Why Your Breasts Hurt Before Your Period

When our breasts feel weird, we often jump to the worst possible conclusions... Most likely, it's just your hormones having a party in your breasts.

One of the more common (and often annoying) PMS symptoms is breast tenderness or breast pain. This sore and dull ache can begin around two weeks before your period and can be a cause for daily discomfort and unease.

It’s one of the main signals for many women that their period is about to arrive: breast tenderness. Breast pain – also known as cyclical mastalgia – can feel like anything from a dull ache, right the way up to throbbing “don’t you dare touch my breasts” pain.

When our breasts feel weird, we often jump to the worst possible conclusions: Does breast pain mean that I have breast cancer? Or are my boobs sore because I'm getting my period — or because I'm pregnant? Am I going to have to appear on one of those I Didn't Know That I Was Pregnant shows now?

So why exactly do your normally friendly boobs turn into your worst enemies at a certain time of the month? Keep reading to find out the answer.

A common symptom

If you're a female of menstruating age and you don't know what pre-period breast pain feels like, then go and buy a lottery ticket immediately. You're obviously a) extremely lucky and b) a member of the minority.

For the rest of us, that pulsating, tender, heavy feeling is all too familiar, and it's the pits. PMS-related breast soreness can range in severity. Symptoms often peak just before menstruation begins, then fade during or immediately following a menstrual period.

This kind of pain is called cyclical breast pain. The hormones that rise and fall during menstruation can cause breast tenderness, swelling, aches, and even tingling in your breast.

If your breasts are fibrocystic (noncancerous changes that give your breasts a lumpy or rope-like texture), you'll also notice lumps and bumps more easily during your menstrual period. That means you develop fluid-filled sacs in your breasts before your period—and those can also feel sore.

Most of the time, the symptoms are more of an annoyance than a serious medical concern.

The hormones at play

Breast pain is a common premenstrual symptom, typically occurring in the 5–10 days before the start of your period.

As with pretty much everything to do with your period, breast pain all comes down to hormones, experts explain.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) , hormone changes due to menstruation are the most common cause of breast pain.

It's all due to hormonal fluxes in the menstrual cycle, gynecologists say. Estrogen reaches a peak around the middle of your cycle, and progesterone reaches its peak the following week.

As it turns out, both are at very high levels during the second half of your cycle. It's like a hormone party in your breasts.

On top of that, breasts are particularly affected because they have estrogen and progesterone receptors, so they are especially picked on in that way.

If you're wondering exactly how progesterone and estrogen affect your boobs (as if you didn't know already), they can make them swell, become congested, feel tender and, for some women, cause lumpiness.

It's not comfortable, but there's a good biological reason for that happening, and it shows your hormones are working particularly efficiently, doctors note.

No reason to panic

While this likely won’t fix the discomfort you may be feeling, it sometimes is reassuring to know that many other people are dealing with the same thing and that it is part of your body’s normal pattern of changes over the cycle.

For the record, having breast tenderness before your period is normal, gynecologists assure.

But of course, every woman is different. Your hormones rise and fall during a normal menstrual cycle. The exact timing of the hormonal changes varies for each woman.

You might start to experience it as early as two weeks before you get your period, around the time that you ovulate. For others, it can come in a week or so before your period arrives.

Cyclical breast changes that include pain, tenderness, and swelling affect about 7 out of 10 premenopausal people. Many people worry that breast pain means they have breast cancer, but breast pain alone—particularly when it is cyclical—is not a common symptom of cancer.

If breast pain is worrying you, going to see a healthcare provider for an exam and more information – it may help relieve the anxiety and maybe even some of the breast pain.

While it might seem an inevitability of a monthly cycle, it is important to note that any PMS should only last a short amount of time – anything longer than a week should be checked out by your healthcare professional.

It is important to note that if your breast pain persists for months and does not seem to be of a monthly, cyclic nature, it is strongly advised to consult your doctor to find out the possible reasons and examine the breasts for underlying causes.

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