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 "period boobs." Cyclical mastalgia [say: si·kli·kuhl mas·tal·gi·a], as it is known scientifically, refers to 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 applaud Mother Nature for adding a freebie to her monthly gift: an in-built period-predicting alarm!
What is premenstrual breast pain?
First, let's bring it back to basics. Ever wondered why you even have breasts? Well, you're a mammal! "All mammals have breasts and humans are no exception. Breasts, which are milk-producing glands, begin to enlarge in females around the onset of puberty," according to Dr. Larissa Hirsch.
It's common to have sore breasts around the beginning of your period. During your menstrual cycle, your body produces lots of the female hormones estrogen [say: eh·struh·jn] and progesterone [say: pruh·jeh·stuh·rown]. "Changes in these hormones can cause feelings that together are called premenstrual syndrome, or PMS." You're probably familiar with some of these physical and emotional symptoms. Think: cramping in your lower tummy, period skin, upset stomach, mood swings, headaches, and/or cravings, to name a few.
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."
Dr. Hirsch reveals that during menstruation, "the body may retain water, which can make a girl feel puffy and bloated. Just as fingers and feet swell, so can breasts. All that fluid forces the breast tissues to expand, which stretches the nerves and makes breasts feel achy and tender."
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, keep in mind that most PMS symptoms, including breast soreness, should disappear as your period begins. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, might be helpful (always talk to your doctor and/or a parent before self-medicating). Wearing a supportive bra might also help.
Dr. Hirsch says "Healthy eating, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep are really your best bets for lessening the ache. You might try cutting down on salty foods and foods that contain caffeine, like coffee, tea, and even chocolate." That means buh-bye midnight chocolate snacks ;(
Also, practice self-care! If you're tired, take a rest! Snuggle on the couch with your pillow and watch a good movie (or some Netflix! Anybody else re-hashing Riverdale atm?). Sometimes getting your mind off your aches is the best thing you can do.
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].
When to see the doctor
Sometimes, these tips won't relieve breast pain. Maybe the pain is a little sharper this time, maybe it lasted longer than usual, or maybe you just want to get it checked out. You are not ovary-acting [read: overreacting]. If you're worried, then it's not silly! Visit your doctor so you get back to living your best life, girl!
Got any other tips on how to relieve sore breasts? Help your fellow PMS-ers out and let us know in the comments below!
Extra lil' links:
To monitor PMS symptoms like breast pain, try out a period tracking app. RED Modibodi investigated, so you don't have to – check out this blog post for the pros and cons.
Any gamers in the house? Have a go at Tampon Run, created by teens Sophie Houser and Andrea Gonzalez during a Girls Who Code summer program. While we at RED wish the game avatar threw REDs at the 'menstrual haters' rather than eco-hazard tampons, we still have to get behind any platform tryna mash that menstrual taboo. Click me to read more and me to watch Sophie and Andrea's awesome TEDx talk!