Breast pain: is it linked to pregnancy or menstruation?

Douleurs aux seins : est-ce lié à la grossesse ou aux règles ?

It's not uncommon for women to experience pain or discomfort in their breasts, whether during menstruation or pregnancy. Although these two situations can present similar symptoms, there are some differences to take into account!

Pain experienced during menstruation 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 breast pain?

In women, mastodynia can have several origins! In addition to a case of injury or shock, the presence of fibroadenomas (benign tumors) or an infection (such as mastitis), these symptoms are often found during pregnancy or during menstruation.

A sign of early pregnancy

Pain 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: widening of the milk ducts, increased blood flow and development of the mammary glands.

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 can appear as early as the first few days after conception and intensify over the following weeks...

Sensitivity due to menstruation

Another reason, and not the least: theonset of menstruation! As we've all (almost) experienced, menstruation has its share of symptoms, especially in the days leading up to it.

During the menstrual cycle, hormone levels fluctuate considerably. And just before the period, 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's not uncommon for the breasts to increase in size as a result of the enlargement of the milk ducts (in preparation for breast-feeding) 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: this is an infection of the breast tissue that can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. Symptoms include pain, redness, inflammation and fever;
  • Mammary cyst : a small fluid-filled pocket that can develop in the breast. Although generally benign, they can sometimes be painful or cause inflammation;
  • Fibroadenoma: a benign breast tumor that may develop 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 can 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.

Last but not least, you should also consider the quality and fit of the bra you're wearing! It's often forgotten, but a bra that's too small or badly adjusted can also cause discomfort!

In the event of persistent or unusual pain, it's 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 move on to solutions for relieving these symptoms during pregnancy:

  • Wearing a comfortable, well-fitting bra : basic, but essential, as it can help keep the breasts in place and reduce pain;
  • Apply heat : using a heating pad (or hot water bottle), or taking a hot shower, can be very pleasant. But for some, cold compresses are more effective. It's up to you!
  • Take painkillers : if the pain is intense, you can take painkillers to ease the pain, in agreement with your doctor;
  • Eat a balanced diet: rich in omega-3s and vitamins B and E;
  • Infusions of calendula or chamomile, reputed to ease mastodynia during pregnancy;
  • Avoid stimulating foods and drinks: coffee and sodas containing caffeine can aggravate pain;
  • Exercise regularly: gentle exercises such as walking or yoga can help reduce pain by improving blood circulation.

Why are breasts sensitive after childbirth?

After childbirth, breasts can become more sensitive and painful due to hormonal changes 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 the nipples may be irritated or sensitive.

Chest pain FAQs

What are the first signs of pregnancy before menstruation?

The first signs of pregnancy vary from woman to woman, but the most common signs often appear before the absence of a period! These include fatigue, due to the hormonal changes taking place, as well as nausea and vomiting (often referred to as "morning sickness"), often associated with an increased reaction to smells.

How can I tell the difference between chest pain and menstrual or pregnancy pain?

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 your period, it's more likely to be related to your menstrual cycle. If your period is delayed, it could be a sign of pregnancy. Period-related breast pain is often mild to moderate, while pregnancy-related pain can be more intense. Breasts can be more sensitive and painful in general during pregnancy, while during menstruation they are more sensitive to touch.

More articles

Back to blog

Our best sellers

1 of 8

The information contained in the articles on is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.