Your Boobs Are Sore Because You're Getting Your Period, and 7 Other Things Your Ta Tas Are Trying To Tell You

When our breasts feel weird, we often jump to the worst possible conclusions: Does breast pain mean that I have breast cancer? Or are my boobs sore because I'm getting my period or — because I'm pregnant? Am I going to have to appear on one of those I Didn't Know That I Was Pregnant shows now?

Here's the good news: Breasts feel sore for all different kinds of reasons. And despite the paranoia that can take hold when anything in our lady lumps feels off, breast pain is rarely a breast cancer symptom. In fact, the only form of cancer linked to breast pain is inflammatory breast cancer, an uncommon form of the disease which only accounts for one to five percent of the breast cancer diagnoses in the United States. So unless your breast soreness is accompanied by other symptoms or signs, you're probably in the clear.

But just because you're probably not in danger, that doesn't mean that you should just ignore any aches, soreness, or other unusual feelings that turn up in your breasts. When your breasts feel strange, they're usually trying to tell you something. And yes, sometimes, what they are trying to tell you is that your eggo is preggo. But more often, they're communicating subtle messages about your body, your hormones, and even your partners, that come up over the course of your day-to-day life. Join me, as we discover the secret reasons that your boobs feel weird.

YOU'RE ABOUT TO GET YOUR PERIOD

Progesterone production peaks in the week before you get your period (around day 21 in a 28-day cycle), which can cause expansion of the milk duct and lead to pre-menstrual breast tenderness. This is known as a "cyclical" form of breast pain, meaning that it occurs on a regular schedule. In fact, if your cycles are super regular, you can use this breast soreness to actually feel when your period is on its way (and choose which underpants to wear accordingly, maybe).

YOU'RE ABOUT TO STOP GETTING YOUR PERIOD FOREVER

Just as predictable, monthly breast pain signals that the inner workings of your reproductive cycle are proceeding as scheduled, unpredictable breast pain can be a sign that your reproductive organs are closing up shop. Random breast pain is a common sign of perimenopause (the stage before true menopause sets in), a phase that most women enter into between the ages of 45 and 55. But don't freak out that you're somehow going into early menopause if your boobs seem to suddenly be aching at all different points of the month— premature menopause is rare, and the odds that you have it, especially absent any of the other symptoms (like not getting your period) or common causes (like ovary removal), are very, very low.

YOU'RE PREGNANT

Progesterone — the same hormone that causes breast soreness during your menstrual cycle — also jumps in production in the early days of a pregnancy. This is why, for many women, breast soreness is a major sign of pregnancy. In the event that this information scares the hell out of you (it certainly scared the hell out of me), take comfort in the fact that many mothers say that there are differences between pregnancy breast pain and period breast pain — the former is often more extreme, lasts for a longer amount of time, and is usually accompanied by other early pregnancy symptoms, like nausea.

YOU NEED A BETTER BRA

An improperly fitted bra can cause breast pain, either by pinching and poking your girls, or by not providing adequate support to the breast throughout the day. This, however, can easily be solved by getting a bra fitting at your local bra-specialty shop, department-store lingerie section, or other place where specially trained women cup your breasts, tell you that you've been wearing the wrong size for years, and then demand that you throw your stretched-out Victoria's Secret Angel bra in the garbage right now.

YOU'RE OVER-CAFFEINATED

Some medical professionals believe that consuming too much caffeine can cause breast pain, especially in women with fibrocystic (read: lumpier) breasts, which are often more vulnerable to breast pain to begin with. Though no formal laboratory studies have found caffeine to have an impact on breast sensitivity, some women find that cutting caffeine helps with random aches and pains in their chesticles.

YOU HAVE AN INFECTed breast

Breast infections like mastitis almost exclusively effect breast-feeding women, and usually induce other symptoms besides breast pain, like swelling, nipple discharge, swollen lymph nodes, and flu-like symptoms. The condition can usually be easily treated with antibiotics, but you should see a doctor if you have any suspicions that you might have developed this — lack of treatment can lead to abscesses on the breast, and other complications that make aching pre-period breasts sound like a free trip to Disneyland.

YOU'VE PULLED A MUSCLE

Physical activities that engage the pectorals — like playing rugby, shoveling snow, or trying to lift a chair over your head to win a bet while you're drunk — can strain chest muscles, like the pectoralis major. This strain, which can feel like it's emanating from inside the breast, is actually in the muscle below the breast tissue, and while it's a fairly rare injury, it can require surgery, so please, see a doctor if you think you may have sprained your boob.

YOU'RE JUST NOT THAT INTO SOMEONE

Ever been enjoying yourself while making out with someone, only to suddenly feel weird when they go straight for the nipples? Your boobs might be trying to tell you something.

Women's nipples, when stimulated, engage the same areas of the brain as our vaginas and clitorises. They also generally become enlarged and erect when we're sexually aroused. They're full-on sexual organs — and thus, just like your vagina, they can be a good indicator of when you're not in the mood, need the foreplay to move slower, or are just not feeling it. Of course, boobs have the added bonus of generally coming into play sooner in a sexual encounter than our vaginas — so if your breasts feel weird, or just not engorged or engaged while you're making out with someone, it can be a helpful sign that you need to take things slower, or that you're less into this encounter (or this person) than you thought.

Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.

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