Do Tender Breasts indicate Ovulation or Pregnancy?

Many women experience tender breasts at some point in their life. It can be caused by many reasons, the majority being of a hormonal nature. When this happens, the breasts can feel sore when you touch them or when you move around, and they feel heavier and/or fuller.

Breast tenderness is one of the signs of pregnancy but can also be an indication that you are ovulating. Further complicating the matter, tender breasts can likewise be a symptom of PMS.

Since pregnancy, ovulation and PMS all trigger the release of hormones into the body, all three conditions can affect your breasts. To find out which of these conditions is causing your breast tenderness, you must take into account other symptoms, the type of soreness you are experiencing and your menstrual cycle.

Type and Location of Soreness

Ovulation often causes pain or soreness on the sides of your breasts [1]. If pregnancy is the reason for the tenderness, your breasts will have a strong sensation of fullness or heaviness. This pain would also be felt throughout the entire breast and not just on the sides. In some women, tenderness or soreness in the breasts can be the first symptoms they experience of pregnancy and the breast are sensitive and tender to touch.

However, this is not a reliable way to tell that you’re pregnant, as breast tenderness can be caused by other reasons. If you suspect that you’re pregnant and are feeling breast tenderness, be sure to see a doctor.

Breast Tenderness from PMS

Many women experience breast pain or tenderness from PMS, which typically happens in the days leading up to the start of their period. A good indicator that PMS is the issue causing your breast tenderness is the timing of your period.

This is why it’s always good to keep track of your menstrual cycle. There are actually smartphone applications available that can help you easily keep track of your menstruation and even ovulation. You’ll be able to make a note of any pain you are experiencing, moodiness or any other issues. Knowing all these things can be helpful in determining the reason behind your breast tenderness.

Breast Tenderness and Pregnancy

Aside from tenderness, other changes in the breasts can help you determine whether you’re pregnant, ovulating, or experiencing PMS. For pregnant women, their areola and the surrounding nipple tissue may show a change in color or tone [2]. Again, a color change in this area is typically only found in women who are pregnant.

The size of the areola can also be an indication that you’re carrying a child since pregnancy can sometimes cause the veins in the chest to become larger and more pronounced. All these changes are a sign of pregnancy, not ovulation or PMS.

Pregnancy is a common cause of breast tenderness, but just because you have breast tenderness, doesn’t mean you can automatically assume you are pregnant. There are many more indicators, including some typical early indicators that can give you an idea you’re pregnant.

These signs can include increased frequency of urination, abdominal cramps, back pain, moodiness, aversion to certain types of foods, increased sensitivity to odors and high basal temperature. When pregnancy occurs, the body is flooded with hormones, which can cause all the above symptoms as well as tender breasts.

If a woman is trying to get pregnant, she will want to know when she is ovulating. You can monitor your body temperature and cervix to get a clearer indication of when ovulation occurs for you.

Other indicators can include changes in the texture or color of cervical mucous, abdominal pain and an increased sex drive. Many women start ovulating at about the halfway point through their menstrual cycle. This point typically occurs from a few days to a week or more after the last day of her period. The ovulation cycle can be quite varied from woman to woman, so checking other indicators is important for accuracy in detecting ovulation.

There are also ovulation prediction tests now available that can help you to predict your ovulation. These tests are quite inexpensive and will test you for a particular type of hormone that surges during a day or so before ovulation starts. Using a test like this can vastly improve the accuracy of your ovulation predictions.

Other Causes of Breast Tenderness

Though pregnancy, ovulation and PMS are the most common causes of breast tenderness, they are not the only causes. In fact, in teenage boys and girls, the start of puberty can cause breast tenderness. Breastfeeding can also cause this type of breast pain and discomfort. Women who are nearing menopause can also experience breast tenderness or pain.

Medication use can also contribute to breast pain and tenderness. Those who take antidepressants, for example, can experience these symptoms as a side effect of their medication.

Those who take oral birth control pills or undergo infertility treatments may also experience breast tenderness, as well as older women who are past the menopause stage and are going through estrogen and progesterone hormone therapies.

Fatty acid imbalance in breast cells is another culprit. It makes the breast tissue more sensitive to hormones, which can result to the feeling of pain tenderness. Women who have undergone breast surgery in the past are also prone to breast tenderness, even when their incisions are already healed.

Smoking is known to increase epinephrine levels in the breast tissue. This can make a woman’s breasts hurt.
Sometimes breast pain isn’t because of your breasts, but because of irritation of the chest, arms, or back muscles. This is common if you’ve engaged in activities such as raking, rowing, shoveling, and waterskiing.

Tietze’s syndrome is another condition which can be mistaken for breast pain and is a rare, inflammatory disorder characterized by chest pain and swelling of the cartilage of one or more of the upper ribs (costochondral junction), specifically where the ribs attach to the breastbone (sternum). [3]

Breast cysts can likewise contribute to tenderness as well as pain. Some cysts are palpable and can be easily felt when you perform a breast examination. They can be hard or soft, and they may move about when you push them gently with your fingers. Breast cysts are usually not cancerous, but because of the pain and discomfort they cause, you might want to have them surgically removed.

Another possible cause of breast tenderness is fibroadenoma. This is a tumor of the milk glands and can be noticed when performing a breast exam. It’s usually firm and can be moved around, although it doesn’t usually cause pain.

Many women who experience breast tenderness and pain immediately fear that they have breast cancer. But, according to experts, these symptoms don’t automatically indicate that cancer cells are present. In most cases, the tenderness is caused by other symptoms, like those listed above. Still, if you have any concerns about your health, it’s important to see your doctor ASAP.

Final Note

No matter the reason you think you are experiencing breast tenderness, be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual or new occurring with your body. This way, you can determine what’s causing the symptoms you experience and get the appropriate treatment right away or at least be assured that what you’re experiencing is normal.


  2. 6 signs that you may be pregnant >
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