From Perky to Painful- Tender Breasts During Perimenopause and Menopause
About one-third of women experiences tender breasts in early perimenopause.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? From our “tender” preteen days, most of us couldn’t wait until that first sign of womanhood. We couldn’t wait to buy — and wear — our first training bra. Now if only we could train our breasts to not be so sore all the time!
Of course, you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. My daughter, Sarah, was a late bloomer and prayed for boobs. They didn’t appear on the scene until she was about 18 or so. Fast forward 16 years, Sarah writes a wonderful blog called, smilescurlsandbaby – lessons, joys, and laughs in baby making and life! She found pregnancy took her breasts to a whole new letter, “Ain’t Nothin’ But a G-Thang….Baby….”!
Pregnancy is not the only life cycle phase that can affect intimacy. During perimenopause, sore breasts can cause marital intimacy to suffer as well. “My breasts are off-limits to my husband when I’m mid-cycle,” said one perimenopausal friend. “He can’t even look at them without getting the ‘evil eye’ from me! My breasts are so painful that sometimes I can’t even bear to have the shower head pointed toward them.”
Another woman told me there’s no way she can sleep on her stomach. And mammograms are out of the question. She suggested that clinics make accommodations for women who suffer from painful breasts. She said she’d probably pass out if she had to undergo a mammogram when her breasts are tender. Since her periods (and thus her sore breasts) are unpredictable, she wishes a few appointment slots could be kept open each month. That way, women like her could make last-minute appointments when their breasts are not tender.
Can you relate? Are you yearning to go back in time to the ’60s, when bra-burning was popular? Throughout our lives, MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” appears to be a recurring theme. It’s important to note that breast tenderness is manageable and is unlikely to indicate a serious problem.
As your period nears, extra fluid in your breasts can make them feel more tender, lumpy, or swollen than other times of the month. Without a normal cycle to count on, it becomes pretty much impossible for perimenopausal women to know when those breasts are going to start throbbing, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Your hormone levels change in perimenopause. This can make your breasts feel tender, even when you are not having your menstrual period. Your breasts may also feel lumpier than they did before.
According to Mayo Clinic, breast pain may be associated with certain medications such as antidepressants – including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants. The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. lists the following medications as possible culprits for painful breasts: Digitalis preparations, Methyldopa (Aldomet), Spironolactone (Aldactone), Certain diuretics, Anadrol, and Chlorpromazine.
If you’re taking hormones (such as menopausal hormone therapy, birth control pills, or injections), your breasts may become denser.
To add insult to injury (literally), without regular estrogen supply, breast tissue can become dehydrated, inelastic, shrink, and lose its shape, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This has nothing to do with the size of your breasts and everything to do with hormones. Goodbye, perky, hello sagging!
Come perimenopause and menopause time, those hormonal ebbs and flows can become a veritable rollercoaster ride. Some post-menopausal women also experience breast discomfort. Following are several treatment options to consider:
Even as your estrogen levels take a nosedive toward menopause, they can periodically increase during perimenopause. Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, an authority on menstrual cycles and the effects of hormones on women’s health, notes that during perimenopause we often hear about estrogen levels being low, but it is important to note that estrogen levels can be high and out of balance with progesterone, as well.
Progesterone treatments can keep estrogen peaks from over-stimulating the breasts and causing discomfort, according to Dr. Prior. If you’re still menstruating (even haphazardly), progesterone treatment is typically prescribed for use during only a certain portion of the cycle, usually for about six months.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Natural progesterone can also help alleviate breast soreness. Natural progesterone, identical to the hormone the body produces, is often easier to tolerate.
A word of warning: If you are on hormone replacement therapy and suddenly experience breast tenderness be sure to go back to your menopause specialist and have your HRT tweaked a bit. It is possible that you are on too much estrogen.
Not into meds? Try primrose oil. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), primrose oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the inflammation associated with breast swelling and tenderness. Just follow the directions listed on the back of the bottle. Vitamin B and E supplements can also help reduce breast inflammation — and pain. Definitely consult with your physician before taking any supplements.
It’s important to know that breast tenderness/pain is a common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, and unlikely to signal anything more serious, such as breast cancer. However, you know your body best. If you suspect that something is not right with your breasts, make an appointment with your doctor.
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
Click here to download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend’s Guide To Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.