How to Deal With Sore Breasts in Pregnancy

Easy Ways to Ease the Pain

Pregnant woman
Breast Pain During Pregnancy. Zero Creatives/Getty Images

Among the very first—if not the first—signs of pregnancy are sore breasts and nipples. In fact, you may notice your breasts are becoming achy and swollen and your nipples hyper-sensitive before you miss your period. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), changes in the breasts can start as early as one to two weeks after conception, and in an APA poll, 17 percent of women surveyed said that changes in their breasts were the first sign they were pregnant.

Breast and nipple pain are likely to be more intense in early pregnancy than during your period. But if you've been trying to conceive and looking forward to taking that positive home pregnancy test, embrace the ache: In all likelihood, it means you're expecting. Here's why women's breasts and nipples become so incredibly tender during pregnancy and some practical ways to show them a little TLC.

Why So Sore?

Women's breasts become sore in early pregnancy for several reasons. One has to do with increases in estrogen and progesterone levels that are triggered by conception. And throughout pregnancy—even in the very beginning—your body is preparing to breastfeed. More blood flows to the breasts, fresh layers of fat begin to build, and the milk ducts start to expand. That makes for a lot of change in a short amount of time

Some women find that their nipples are so sensitive they can hardly stand to dab them dry with a towel after a shower. This could be due to stretching and darkening that takes place as the nipples become bigger and more prominent (so the baby can see them more easily when it's time to latch on).

Tips for Easing Achy Breasts

Sore breasts are such a universal problem among newly pregnant women that there's plenty of good advice around for dealing with them. Here are some frequently shared strategies to try. If nothing helps and you're truly uncomfortable, check in with your obstetrician for other ideas.

Try a New Bra

Your filmy, flimsy underwire isn't going to cut it as your breasts continue to grow. Consider getting a professional fitting. The APA advises looking for these features when purchasing a bra during pregnancy:

  • Good support
  • Deep band beneath the cups
  • Wide shoulder straps
  • Adjustable closure in the back (which will give you more flexibility to adjust than front-fastening bras)

Wear a Sports Bra

Movement can exacerbate soreness, so anything you can do to keep your breasts from bouncing or jiggling may bring you some relief. Try switching from your lacy lingerie to a sports bra. They're designed to hold the breasts close to the chest wall to minimize movement. When you first put on a sports bra, you may feel some discomfort because your breasts and nipples are sore after all. Give it a few minutes. As you get used to the bra you may come to appreciate how much support it brings.

Pay attention to how your bra fit as your pregnancy progresses too. You may need to go up a size (or two) as your breasts expand more.

Sleep in a Bra

You may find that sleeping in a bra minimizes movement and protects tender nipples from scraping against your nightclothes or bedsheets. There are bras made especially for sleeping in, but you also can wear your sports bra or even your regular one (although you probably won't find an underwire to be comfortable).

Avoid Contact

You probably will do everything you can to avoid allowing anything to touch your breasts instinctually. Still, a few reminders: If your seatbelt is uncomfortable, adjust the strap that zigzags across your torso so that it runs between your breasts and not across the top of one of them.

The same goes for your purse: If you typically carry a crossbody bag, consider switching to an attractive backpack. This will also help keep the weight of your torso more evenly distributed as your belly bump begins to emerge.

If having your breasts touched during sex is uncomfortable, don't be afraid to speak up and let your partner know. Better to have a frank and open conversation than to risk crying out in agony or causing hurt feelings.

Shun the Shower Spray

Even the sensation of the spray of water from the shower can be painful. If your showerhead has a gentle setting, try that one or at least direct the flow so that it doesn't hit your chest directly if you're facing it. You also might try draping a washcloth over your breasts and holding it in place with one hand while you rinse off the front of your body.

Wear Breast Pads

If the inside of your bra bothers you, try lining each cup with a breast pad to shield your nipples. These come in washable, reusable cotton or disposable paper and are typically sold to protect clothing from leaking in nursing moms.

Sore Breasts Aren't Inevitable

If your breasts don't bother you, don't worry. Everyone has very different pregnancy symptoms and this doesn't mean something is wrong. But if you truly are worried, check in with your doctor.

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