Pregnancy is an exciting journey for all women even though it is riddled with lots of issues that can cause pain and discomfort. Sharp breast pain pregnancy is one of them and is very common. Tenderness, soreness, swelling and pain in the breasts are one of the first symptoms that appear when a woman gets pregnant. These symptoms of breasts are the indication that your body is making the necessary changes to facilitate the process of lactation for your baby.  There are various effective strategies that you can adopt to manage the pain in your breasts.

Causes of Sharp Breast Pain During Pregnancy

  • Sharp breast pain can occur anytime during the course of your pregnancy. Your breast may become tender as soon as you conceive or within two weeks of conceiving. Progesterone and estrogen are the reproductive hormones in your body and their production increases when you conceive. They act on the milk ducts in your breast and prepare them to produce breast milk. This leads to increase in size of your breast resulting in breast pain and swelling. Estrogen causes your breast to enlarge and progesterone helps the milk glands to mature by causing the accumulation of water. 
  • During the second trimester your milk glands and breasts continue to increase in size in preparation for milk production and storage. Deposition of excess fat also contributes to increase in breast size. During the second trimester your breasts are no longer tender; however, your nipples become tender. Your enlarging breast will continue to cause sharp breast pain during the second trimester of pregnancy.
  • During the third trimester your body produces a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin is responsible for the production of colostrums, which is the substance that your breast secretes before the secretion of breast milk. The tenderness in your breast returns during this trimester and your breasts become full and heavy and you often experience sharp breast pain.  

Should you take medications?

If the pain in your breasts is severe you should consult your doctor. He may recommend pain killers to reduce the pain. Sometimes over-the-counter pain killer medications will help reduce the pain. However, do not take any medications without consulting your doctor.

When should you visit your physician?

You should visit your physician if you have sharp pain accompanied by fever as this may indicate an infection or clogged duct.

You should also visit your physician if your pain is located more in chest area and:

  • You also suffer from shortness of breath and cough
  • Your pain radiates to any of the arm
  • You have fever
  • You also have dizziness, unusual sweating and shortness of breath

Any of the above symptoms may indicate that there is a problem with functioning of the lungs or heart and should be checked by your physician. 

Management of Sharp Breast Pain in Pregnancy

1. Massage with oil

Massaging with olive oil, coconut oil or castor oil improves blood circulation in the breast and provides pain relief. This also helps in drainage of lymph fluid from the lymph nodes; thereby, preventing infection. You should gently apply a teaspoon of oil and massage on your breasts in circular motion just before taking shower.

2. Apply a cabbage wrap

Applying a cabbage wrap on your breast will have a soothing and healing effect and soothes sharp breast pain pregnancy. You can make a wrap by separating the leaves of a cabbage and boiling them for 3-5 minutes. Then take a single leaf and wrap it on your breast. Repeat it twice daily for pain relief.

3. Try flax seeds

Consuming flaxseeds will help reduce pain in your breasts. You should mix 1 tablespoon of powdered flaxseed with water, fruit juice or yoghurt and consume it for pain relief. However, consult your doctor before consuming flaxseeds.

4. Apply cold compress

There may be an increase in the temperature of your breasts due to increased blood flow which can cause tingling and pain in your breasts. Applying a cold compress using a cold wash cloth or ice pack on your breasts will provide pain relief.

5. Avoid irritants

The irritants present in your detergents can worsen your breast pain and tingling. Use detergents meant for sensitive skin. You should also avoid using soaps that may dry your skin which can aggravate the irritation in your breast.

6. Apply soothing creams and lotions

Lanolin containing creams and lotions can provide effective relief from breast pain when applied on your breasts. There are many over-the-counter lanolin containing creams and lotions available in the market. Lanolin reduces dryness, irritation and prevents infection in the breasts. Apart from lanolin, chamomile and calendula are also effective for pain relief. Products containing shea butter and cocoa butter also provide effective relief.

7. Consume a lot of water

Water retention can lead to swelling and tenderness of your breast. Dehydration can lead to water retention in you breast. Consuming a lot of water will flush out the excess fluid retained in your body especially your breasts. This will reduce the swelling in your breasts and the associated pain.

8. Reduce dietary salt intake

Increased consumption of salt causes water retention which may result in swollen and painful breasts. You can reduce pain and swelling in your breasts by decreasing your dietary salt intake.  

9. Take a warm water bath

Warm water can soothe the pain and irritation in your breast. Standing under a warm shower may increase the pain in your breast due to the force of the water falling on it. However, you can fill a bath tub with warm water and soak in it which will facilitate pain relief. Sharp breast pain pregnancy can be managed by warm water bath.

10. Reduce intake of hydrogenated oils

Consuming hydrogenated oils can inhibit the production of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is produced from fatty acids in your diet. GLA helps in reducing pain in the breast. Avoid foods containing margarine and baked and processed foods, which are rich in hydrogenated oils.

11. Consider Vitamin E supplement

Your doctor may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements when you are pregnant. You should especially consume vitamin E supplements after consulting your doctor and foods rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that will reduce pain and swelling in your breast. Foods rich in vitamin E include almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds and wheat germ.

12. Wear the right bra

During your pregnancy as your breast is increasing in size it is recommended that you opt for a bra that fits your growing breast. A maternity bra or sports bra will help keep your breast comfortable. Bras made of soft fabric will also help reduce irritation. Underwire bras can increase your discomfort during pregnancy so do not wear them. Wearing bras while sleeping at night will help reduce discomfort. You should also consider wearing breast pads to reduce irritation in your nipples. Sharp breast pain pregnancy can be managed by wearing the right bra.

13. Try acupressure

Acupressure can be an effective treatment for your breast pain. You should approach an acupressure professional who will be able to advise you. 

14. Exercise

Try exercising to strengthen the muscles behind your breasts called pectorals. However, you should start exercising after consulting with your health care provider and under the guidance of a physical trainer.