The first two times I was pregnant, my boobs were the first to try and let me know. Unfortunately they also get super tender when I'm about to start my period, so neither time I suspected anything until days later when menstruation was late. But for women who are eagerly watching and waiting for any sign of conception, gauging breast tenderness may be one of the earliest signs to look for. So when do your boobs start hurting during pregnancy? And can you differentiate it from PMS?
Kara Manglani, an NYC-based Certified Nurse Midwife, tells Romper that breast tenderness can begin as early as the time of implantation. (Implantation is when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus to begin the growth process.) Unfortunately, "implantation aligns with your first missed period, which makes it difficult to distinguish from normal breast tenderness associated with your menstruation," Manglani explains.
Given the complicated timeline, it can obviously be hard to distinguish breast tenderness as a pregnancy sign versus an upcoming period sign; so I'm likely not the only one who has been fooled in the past. But Manglani does offer a sliver of hope: Some women firmly believe the two sensations feel different. So if this breast tenderness somehow feels more intense than what you usually experience, it could be a sign of pregnancy.
What's the deal with sore boobs in early pregnancy, anyway? According to Manglani, the breast tenderness experienced in pregnancy is due to a process called mammogenesis. (Scrabble word!) Mammogenesis is the process wherein the breast tissue grows and proliferates in preparation to produce and store milk.
Crazy right? You've been preggers for, like, eight seconds and your body is already going, "It's milk-making time!"
Which leads to another conundrum: Do your boobs still hurt in early pregnancy if you are currently nursing a baby or toddler? Everyone is different, but in my experience, the answer is no. With my third pregnancy the soreness never came, deceiving me into thinking I wasn't actually pregnant for weeks. Even after an at-home test came out postitive, I couldn't believe that after all these years my boobs would fail me. But alas, they missed the memo completely.
Manglani says a woman should never look for confirmation of pregnancy with just one sign (well, unless you're testing at a doctor's office), because there really can be an alternative explanation for nearly everything. She advises measuring breast tenderness against additional signs such as nausea, a missed period, and a positive pregnancy test.
The University OB-GYN Associates in Syracuse maintain that for most women, breast tenderness is present by week four of a pregnancy, but for some it may start to happen as early as five days after conception. Additional symptoms are definitely a key to watch out for, but women should know that experiencing new symptoms on a given month does not necessarily mean pregnancy. One representative tells Romper that, "Many women will start cramping after a certain age, or will develop more Pre-Menstrual Syndrome symptoms after their first pregnancy." Just the kind of reliable, black and white answers you were hoping to hear, right?
Breast tenderness might very well rear its charming head a few days before your expected period, so if it does, congratulations on what could potentially be a pregnancy indicator. However it might take several weeks to notice a change inside your bra, long after you've had a positive test confirm your hopes.
Sore boobs can be a confusing sign to try to read, and when it's all said and done the only way to truly know if you're pregnant is that good old fashioned pregnancy test and trip to the OB-GYN or midwife. In the meantime, patience is a virtue, and you are a total saint.
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