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What is breast pain in pregnancy?

From the moment you are pregnant, your body begins to undergo changes that are almost incomprehensible. Although most changes happen internally, there are some changes that are observable and some that are not as apparent but are experienced or felt. While the baby bump is perhaps the last sign to arrive, pain or sensitivity of the breasts is among the first observable signs.

Besides the pain, that is quite similar to pre-menstrual breast pain, soreness, tenderness and heaviness of breasts are also experienced.

What are its main associated signs and symptoms?

Given the number of changes happening within the body, pain in the breasts is not the only symptom you will feel. There are other changes you will notice in your breasts:

  • Enlargement and growth of the breasts, protrusion of the nipple and widening of the surface of the areola
  • Darkening of veins on and along the breasts, darkening of areola and nipples
  • Tiny tubercles or glands, which resemble little bumps, develop on the surface of the areola. These are called Montgomery’s Tubercles
  • Very tender and sensitive breasts
  • Leaking of a thick, yellowish substance from the nipples in some cases, usually during the later months of pregnancy
  • Signs of stretch marks and itchiness on and around the breasts

(Read more: Breast changes in early and late pregnancy)

What are its main causes?

Most pregnancy signs and symptoms are associated with changes in female hormones which are working doubly hard to prepare for the care, protection and growth of the baby. Most importantly, the breasts are what will supply nutrition to the baby for several months after birth. Here are some causes responsible for some or all of the symptoms:

  • Increase in progesterone and oestrogen levels
  • Increased levels of blood flow to the breasts, leading to prominent veins and darkening of areola and nipples
  • Build-up of fat cells which makes the breasts larger and could also contribute to stretch marks

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis is based on the pain and discomfort experienced at this stage. Doctors usually avoid prescribing any medication and are also cautious about topical applications on the breasts. They are most likely to advise you to be patient and try ways to increase your levels of comfort. Some of these methods include:

  • Using a larger, supportive and comfortable bra, preferably made of natural, breathable fabric like cotton
  • Application of vitamin E or other fortified oils to help prevent chapping or stretch marks, but only after a consult with the doctor
  • Using ice packs to soothe irritation and tenderness
  • Orientation of the partner to be sensitive to changes and needs, especially during intercourse or foreplay
  1. Medicines for Breast pain in pregnancy

Do you or anyone in your family have this disease? Please do a survey and help others

References

  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Breast pain
  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Breast pain
  3. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are some common signs of pregnancy?. United States Department of Health and Human Services. [internet].
  4. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Getting a good latch
  5. Family health service. Breast Changes During Pregnancy. Department of health, government of Hong Kong

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