It's not uncommon for women to experience pain or discomfort in their breasts, whether during periods or pregnancy. Although these two situations can present similar symptoms, there are differences to be taken into account!
Pain experienced during periods is often associated with hormonal changes in the body, while nipple pain during pregnancy is more related to preparation for breastfeeding. In all cases, it's important to consult a health professional if the pain is intense or persistent. Elia explains!
What causes chest pain?
Mastodynia in women can have many origins! In addition to a case of injury or shock, the presence of fibroadenomas (benign tumours) or an infection (such as mastitis), these symptoms are often found during pregnancy or during periods.
Sign of early pregnancy
These pains can be an early sign of pregnancy! In fact, during pregnancy, levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone increase considerably to support the growth and development of the fetus. These hormones can then cause small changes in breast tissue: enlarged milk ducts, increased blood flow and mammary gland development.
These changes can make the mammary gland heavier and more sensitive, often resulting in discomfort. Pregnant women may also experience tingling or burning sensations. These symptoms may appear in the first few days after conception and intensify over the following weeks...
Sensitivity due to the arrival of periods
During the menstrual cycle, hormone levels fluctuate considerably. And just before periods, estrogen levels rise, which can lead to an increase in the size of the mammary glands and water retention in the tissues.
These bodily changes can lead to a feeling of swelling and tightness, which can be painful and uncomfortable. This sensitivity is often associated with general discomfort in the lower abdomen, as well as other premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, headaches and fatigue. Absolute bliss!
Why are breasts more sensitive during pregnancy?
As explained above, hormonal changes are a real upheaval in the pregnant woman's body! Estrogen and progesterone levels are on the boil, and inevitably some minor inconveniences appear, including breast pain.
It is not uncommon for the breasts to increase in size as a result of the enlargement of the milk ducts (in preparation for breastfeeding) and the development of the mammary glands.
What are the risks of sore breasts during pregnancy?
In general, this symptom is not a major cause for concern, as it is very common, and often linked to hormonal changes and breast growth. However, in some cases, it can be a sign of more serious problems, requiring a medical diagnosis!
Other possible causes?
- Mastitis: an infection of the breast tissue that can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. Symptoms include pain, redness, inflammation and fever;
- A mammary cyst is a small, fluid-filled pocket that can develop in the breast. Although generally benign, they can sometimes be painful or cause inflammation;
- A fibroadenoma is a benign breast tumor that can occur during pregnancy. Although not necessarily dangerous, a fibroadenoma can cause pain and discomfort in the breast;
- Breast cancer: although rare, breast cancer can occur during pregnancy. And since symptoms can include pain or a lump in the breast, it can be mistaken for pregnancy-related pain.
How to diagnose the origin of breast pain?
Mastodynia can have different origins. To diagnose the origin of these pains, several medical examinations can be carried out.
The doctor may first carry out a clinical examination of the breast and surrounding tissues, to look for abnormalities such as nodules, skin changes or increased reactivity. If no abnormalities are detected, the pain is probably due to hormonal changes.
A mammogram or ultrasound may be performed to check for tumors or other abnormalities. The doctor may also check whether the pain is related to taking or wearing hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, patch or IUD, or to taking hormonal treatments, particularly in the context of MAP.
Finally, it's also possible to consider the quality of the bra worn and its fit! We often forget, but a bra that's too small or badly adjusted can also cause discomfort!
In the event of persistent or unusual pain, it is essential to make an appointment with a doctor for a precise diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
How to soothe pregnancy-related chest pains?
Now that we know more or less how and why, let's talk about how to relieve these symptoms during pregnancy:
- Wear a comfortable, well-fitting bra : basic, but essential, as it can help keep the breasts in place and reduce pain;
- Applying heat : using a heating pad (or hot water bottle) or taking a hot shower can be very pleasant. But for some women, cold compresses are more effective. It's up to you!
- Taking analgesics : if the pain is intense, it is possible to take analgesics to reduce the pain, in agreement with your doctor;
- Eat a balanced diet: rich in omega-3 and vitamins B and E ;
- Infusions of calendula or chamomile, reputed to reduce mastodynia during pregnancy;
- Avoid stimulating foods and drinkss : coffee and sodas containing caffeine can aggravate pain;
- Regular exercise: gentle exercises such as walking or yoga can help reduce pain by improving blood circulation.
Why are breasts sensitive after childbirth l?
After childbirth, the breasts can become more sensitive and painful due to the hormonal changes taking place in women. During pregnancy, the mammary glands undergo major changes in preparation for lactation. After childbirth, the hormones that stimulate milk production increase, which can lead to an increase in the volume of the mammary gland, tension and pain in the nipples. This can be particularly marked in the first days or weeks after delivery.
And, let's face it, breastfeeding can also cause mastodynia, as the baby sucks to stimulate milk production. Pressure on the mammary glands and sucking on the nipple can be painful, and nipples can be irritated or sensitive.
Chest pain FAQ
What are the first signs of pregnancy before periods ?
The first signs of pregnancy vary from woman to woman, but the most common signs often appear before the absence of periods ! These include fatigue, due to the hormonal changes taking place, as well as nausea and vomiting (often called "morning sickness"), often associated with an increased reaction to smells.
How can you tell the difference between chest pain caused by periods or pregnancy?
It can be difficult to differentiate between these two types of pain. But a few clues can point to the exact cause. If breast pain occurs just before periods, it's more likely to be related to the menstrual cycle. If you notice a delay in periods, it could be a sign of pregnancy. Breast pain related to periods is often mild to moderate, while that related to pregnancy may be more intense. Breasts can be more sensitive and painful in general during pregnancy, while during periods, they are more sensitive to touch.