What Do I Do For My Sore Breasts?

There are many joys of pregnancy – the first kicks, seeing your baby on the ultrasound, listening to the heartbeat, etc… However, pregnancy can also bring some unpleasant side effects, including sore and engorged breasts. There are two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, that claim much of the responsibility for this painful effect of pregnancy. Some other culprits include the fat that is gathering and blood flow that is increasing in your breasts in preparation for breastfeeding.

There are actually different parts of your breasts that may experience soreness in different ways for different reasons.

  • The breast tissue itself is accumulating in size as a response to pregnancy hormones that are telling them to prepare to nourish your baby. This increase in fullness might remind you of PMS, but it isn’t necessarily going to go away in a few days (although it usually subsides during the 2nd trimester).
  • The areolas, those dark areas around your nipples, will probably get even darker and you may notice that sweat glands begin to appear on this area. These glands will look much like small goose bumps, but this new raised feature of your breast might rub against your bra uncomfortably.
  • The nipples also enlarge during pregnancy and become even more sensitive than usual. This sensitivity is often more like a tender, aching pain, and your bra may only aggravate that sensation.

For all of these three reasons, your breasts might be quite sore during pregnancy, especially during the 1st and 3rd trimesters.  This not only can cause you discomfort, but it might interfere with intimacy as well. Fortunately there are a few techniques you can try to help alleviate sore breasts.

How Can I Relieve My Sore Breasts?

Your sore breasts can be caused by any combination of achy pain coming from the nipples, areolas, or deep within the breast tissue. You might be able to find relief by trying some of these tips and tricks.

Go bra shopping. Bras that fit well and give you adequate support are one of the most important pieces you can have in your maternity wardrobe. Properly fitting bras not only help to alleviate pain, but they can help prevent sagging as your breast tissue and skin stretches during pregnancy.

Wear a bra during sleep. A lightweight, soft cotton bra can give you enough support so that your breasts are not moving too much while you sleep (especially if you tend to roll around a lot during the night). The soft material can also act as a barrier between your sensitive nipples and pajamas.

Let your partner know. Be sure to be honest with your partner in a gentle way that intimacy that involves your breasts is just too painful right now. Suggest some other ways to make yourself more comfortable and still have that personal connection with your partner. Choose a time when you aren’t being intimate to let him know how you are feeling.

Try ice packs. If your breasts are extremely swollen, try cool compresses or ice packs to relieve the achiness. Some women actually also prefer the comfort of a warm shower – try either one and see what makes your breasts feel better.

Use nursing pads. These are made from very soft cotton and can add an extra buffer between your nipples and your clothing.

Sore breasts are one of the side effects that many women would rather do without, but the benefit is knowing that your body is responding to your pregnancy in a typical, healthy way. Try some of these tips for reducing the discomfort, and talk with your healthcare provider about any extreme pain you are experiencing.

Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”