I am a nervous nelly. During my pregnancies, I evaluate every feeling, every symptom, every roll and kick from every possible angle. One of the more infuriating phenomena of pregnancy is how frequently symptoms shift and change, especially in your breasts. One minute they're tender and swollen, the next they feel totally normal. Breast tenderness can come and go in early pregnancy, and it can leave moms-to-be feeling a little anxious as they track their symptoms.
To start, your breast tenderness during pregnancy is caused by all of those hormonal fluctuations, says Michelle Wong, OB-GYN with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and UT Physicians in Houston. “It can cause increased nipple sensitivity and increased pain due to changes in the size of breast tissue. Since the hormones fluctuate throughout the entire pregnancy, tenderness can occur during all three trimesters and can come and go throughout the pregnancy." Well, that’s a relief.
Pregnancy Symptoms Can Fluctuate
General fluctuating symptoms in early pregnancy are absolutely normal, and breast tenderness certainly falls in that category, according to The Archives of Medical Science. The issue, as with most everything during pregnancy, comes down to hormones. Dr. Constance M. Chen, a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction specialist in New York City, tells Romper, “Breast tenderness during early pregnancy happens because the body is flooding with hormones as it prepares to nourish a new life. Hormones stimulate milk-producing glands, which cause the milk ducts in the breast to grow and your breasts to grow larger. Blood flow to the breasts increase as well. The increase in breast size stretches the skin, and that overall fast growth can cause breast tenderness. The breast tenderness in early pregnancy is common and normal.”
Breast Pain & Tenderness During Early Pregnancy Is Common
The National Library of Medicine found that well over 75% of women experience some form of breast pain or tenderness during their pregnancy. This is especially the case in early pregnancy, when breast tenderness is often the first symptom women notice. “While breast tenderness is much more common in the first trimester, the breast continues to grow throughout the pregnancy, and actually breasts go through their last stage of life development when a woman is pregnant for the first time," Alicia Johnson, a certified nurse midwife at Lone Tree OB-GYN in Colorado tells Romper. Fascinating, right? No one tells you that pregnancy is your boobs' last trip down puberty lane, but here we are. One day, you have barely B cups. The next? You'd think your body had been drawn to comic book proportions. It’s jarring, to say the least.
On top of that, it can feel like your breasts are shifting emotions as much as you do during those long 40 weeks. "Every woman may experience these changes differently, depending on their own hormonal changes, and they may differ in each pregnancy," Wong says.
There may be days you might not be able to handle standing beneath the hot steam of the shower for the intense prickling and discomfort it might cause in your breasts, and other days, it might feel pretty good. Take into consideration the kind of bras you choose to wear, and remember that your breasts might not be as fun to handle in intimate situations. As the saying goes, this too shall pass. (Unless you breastfeed, and then you might still not be interested. But that’s another post for another time).
Wong notes that while breast tenderness is normal, if you notice any lumps, redness, or bloody discharge, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Otherwise, good luck, and happy bra shopping. (Soft bras without underwires will most likely be your undergarment of choice, as long as you don't mind a little less support.)
Michelle Wong, MD, OB-GYN with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and UT Physicians in Houston
Dr. Constance M. Chen, a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction specialist in New York City
Alicia Johnson, a certified nurse midwife at Lone Tree OB-GYN in Colorado
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