My boobs felt like they weighed 10 pounds each when I was pregnant, and I was convinced that was where most of my early “pregnancy weight” was coming from. I know that’s not true or logical, but throw me a bone here. They were so sore and tender I could barely stand to walk, as all of my bras decided not to fit properly anymore and give me adequate support. I remember Googling, “when do your boobs stop hurting in pregnancy” as early as the first trimester. And of course, there was no concrete answer, like a lot of things when it comes to pregnancy.
Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger for TwinDoctorsTV says every woman is different when it comes to breast pain and pregnancy. “In most women, the breast soreness is most pronounced though during the first trimester when estrogen and progesterone levels are high. Then, during the second trimester when estrogen and progesterone levels tend to drop a bit, the soreness frequently improves. But in the third trimester when the levels of estrogen and progesterone start to spike again, breast soreness frequently returns.”
But once you have your baby, if you’re breastfeeding, breast soreness from the hormones doesn’t tend to happen. But if you get engorged, that’s a different level of breast soreness. And don’t get me started on the sore and sensitive nipples. “Estrogen and progesterone levels tend not to fluctuate much in breastfeeding women because most breastfeeding women (at least during the first six months of breastfeeding) do not ovulate. Since they are not ovulating, those hormone levels remain fairly low and stable,” Abdur-Rahman explains.
However, when formula feeding, even though breast engorgement doesn’t tend to happen, you’ll probably start ovulating, which means you’re “subjected to the fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels,” he adds.
Every woman’s body handles the estrogen and progesterone hormones differently. Some women’s breasts hurt more than others in general, and that goes for PMS, too. That’s how I always knew I was about to start my period — my boobs would hurt so bad, I could barely wear a bra. “The breasts tend to hurt prior to the start of the period because of the spiking estrogen levels two weeks before menses, and because of the spiking progesterone levels in the week before menses,” Abdur-Rahman explains. This causes the breast ducts and the breast glands to dilate and enlarge respectively.
Unfortunately, not only can sore boobs be part of PMS, but it can also indicate that you’re pregnant. So if you’re trying to conceive and you’re counting and analyzing every single symptom, this could be quite irritating. “Since estrogen and progesterone levels rise with pregnancy, sore breasts are a common first sign,” Abdur-Rahman says. “However, since estrogen levels also spike when a woman is about half way through her menstrual cycle and progesterone levels spike in the week leading up to menstruation, it’s not unusual for a woman who is not pregnant to also experience breast soreness during the last two weeks of her cycle before her menstrual period.”
So painful breasts are just part of the many wonderful symptoms of being pregnant, but they thankfully don’t hurt so bad for the entire pregnancy, and typically stop being so sore after you have the baby (if you’re breastfeeding, then they’re sore in a different way). Just don't panic if the soreness suddenly goes away. Chances are, your body's just adjusting and trucking right along in your pregnancy.