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Breast Pain and the Menstrual Cycle

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Our menstrual cycles and all the changes we go through during that cycle are characterized by the ebb and flow of our hormones. During certain stages, certain hormones peak while others crash leading to various physical, mental and emotional effects on our bodies and minds. Breast pain and the menstrual cycle also have a similar connection.

Also known as mastalgia, breast pain is commonly present in women. The pain may occur in the form of tenderness, soreness, tightness or even sharp stabbing pains. This pain is generally described as cyclical, i.e. in motion with the menstrual cycle. These pains usually get better after your monthly period, but they can build up in the weeks leading to and last until after the period.

Hormone changes due to menstruation are one of the most common causes of breast pain. These pains are often described by women experiencing them as heavy, dull or aching. When this happens you can also notice certain physical changes in your breasts such as swelling or lumpiness. This affects both breasts, the outer and upper portion in particular. Breast pain during the menstrual cycle can also radiate out into your underarms.

A reduction in the levels of estrogen and progesterone before the period can cause sore breasts. These changes can also lead to the lymph nodes swelling, contributing to the breast pain.

Breast Pain before the Period

Pain in the breast before period along with tenderness and swelling is a common complaint in women. These symptoms may form a part of a disorder called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

The cause of most episodes of sharp breast pain before periods may be the rising and crashing levels of the hormones. The levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone change during a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. These hormones prepare your reproductive system and breasts for a potential pregnancy. Estrogen causes enlargement of the breast ducts. Progesterone causes swelling of the milk glands. Due to these changes your breasts may feel sore.

The estrogen hormone peaks during the middle of your cycle, whereas the progesterone hormone rises during the week just before your period occurs.

The Three Stages of Breast Pain during Your Cycle

Breast pain can be mapped into three segments during your menstrual cycle. The first is mid-cycle i.e. 2 weeks before your period is due. This may occur due to hormone fluctuations, which happen around the middle of the menstrual cycle or more accurately when you are ovulating. Due to the sudden peak of estrogen around this time, your breast ducts also become enlarged and may lead to you experiencing breast pain as well as heavy and sore breasts.

The second is a week before your period. This is when progesterone is at its peak in the menstrual cycle. Progesterone causes the swelling of the milk glands in your breasts resulting in increased tenderness and swelling of the breasts. Therefore, breast pains a week before your period are completely normal and can be viewed as a symptom of your PMS.

The third stage is during your periods. This breast pain will typically start off a week or two before the period and may persist during your period and taper off gradually after the periods are over. In essence, it is an extension of the above two stages. You may or may not go through all three stages as each individual’s period journey and symptom graphs are different.

How to Combat Breast Pains at Home?

Make certain lifestyle changes. Try wearing a sports bra to support your breasts when the symptoms of pain and swelling are the worst. Leaving things completely free is another way of combating breast pain. Again, remedies and results depend from person to person.

Try certain dietary restrictions when experiencing breast pain, caffeine, high amounts of salt and fat may increase premenstrual discomfort in breasts. Try eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet that contains a large number of whole grains and vegetables. You can include a variety of foods such as corn, peanuts, spinach, carrots, oat bran, bananas and brown rice.

If you are someone who’s experiencing moderate to severe breast pain before your period, then please visit your physician so that you can get the best possible diagnosis of your pain and how best to combat them.

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