How to Deal With Sore Breasts in Pregnancy

Easy Ways to Ease the Pain

Easing sore breasts during pregnancy

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

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One of the very first signs of pregnancy can be sore breasts and nipples. In fact, you may notice that your breasts are becoming achy and swollen and that your nipples are hypersensitive before you even miss your period.

Breast and nipple pain can also occur during your menstrual cycle but is likely to be more intense in early pregnancy than it would be during your period. If you've been trying to conceive and looking forward to a positive home pregnancy test, embrace the ache. In all likelihood, it means that you're expecting!

1:52

Moms Share How Their Breasts Changed Throughout Pregnancy

Causes

Breasts can become sore in early pregnancy for several reasons, but one of the primary causes is changing hormone levels (such as estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin).

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), the breast changes of pregnancy can appear as soon as one to two weeks after conception. 17% of women surveyed in an APA poll said that changes in their breasts were the first sign they were pregnant.

Starting at the very beginning and continuing throughout pregnancy, your body is preparing to breastfeed. There are many changes taking place in a short amount of time: blood flow to the breasts increases, fresh layers of fat begin to build, and the milk ducts start to expand.

The hormonal changes that are taking place, as well as the stretching of your milk ducts as they fill with milk, will make your nipples bigger and more prominent. These changes will help your baby see the nipples more easily when it's time to latch on (if you choose to breastfeed).

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5:58

How Will Pregnancy Change My Body?

Tips to Reduce Discomfort

Sore breasts are such a universal problem among pregnant people that there is no shortage of advice on treating them. If these methods don't give you relief, be sure to talk to your health care provider.

Try a New Bra

A filmy, flimsy underwire bra isn't going to cut it as your breasts grow throughout your pregnancy. Any bra that you wear should offer good support, but here are specific features that the APA advises that you look for in a bra for pregnancy.

  • Back closures rather than front closures (which will give you the ability to adjust as necessary)
  • Deep band beneath the cups
  • Wide shoulder straps

Pay attention to how your bra fits as your pregnancy progresses. You may need to go up a size (or two) as your breasts grow.

You might have had a professional bra fitting in the past, but it can help to get another one when you're shopping around for a pregnancy bra.

Wear a Sports Bra

Consider swapping your normal bra for a sports bra, which is designed to hold the breasts close to your chest wall and minimize movement. Anything you can do to keep your breasts from bouncing or jiggling has the potential to bring relief if these motions exacerbate their soreness.

You might feel some discomfort when you first put on a sports bra because your breasts and nipples are sensitive. Once you get used to the fit, a sports bra can offer a great deal of support for heavy, aching breasts.

Sleep in a Bra

Wearing a bra to bed minimizes movement and will protect your tender nipples from scraping against your nightclothes or bedsheets. There are bras made especially for sleeping in, but you can also just wear a sports bra or your regular bra.

Reduce Skin Contact

You might instinctually do everything you can to avoid allowing anything to touch your breasts. For example, 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 a backpack. This will also help keep the weight of your torso 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. Having a frank and open conversation can prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings should your partner inadvertently irritate a tender spot.

Turn Down the Shower

Your nipples might be so sensitive that you can hardly stand to dab them dry with a towel after you take a shower. While a cool or warm shower might help reduce your discomfort (as can compresses) be mindful of water pressure. Even the sensation of the spray of water from the shower can be painful for sensitive breasts.

If your shower head has one, switch to a "gentle" setting. If not, at least direct the water flow so that it doesn't hit your chest directly when you're facing it. You can also drape a washcloth over your breasts and hold it in place with one hand while you rinse off the front of your body.

Try Breast Pads

If the inside of your bra bothers you, try lining each cup with a breast pad to shield your nipples. They're typically sold to protect clothing from leaking when a person is nursing and can be made from washable, reusable cotton, or disposable paper.

A Word From Verywell

For many people who are pregnant, sore breasts are just par for the course. With a little planning, there are strategies you can use to prevent and reduce discomfort. A well-fitting bra and breast pads can get you a long way!

If your breasts haven't been bothering you, don't worry. Pregnancy symptoms are different for everyone and not having one or another doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong. If you are having any symptoms (or lack thereof) that concern you, it's always best to check with your health care provider.

If there's nothing to worry about, their reassurance will give you peace of mind. If something does need to be addressed, identifying it early gives you time to make informed medical decisions.

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  1. American Pregnancy Association. Early signs of pregnancy.

  2. American Pregnancy Association. Breast changes during pregnancy.