When Karen Smith revealed her boobs' mystical meteorological powers in the movie Mean Girls, you probably laughed it off. But, turns out, she was onto something. Many of us experience cyclical mastalgia, or, as it is more commonly known, "period boobs": premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness that, according to Dr. Debra Rose Wilson of Healthline Networks, gradually decreases during and following your period. Though there's no denying the annoyance of sore boobies, we have to hand it to Mother Nature for adding a freebie to her monthly gift: an in-built period-predicting alarm!
What is premenstrual breast pain?
As stated by Dr. Wilson, premenstrual breast pain is "part of a group of symptoms called premenstrual syndrome, or PMS." Think: bloating, period skin, upset stomach, mood swings, etc. "Tenderness and heaviness in both breasts are the main symptoms of premenstrual pain and swelling. A dull aching in the breasts can also be a problem for some women."
What causes sore boobs?
Notice some extra boobage (enlarged breasts) and tenderness during that time of the month? Verywell Health reveals that "Your monthly menstrual cycle is determined by fluctuations in levels of estrogen and progesterone. These important hormones prepare your breasts and reproductive system for a potential pregnancy." Further, Dr. Wilson explains that "Estrogen, which peaks in the middle of the cycle, causes the breast ducts to enlarge. Progesterone, which peaks during the week before menstruation, causes the milk glands to swell." Combined, this hormone cocktail cause a little (or a lot!) of swelling, aches, and tenderness.
How do I relieve breast pain?
Sometimes, the sore boobie blues interferes with your daily life. Boobs: 1, You: 0. Instead of being a 'sore' loser, check out Dr. Tanya Tantry's best tips on how you can find some relief:
- Reduce/eliminate caffeine intake: Consider reducing your daily coffee intake and skip the choccie at tea-time, ladies (yes, chocolate has caffeine - we're just as devastated as you are).
- Follow a low-fat diet: Switch high-fat foods with wholesome, high fibre alternatives such as whole grains and vegetables. Click here to view FPA Women's Health's list of foods to avoid while you're period-ing.
- Wear a firm, supportive bra: The right fitting bra helps minimise breast movement, which causes extra boob pain. Also, wearing a bra at night is not a good idea, as it interferes with circulation, causing swelling of the breasts.
- Relaxation techniques: Gentle exercise (such as yoga) and aromatherapy can help ease anxiety that causes breast soreness. Click here to read a breakdown of period-safe exercise and here for a list of essential oils for breast pain.
- Painkillers: Taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can provide temporary relief. However, long term use should be avoided. Always chat to your doctor about painkillers for breast soreness before taking them.
- Change birth control method: If you’re on the pill, its hormonal content may be causing breast soreness and pain. It's worth talking through other non-hormonal contraceptive options (or an alternative pill) with your doctor.
Keep in mind that sore breasts "can be a symptom of menopause and a variety of health conditions [or infections]." So, as always, PSA: consult a doctor whenever you are concerned about changes in your breasts or the severity of a symptom - if you're worried, you're not ovary-acting [read: overreacting].
Got any other tips to help relieve breast swelling and tenderness? Help your fellow PMS-ers out and let us know in the comments below!
To monitor PMS symptoms like breast pain, try out a period tracking app. Modibodi investigated, so you don't have to - check out this blog post for the pros and cons.
Know a RED by Modibodi wearer? Tell her about SeeingRED, the podcast that answers the questions she has always wanted to ask about her period, her health and how to grow up in a world that doesn't always make sense. She'll find candid conversations, facts she should know about already (but definitely doesn't yet) and a whole heap of help. Head to ApplePodcasts and search SeeingRED to have a listen (or click here)!
Ever wondered about the 'big-picture' impact of periods? Well, a new study suggests "period pain is linked to nearly nine days of lost productivity in a year in workplaces and school." Check out CNN's article here - and let us know what you think!
Here at Modibodi, we welcome any open discussion making our “unmentionables” absolutely mentionable!