Why are my breasts sore during pregnancy?

Feel like your boobs have been used as punching bags for 12 hours straight? Ugh! Sore breasts are one of the most common (and uncomfortable) first signs of pregnancy. You may even experience this before other symptoms, like a missed period. It usually starts about 1–2 weeks after conception.

Rest assured, it’s completely normal to have achy, sore breasts early on in pregnancy. It may even be a nice reminder that you are, in fact, growing a little one inside you! Your body knows this and is starting to adjust by turning you into a human milk factory. Just go with it.

Here’s the low-down on why your boobs seem to hate you right now (but in actual fact are just doing their thang for your sweet babe-to-be), and what you can do about it.

Reasons for sore breasts in pregnancy

Your hormones are going wild

As soon as you’ve conceived, your body gets straight to work – no messing around. Hormones will start going wild, and this is the cause of most of those strange early pregnancy symptoms

Here’s who you can blame for your sore breasts in pregnancy:

  • Estrogen Before you ovulate, estrogen levels are high. This causes milk glands to swell and traps fluid in the breasts. Stimulated breast tissue because of estrogen may be why some women experience sore boobs as a sign of PMS. 
  • Progesterone – After ovulation, estrogen levels drop and progesterone levels rise. If you become pregnant, progesterone will continue to rise and start changing the structure of your breast tissue. This can very rudely cause sore breasts in pregnancy.

Your boobs are prepping for breastfeeding 

The flood of hormones into your body is largely due to the need to turn your boobies into little mini milk machines. You may be completely oblivious to the fact that you’re even pregnant, yet your boobs are hard at work growing milk-producing glands and developing an intricate internal feeding system for your baby. How cool!

With that in mind, you may feel a little less dirty towards your sore boobs. Or you may not – that’s fine too.

A quick word on Sore Breasts – Breastfeeding Edition:

You’ll likely experience at least some form of sore breasts while breastfeeding (if you choose to breastfeed). While excruciating nipple pain is one thing, you’ll also be dealing with a new flood of hormones, not to mention the arrival of engorged, pornstar boobs. And potential mastitis. Who knew breasts could cause so much pain? 

Hang. In. There. Mama. You’ve got this. Your boobs are flipping amazing.

Your boobs are growing

Double the usual amount of blood is pumping to your breasts during pregnancy. Double! This, combined with the growth spurt involved in producing milk glands, will make the ladies expand and your cleavage look incredible.

On the downside, this growth can make your breasts feel heavy, itchy (because the skin stretches) and sore. You may even experience stretch marks on your breasts as they expand before your eyes.

Sore Breasts: Pregnancy FAQs

How can you relieve pregnancy breast pain?

There is some silver lining to sore breasts in pregnancy: you get to go shopping. 

  • Get a maternity bra – Investing in a good maternity bra may make all the difference, providing extra support and comfort. It may help to sleep in a bra too. 
  • Wear looser clothing – It could also be time to upgrade your maternity wardrobe and swap out tight clothing for looser, more comfortable tops that don’t put pressure on your sore breasts.

You could try hot showers, cold compresses, or over the counter pain medication to help treat your sore breasts in pregnancy, too. If in doubt, chat to your doctor about treatment options.

What is pregnancy breast pain like?

76.2% of women report breast pain and tenderness during pregnancy, but the experience varies for everyone. For you it could involve,

  • Pain in one or both boobs
  • All over or more localized pain
  • Pain that spreads out into your armpits
  • Pain that’s constant, or comes and go
  • Sensitive nipples that are very tender to the touch
  • A tingling sensation.

In early pregnancy, the pain will often be dull and achy. Your boobs may feel heavy, swollen and sensitive to touch. It’s not common to feel sharp or stabbing pain in your boobs during pregnancy.

If you’re concerned about the pain, see your GP for a breast checkup.

How long will this fresh hell last?

Again, this differs for everyone! Pregnancy breast pain usually ebbs by the second trimester, along with morning sickness and other early pregnancy symptoms, but you’ll still likely experience some boob weirdness like:

  • Tingly nipples
  • Blue veins on your breasts 
  • Changes to the size, shape or color of your nipples
  • Tiny bumps on the areolas (these are called Montgomery’s tubercles and aren’t cause for alarm)
  • Leakages (you may start to produce colostrum aka “liquid gold” in the second and third trimesters)
  • Stretch marks.

You could experience any of these right up until the end of your pregnancy and beyond.

How do you know if sore breasts are from pregnancy or PMS?

Yes, sore boobs are a common early sign of pregnancy, but… they can also be a sign that your period’s on the way. So how can you tell if you’re pregnant or it’s just PMS? Honestly, it can be tough to spot the difference! 

PMS breast pain generally happens right before your period, and usually passes within 1-2 days of the start of your period. (Although, some women can experience cyclical breast pain, which happens at the same time during their cycle and can last for longer periods in the lead-up.)

Pregnancy breast pain can last much longer than a few days, and may be accompanied by sore, stinging or tingling nipples and development of blue veins (freaky, but normal).

If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is grab a home pregnancy test and find out for sure. 

Think your boobs are sore now, mama? Wait till they literally have been used as a punching bag by your boob-obsessed toddler, who actually refers to you exclusively as ‘Boob’ now. The joys of motherhood!

You’ll find more helpful tips, high fives, and encouraging pats on the bum on Mumli, your pocket-sized personal assistant for all things motherhood – coming to your home screen soon. Join the waitlist now.

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