For some females, there can be some bodily changes during or before the menstrual cycle. The period cycle can also cause different symptoms, most common being sore breasts. The hormone fluctuations before the menstrual cycle can cause breast tenderness or pain. Women facing this problem can follow a few measures which can reduce breast pain or discomfort. However, if the breast pain gets severe or the female observes signs of a breast infection, she should seek immediate medical help.
Breast pain or tender breasts is a general premenstrual symptom that typically occurs about 5–10 days before the period is due. Cyclical breast pain or tenderness is a common part of the period cycle and is usually nothing to worry about. There are several measures that can help reduce breast pain or discomfort like supportive bras, warm or cold compresses, massages, pain relief medications, herbs, supplements, dietary changes, etc which are briefed later in the blog. Read ahead to find out the causes of breast pain during periods and how to reduce the pain.
Causes of premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness
Breast tenderness and heaviness is a common symptom of premenstrual pain and swelling. Dull pain in the breasts can also be a problem for some females. The breast tissue can feel dense or coarse to the touch. Symptoms of breast tenderness usually appear a week before the period and disappear almost immediately when the bleeding begins. Most females do not experience severe breast pain.
In some cases, breast pain or tenderness gets severe and can even affect the everyday routines of the female. In such cases, it is not certain that breast pain is connected to the menstrual cycle.
Due to the natural changes in the hormone levels that occur as a female ages, premenstrual breast tenderness or swelling usually improves near or after menopause.
The hormone levels in a female’s body fluctuate during and before the menstrual cycle, which causes episodes of premenstrual breast tenderness and swelling. A female’s hormone levels rise and fall during the menstrual cycle. The exact duration or timing of the hormonal changes varies from woman to woman. The hormone “estrogen” is responsible for the enlargement of the breast ducts. Production of the hormone “progesterone” causes the milk glands to swell. Changes in both of these hormones can cause the breasts to feel sore.
Both the hormones estrogen and progesterone rise during the second half of the period cycle (days 14 to 28 in a normal 28 day period cycle). Estrogen level peaks during mid-cycle, while progesterone level rises about a week before the period.
Medications containing estrogen can also be responsible for breast changes like tenderness, soreness or swelling.
How is breast pain related to the menstrual cycle?
Cyclical breast pain (also known as mastalgia) is a natural premenstrual symptom that occurs in a predictable pattern that varies in every female and is related to the period cycle.
It usually happens during the phase after ovulation and before the period ( known as the luteal phase) and resolves once the period starts. Females taking hormones supplements or pills for birth control, fertility, management of abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), or menopausal hormone therapy may also have breast pain due to the change in hormone levels caused by these treatments.
How to know if the breast pain is cyclical?
Cyclical breast pain is experienced at a certain time around the monthly menstrual cycle, and usually comes with certain symptoms:
- Breast pain which occurs about 5–10 days before the period and continues till the start of the period, and goes away once the period begins is caused due to hormonal changes in the premenstrual phase.
- The female may have aching, heavy, or tender breasts.
- However, pain can also be sharp or shooting. Some females may also feel swollen or lumpy breasts a few days before the period starts.
- At times, the female can have breast pain which is severe enough to impact her physical and sexual activities.
Science-backed home remedies for premenstrual breast pain
Wearing a well-fitted and supportive bra can help get relief from breast pain and tenderness. It is a known fact that the majority of females wear the wrong bra size. A properly fitted bra can help decrease breast pain, especially for females with larger breasts. Consider wearing a soft bra while sleeping, if the breast pain is affecting your sleep. (Also Read: What all helps to increase breast size? )
Warm compresses or ice packs
Using warm compresses or ice packs can help relieve tenderness or pain in the breasts. You can also gently massage your breasts for more relief.
For most females, taking over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps get relief from pain and is completely safe. It is a reasonable step to try to reduce breast pain. However, this remedy does not work for every female. Some get relief by taking such medicines while others find no relief after taking it.
Supplements and herbs
Chaste tree, also known as vitex agnus-castus is a herb that has been found to reduce a variety of premenstrual symptoms, like breast swelling, tenderness, and pain. Some females get benefit by taking evening primrose oil, component gamma-linolenic acid, Vitamin E, or the two together, but researches have provided inconsistent results. Powdered flaxseed and Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) also work effectively for reducing the intensity and duration of premenstrual breast pain and cyclical breast pain.
Several kinds of research suggest that a diet higher in any form of fat can also be a reason for increased cyclical breast pain. Reducing the intake of fat in the diet (especially before or during the menstrual cycle) can lower the intensity or severity of cyclical breast pain. (Also Read: Do cold foods and drinks worsen period cramps? )
Meditation and relaxation
Females with premenstrual or cyclical breast pain who exercise progressive muscle relaxation on a daily basis may have decreased pain gradually. The practice of mindfulness meditation can also help improve overall premenstrual symptoms such as breast pain, cramps, body-ache, etc.
Also Read: Yoga Poses For Every Woman
Premenstrual symptoms such as tender or swollen breasts can often be effectively managed with home remedies, care, and medications, if necessary. Consult your condition with your gynecologist if the home remedies, over the counter medications or lifestyle changes do not relieve pain or help you feel better.
When to call a doctor
Sudden or bothering changes in the breast should be discussed with the doctor. While most breast pain and swelling linked to the menstrual cycle are harmless, it can also be warning signs of an infection or an underlying medical condition. Contact your gynecologist if you notice:
- New breast lumps
- Discharge from the nipple, especially if it is brown or bloody
- Severe breast pain
Breast tenderness and swelling linked to the menstrual cycle can often effectively be managed at home with home remedies, care, and medications, when necessary. Consult your doctor about effective home remedies for you. In case the pain gets severe, visit your doctor right away.