Pregnancy

Breast Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Shweta Das
Pregnancy

Created by Shweta Das
Updated on Mar 11, 2022

Breast Pain During Pregnancy Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Experiencing breast changes and breast pain during pregnancy? Tender, swollen breasts, and sore nipples are a completely normal part of being pregnant. Considered one of the early signs of pregnancy, these breast changes are triggered by surging hormones and occur as your body prepares for lactation and breastfeeding.

When you’re pregnant, your breasts and nipples become more sensitive and sore than what you’d usually experience before periods. As you approach your due date, your breasts could grow even larger and fuller and you could also experience other uncomfortable breast changes. 

Here, know about what to expect when your breasts start changing during pregnancy and how to relieve the associated discomfort and pain. 

What causes breast pain during pregnancy?

Just as other pregnancy signs and symptoms, breast pain during pregnancy occurs due to surging hormone levels. Estrogen and progesterone, the pregnancy hormones, and prolactin, the lactation hormone, increase the flow of blood to your breasts and trigger changes in your breast tissue, enabling your body to prepare for breastfeeding.

As a result, your breasts may become:

  • Swollen

  • Tender

  • Sore

  • Tingly 

  • Highly sensitive to touch

These breast changes may feel painful to you, or you may consider these changes as an amped-up version of how your breasts feel before periods or ovulation.

Besides pregnancy, other possible causes of breast pain could be:

Note: Breast pain is seldom due to a disease like breast cancer. It is usually due to the hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.

Other breast changes that occur during pregnancy

Besides breast pain or tenderness, here are some other breast-related symptoms that you may experience during your pregnancy: 

  • Increase in breast size: Your breasts may get bigger around Week 6 to Week 8 of your pregnancy, and this growth will continue throughout your gestation period. While you undergo this breast change, your cup size could increase by a letter or two. 

As your breasts grow in size: 

  • The skin stretches

  • Your breasts become itchy

  • Your breasts develop stretch marks

  • Tender, sore nipples: During pregnancy, your nipples could become:

    • Sore and achy

    • Tender and tingly

    • More protruding than before

  • Darker areolas with bumps: When you’re pregnant, your areolas or the dark areas around your nipples could become: 

    • Darker

    • Bigger

    • Spotted 

You may have noticed these spots or little goosebumps on your areolas before, but they get more prominent during pregnancy. Known as Montgomery’s tubercles, these bumps are oil glands that lubricate the area.

  • Pronounced veins: During pregnancy, the veins in your breasts may appear as a network of blue lines. How noticeable the blue veins are under your skin depends on:

    • Your genes

    • Your breast size 

    • Whether you’ve had a breast enhancement surgery

  • Leaky nipples. In addition to experiencing breast pain during pregnancy, you may also have breast discharge. This discharge is usually seen in the final weeks of pregnancy as:

    • Your body is readying to nurse your baby 

    • Your hormones are trying to regulate milk production 

Known as colostrum, this discharge is your immune-boosting first milk that forms the best first food for your newborn. 

This discharge is usually:

  • Thin and watery initially 

  • Thick, sticky, and yellowish towards the end

  • Lumpy breasts: Sometimes during pregnancy, you could develop lumps in your breasts. These lumps are typically not dangerous and could be: 

    • Milk-filled cysts or galactoceles

    • Benign breast tumors or fibroadenomas

It is rare for women to develop serious health problems like breast cancer during pregnancy. However, if the lumps are hard and a cause of concern, it is better to consult a Doctor. 

How to relieve breast pain during pregnancy

Here are a few ways to manage tender breasts and sore nipples when you’re expecting:

  • Wear maternity bras during the day. For extra support and comfort to relieve breast pain during pregnancy, go for bras that are:

    • Made of soft cotton

    • Provide full coverage

    • Are non-wired

    • Have wide, adjustable shoulder straps

    • Have a thick bra band

    • Have an adjustable back closure with extra hooks

Since your bra size could increase a few times during pregnancy, you could visit a bra-fitting specialist to help you get bras of the right size, fit, and style.

  • Sleep in a sports or sleep bra. If movement during sleep causes your breasts to hurt or you feel that you need extra support while sleeping, try wearing a sleep or sports bra to bed. Sleep bras offer pain relief with their soft cotton lining and wider shoulder straps.

  • Exercise in a sports bra. Exercising during pregnancy could cause breast pain. To relieve discomfort, wear a sports bra that provides adequate support for your bigger, heavier breasts. Try sports bras that are specially designed for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  • Use breast pads if your nipples are starting to leak. Breast pads are made of washable cloth or disposable paper, and they help absorb the discharge and ease the pain from sore nipples chafing against the bra lining.

  • Switch to nursing bras if you’re starting to breastfeed. These bras are as comfortable as maternity bras, but they also have clip-down cups that make breastfeeding more convenient.

  • Wear loose clothing. Try wearing loose, flowing, or oversized blouses, tops, and tees instead of snug clothes that press against your breasts, causing you more pain. 

  • Apply cold compresses. Applying cold packs like a frozen gel, an ice pack, or even a bag of frozen peas can help alleviate breast pain during pregnancy. These packs help relieve breast pain and swelling by temporarily lowering the blood flow and nerve activity in the area. Just protect your skin from direct contact by wrapping the cold compresses in a washcloth or dish towel.

  • Take a warm shower or bath. A soothing, warm shower or bath can help relieve breast pain during pregnancy as it helps relax sore and tense chest muscles. Try to avoid splashing your sore nipples by using a gentle showerhead setting. Alternatively, use a washcloth and only warm water and not soap to clean your breast area. 

  • Apply oils and lotions to your breasts. If your breast skin is tight and itchy, applying oils and lotions can help relieve the discomfort.

  • Talk to your partner. Let your partner know that you’re experiencing breast pain during pregnancy so that they know what they can touch and how, whether it’s inside the bedroom or outside.

  • Get over-the-counter (OTC) relief: If these home remedies aren’t working, consult your doctor to see if you can take an OTC pain reliever.

How long does breast pain last during pregnancy?

Your breasts may become tender, sore, or painful during pregnancy and right after giving birth. These breast changes are quite common in the first trimester, but they usually stabilize in the second and third. You could experience discomfort once again when you start lactating, i.e., producing more mature breast milk instead of the first immunity-boosting form of milk called colostrum. 

During the first few weeks after giving birth (postpartum), you could also experience breast pain due to engorgement, i.e., when your breasts become filled with too much milk. Because of this, your breasts may become swollen, tender, and warm. This pain may occur initially while you start producing milk and later as you set up a breastfeeding routine. 

Breast discomfort and pain during pregnancy and lactation can be managed by following the above-mentioned remedies, such as wearing a comfortable nursing bra and using cold compresses. However, if the pain grows worse or stays for a long period, consult your doctor for pain relief. 

Is it normal to not have breast changes during pregnancy?

While changes in breasts are common during pregnancy, there’s no need to worry if you don’t experience them. The presence or absence of breast changes does not affect the health of your pregnancy or your ability to lactate or breastfeed.

When to See a Doctor

You should consult a doctor if you have any concerns about breast changes and breast pain during pregnancy.

See a Doctor if:

  • Your breasts develop hard, prolonged lumps 

  • Your nipples produce a discharge that’s nothing like colostrum

  • You need an OTC pain reliever

While most of these changes would be harmless, it is better to check with a Doctor and put your mind at ease.

If you have any more questions or concerns about breast pain during pregnancy, you can ask our Doctors for advice.

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