Why Does My Breast Hurt Before My Period
Your period is supposed to be happy time, but it doesn’t always seem that way. Many women experience bloating, cramps or other uncomfortable symptoms before their periods start. And sometimes those premenstrual symptoms linger after menstruation has begun. If you’re one of them, don’t despair! There are some things you can do to make your period more bearable.
One common problem is breast sensitivity. While this isn’t necessarily related to puberty (although many young girls have breast pain just prior to their first periods), it’s possible that hormonal changes associated with menstruation may play a role in the discomfort. For example, estrogen causes the breast ducts to enlarge. Progesterone production also causes the milk glands to swell. Both of these events can lead to increased pressure on surrounding tissue, including sensitive nerves and blood vessels. The good news is that both of these hormones tend to decrease over time as your body prepares for menopause.
Breast tenderness can also occur if there’s an infection or inflammation within the mammary gland itself. Some types of cancer, such as fibrocystic disease, may affect the area as well. It’s important to consult your doctor if you think something might be wrong. In addition to any medical issues, certain medications may bring on painful breast tenderness as part of their side effect profile. For example, birth control pills often include ingredients that can increase breast tenderness. So can antidepressants like Zoloft. Certain antibiotics can also trigger breast pain.
Finally, some people who suffer from chronic breast tenderness find relief by wearing supportive bras. Wearing bras that fit properly will help reduce the amount of weight placed on the chest wall, which reduces the amount of pressure felt at night. Also, tight clothing and excessive exercise can exacerbate breast tenderness, so try to avoid both.
If you want to know what else might be making your breasts hurt, read on.
Menstrual Cramping Aids
The most effective way to relieve menstrual cramping is to take ibuprofen or naproxen before your period starts. These anti-inflammatory drugs work by blocking prostaglandins, chemicals produced by cells that send messages throughout the body. Ibuprofen and naproxen are widely available OTC without a prescription. But you should only use them if your symptoms are mild or moderate. Stronger versions of these drugs, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or COX inhibitors, are used to treat arthritis, fever, and other conditions. They can also interact badly with other medicines, so check with your pharmacist about using them while taking other medication.
Acetaminophen is another popular choice among sufferers of heavy cramping. Acetaminophen relieves pain and reduces fever, but it does not provide much relief when taken alone. You’ll need to combine it with aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to get the full benefit.
Tylenol products are also commonly recommended by doctors, but they aren’t very helpful for severe cramping. Using Tylenol to alleviate menstrual discomfort can actually interfere with ovulation. Painkillers containing codeine, such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin, are addictive substances that produce euphoria through opiate receptors in your brain. They can also impair your ability to drive or operate machinery. Even though these drugs are highly regulated, they still pose a serious danger to children and teenagers.
For more information on treating premenstrual syndrome, see the next page.
Premenstrual Syndrome Treatments
Because PMS affects every woman differently, there are no set guidelines for how to deal with it. Your best bet is starting with self-care. Reduce stress levels, relax, and sleep enough each day. Take fish oil supplements to protect against depression and mood swings. Drink plenty of water, especially if you’ve been exercising strenuously. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, since both stimulate the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases heart rate and blood sugar.
Some herbal remedies have proven useful in reducing PMS symptoms. Chamomile tea contains flavonoids called chamazulene, which studies show may improve memory and cognitive function. Peppermint stimulates the digestive tract, helping to break down food better. Licorice root helps lower cholesterol levels. Valerian root calms anxiety and promotes relaxation, while wild yam improves digestion. Ginger aids circulation, reduces swelling, and fights nausea. St. John’s wort eases depression and anxiety.
Aromatherapy oils are another option. Lavender oil helps calm emotions, while bergamot oil lifts spirits and enhances concentration. Clary sage oil induces sweating, which naturally flushes out toxins. Rosemary oil aids in digestion and elimination. Ylang-ylang oil encourages emotional balance and relaxation. Tea tree oil kills bacteria and fungus; it can also speed up healing of cuts and wounds.
In some cases, however, PMS symptoms persist even after trying all of these measures. If you’re experiencing persistent episodes of breast, abdominal, back, or pelvic pains, or headaches in conjunction with your period, consult your physician. He or she may prescribe a course of antibiotics or recommend surgery.
Keep reading for links on pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Linked
Preterm labor occurs when contractions begin too early, usually around 37 weeks into the pregnancy. The average length of pregnancy is 40 weeks.
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