If you’re experiencing pregnancy breast pain, know that you’re not alone. Aching, tender breasts are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. In fact, aching, tender breasts are frequently one of the earliest signs of pregnancy.
Many pregnant mothers report breast soreness at or around six weeks gestation. So what causes breast discomfort during pregnancy, and more importantly, how may it be alleviated? Here is everything you should know.
Why Do Breasts Hurt During Pregnancy?
For some women, breast pain is one of the first signs that they are pregnant. As early as two weeks after conception, when pregnancy hormones begin to spike, you may suffer from aching breasts. After the egg is fertilized, your body begins to generate pregnancy hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin, which stimulate your breasts and allow the milk glands within them to expand in preparation for their function as the primary source of nutrition for your newborn. (FYI, this is also the reason why you’re likely getting wow cleavage these days.)
The soreness you are experiencing is your breasts preparing for nursing, which may fluctuate throughout your pregnancy. Breasts become uncomfortable and tender during the first trimester of pregnancy for the majority of women. The commotion in your chest can be attributed to your ever-changing body chemistry.
First, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) increase the volume of blood throughout the entire body. This causes the breasts to swell. Next, hormones cause changes in the melanocytes, or pigment cells, which determine the color of your nipples. Your nipples will become more apparent when lighter cells slough off, and darker cells rise to the surface, allowing your infant to see them more clearly. This may explain why some women suffer painful nipples during pregnancy.
Around the third month of pregnancy, additional hormones signal the activation of the milk ducts in your breasts. Patrick Duff, M.D., an OBGYN at the University of Florida in Gainesville, explains, “Estrogen and progesterone produced by the placenta encourage the development of ducts in breast tissue.” Duff explains that as the ducts enlarge, they create and store colostrum, the first type of breast milk. This can cause breast discomfort because the cells must expand to make room.
All of these quick changes leave you with breasts that are sensitive to touch, prickly, and just plain painful. Fortunately, the pain diminishes as the pregnancy proceeds. Dr. Phelan explains, “After a few weeks, the majority of women become accustomed to the discomfort and don’t even notice when the pain disappears totally later in their pregnancy.” This means that you should have some time to appreciate your newly enlarged breasts before the baby arrives.
What Alleviates Breast Pain During Pregnancy?
Even though breast pain may get less likely as your pregnancy goes on, there are still a few things you can do to feel better.
- Wear a bra with greater support. You may be reluctant to put away all of your lacy undergarments, but those skimpy bras are likely not helping your problem. Providing your breasts with the necessary support will help them feel healthier. Patrick Duff, M.D., an Obstetrician at the University of Florida in Gainesville, recommends correctly fitting a more supportive bra. Full-coverage bras are more supportive since they elevate the breasts and relieve pressure on the area. Or, a larger-sized bra or sports bra may be beneficial. If being braless even at night causes you discomfort, wearing a comfortable sleep bra to bed may result in more restful sleep.
- Establish a “no touch” zone. Your spouse will find your large breasts quite attractive, but caressing or applying pressure will only make matters worse. Care for your pregnant breasts until the discomfort subsides.
- Choose loose-fitting clothing. As your breasts become larger during pregnancy, clinging tops may become more uncomfortable than cute, and inside seams may irritate delicate breasts. Adhere to loose-fitting garments that won’t rub or annoy.
- Consider a cold compress. Cover your chest with a towel and put an ice pack on the area. A bag of frozen peas works nicely!
- Take a hot shower. If you receive no relief from an ice pack, try taking a hot shower. According to Dr. Duff, heat can assist in relaxing surrounding muscles and relieve stress.
- Physician-recommended pain alleviation. If the discomfort is unbearable, consult your physician about taking Tylenol.
What Causes Postpartum Breast Pain?
You assumed you’d be free of breast pain now that you’ve given birth to your beautiful child, but this is not the case. The majority of women will have full, painful, and rock-hard breasts when their milk comes in, often three to five days after giving birth. This is typical and is known as engorgement. Some discomfort or pain will also be experienced during breastfeeding.
How Long Will Breast Pain Persist After Childbirth?
The good news is that engorgement will resolve on its own when you feed your baby and/or once your body determines how much milk is required. Moreover, pain during feeding tends to resolve itself. However, if the pain persists, you can (and should) consult a physician.
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