Your Period and Your Breasts

Ask just about any woman: Breasts can go through changes during a menstrual cycle. They get tender, and even seem to shift a bit in size and shape.

Chalk it up to the ebb and flow of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone over the course of your cycle.

Breast symptoms are the strongest just before your period starts, and improve either during or right after it.

What’s Normal?

Every woman is different. But it’s common to have one or more of the following:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Aches
  • Soreness
  • Changes in texture

What Can I Do?

There are a few steps you can take to curb changes in your breasts during your monthly cycle:

  • Eat a diet lower in fat, avoiding high-fat foods.
  • Skip caffeine, which means no coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.
  • Avoid salt 1 to 2 week before your period starts.
  • Wear a bra that fits you properly and provides good breast support.
  • Aim for a daily cardio workout.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

While most changes in your breasts shouldn’t cause alarm, you should make the call if you notice:

  • Unusual, new, or changing lumps in your breast or under your arm
  • Nipple discharge (aside from breast milk), particularly if it’s bloody or brown
  • Severe symptoms that make it hard to sleep, even after you make changes to your diet and exercise routine

You should also reach out if you have changes in:

  • The size or shape of your breast that doesn’t go away after you get your period
  • Your nipple, such as if it becomes more pointed or turns inward
  • Your breast’s skin, including itching, redness, scaling, dimples, or puckering

What Will My Doctor Do?

She'll give you a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and your family’s medical history.

Most likely, your doctor will ask you questions about your premenstrual breast tenderness, such as whether it happens every time you get your period, whether you've noticed any lumps or discharge, and other symptoms you’ve noticed.

You’ll get a breast exam to check for lumps, and you may also need a mammogram or breast ultrasound.

Remember, most breast lumps aren’t cancer. But you have to see your doctor to be sure. If needed, you may get a biopsy, in which the doctor takes a tiny bit of the lump to test.

Your doctor may also suggest a few options to ease symptoms. For instance, taking diuretics, or "water pills," before your period starts may reduce breast swelling and soreness. Hormonal birth control methods can also help. In severe cases, your doctor may refer you to a breast specialist for another exam.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on July 08, 2016



John Hopkins Medicine: “Normal Breast Development and Changes.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: “Breast Changes: Should I Be Concerned?”

Scripps Health Foundation: “Breast – premenstrual tenderness and swelling.”

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