptoms may form a part of a disorder called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 

Extreme breast pain before period in association with tenderness and swelling may also indicate fibrocystic breast disease. 

The cause of most episodes of sharp breast pain before period may be fluctuating levels of hormones. The levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone change during a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. These hormones prepare your reproductive system and breasts for a potential pregnancy. Estrogen causes enlargement of the breast ducts.

Progesterone causes swelling of the milk glands. Due to these changes your breasts may feel sore. 

The estrogen hormone peaks during the middle of your cycle, whereas the progesterone hormone rises during the week just before your period occurs. 

The main signs and symptoms of breast pain before period are heaviness and tenderness in both the breasts. Some women may experience dull aching in their breasts. The breast tissue may feel coarse or dense to the touch. Symptoms may appear a week before your menses and disappear gradually after your menses. Majority of the females don’t experience severe breast pain before period. 

Breast pain before period may improve as you approach menopause due to the natural changes in the hormone levels, which occur as you age. 

A girl holding two oranges as a depiction of breast pain

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How to reduce breast pain before period? You may treat pain in breast before period with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen sodium. These medicines may also help in relieving the menstrual cramps. 

Females with moderate to severe breast pain before period should visit their physician who may recommend the best possible treatment. Diuretics may reduce water retention, swelling, and tenderness. But you should use these medicines carefully under the direction of your doctor. 

Oral contraceptive pills may relieve your symptoms of swelling and pain in breast before period. You should ask your doctor about these pills if you have severe breast pain before period and you don’t want to conceive in the near future. 
If you have severe breast pain before period your physician may prescribe the medicine Danazol that is used in the treatment of endometriosis and fibrotic breast disease. However, this medicine may cause serious side effects; hence, it should only be given in cases where other treatment options don’t work. 

How to reduce breast pain before period with lifestyle remedies? You may manage period and breast pain by making certain lifestyle changes. You may wear a sports bra to support your breasts when the symptoms of pain and swelling are the worst. You may also wear the bra during the night so that it can provide extra support to your breasts while sleeping.

Diet may play a vital role in causing breast pain before period. Alcohol, caffeine, and foods containing high amounts of salt and fat may increase premenstrual discomfort in breasts. Eliminating or reducing these foods and beverages from your diet during the week before your menses start may help in managing or preventing the symptoms of pain in breast before period. Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet that contains a large number of whole grains and vegetables.

Certain minerals and vitamins may also help in relieving breast pain before period and other premenstrual symptoms. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin B-6 have all been reported to soothe symptoms. If you take any vitamins or supplements, check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you. 

You may also include a variety of foods that are a rich source of these nutrients in your diet. Some of such foods are, corn, olive, canola and safflower oils, peanuts, spinach, hazelnuts, carrots, oat bran, bananas, brown rice, and avocados.

Breast pain a week before period: should you be worried?

The levels of progesterone hormone peak during the week before you get your menses. Progesterone causes swelling of the milk glands resulting in symptoms of breast pain a week before period along with tenderness and swelling of breasts. Hence, having premenstrual breast pain week before period is completely normal and you shouldn’t worry about it. 

Breast pain 2 weeks before period: what does it indicate?

Breast pain 2 weeks before period may occur due to hormone fluctuations, which happens around the middle of the menstrual cycle or when you are ovulating. The breast ducts enlarge due to the estrogen hormone. This may result in breast pain 2 weeks before period along with soreness and heaviness of breasts. 

Breast pain during period

The breast pain that starts a week or two before a period may persist during your period and taper off gradually after the periods are over. 

A medical consulting about breast pain

Breast pain after period

If you have breast pain after period then it may have no relation to your periods. Instead, pain in breast after period may be noncyclic pain and may be due to various other reasons. It may affect one or both the breasts. The various breast pain after period causes includes pregnancy, trauma to the breast, a poorly fitted bra, mastitis, fibrocystic breast changes, costochondritis, and back, shoulder or neck sprains. Taking certain medicines such as antidepressants, oral hormonal contraceptives, antipsychotics etc. may also cause breast pain after period. Undergoing surgery on the breast and formation of scar tissue may also result in breast pain. 

Majority of the breast cancers don’t cause pain. But you should consult your physician immediately if you experience breast pain after period that doesn’t get better and any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • A lump in your breast
  • Any clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Breast pain without any cause or that doesn’t get better
  • Symptoms of a breast infection including pus, fever, redness or tenderness
  • Pain or lump in the breast that doesn’t get better 

Period breast pain vs. pregnancy pain: what’s the difference?

For many females, changes to their breasts are among the earliest signs of getting pregnant. Pregnancy affects the levels of the estrogen and progesterone hormones in your body. Estrogen enhances the growth of breast ducts and progesterone supports the growth and formation of milk-producing cells. Hence, your breasts may feel swollen, sensitive, tender to the touch or sore during early pregnancy due to these hormonal changes. Your breasts may also feel heavier and fuller. These changes to the breasts usually occur one to two weeks after conception and may last for the time your progesterone levels remain elevated while you are pregnant. 

During premenstrual syndrome (PMS) breast pain, tenderness and swelling may happen during the second half of the menstrual cycle. The symptoms tend to be most severe just before your menses. Furthermore, symptoms may be more severe in women who are in their reproductive years. Your breasts may feel dense and bumpy particularly in the outer region. When differentiating breast pain during period vs. pregnancy, period pain may be a dull pain with a sense of heaviness and fullness in breasts. The pain may gradually improve as your periods are over. 

Breast pain is a common complaint in females. It may be categorized as noncyclical or cyclical. Cyclical breast pain is linked to your menstrual cycle and it gets better after your menses. The cause of breast pain before period is the fluctuation in hormonal levels during your normal menstrual cycle. Pain in breast before period may feel as heaviness and tenderness in both the breasts.

Symptoms may appear a week before your periods start and taper gradually after your periods. You may take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the breast pain. You may also make certain lifestyle changes to improve the pain. Breast pain after period that doesn’t get better may have no relation to your menstrual cycle. There are many reasons for breast pain after period. If you have breast pain unrelated to your menstrual cycle that doesn’t get better and there is an accompanying lump, nipple discharge or signs of breast infection, then immediately consult your doctor.

https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/pms-symptoms-vs-pregnancy-symptoms#breast-pain
https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-premenstrual-tenderness-and-swelling
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311833.php
https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/pregnant-breast
https://www.healthline.com/symptom/breast-pain

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