The menstrual cycle can lead to breasts being temporarily tender, engorged and lumpier.
Studies show around two thirds of women experience some breast pain during their cycle, which is usually normal. "Most often symptoms peak just before the period and improve with the onset of bleeding," says Jane O'Brien, specialist breast surgeon at the Epworth Breast Service, Richmond. "Symptoms appear to peak in adolescent girls and again in perimenopausal women, possibly because of fluctuating hormone levels. Normally pain is mild and women simply require reassurance that there's no cause for concern."
Treating tender breasts
If pain and tenderness are more severe, evening primrose oil may be recommended – around four grams or four capsules per day. "There is some limited scientific evidence of the benefit of evening primrose oil and it's virtually side-effect free," says Jane O'Brien. "It's believed to act by increasing the level of one of the essential fatty acids in the breast tissue and has a cumulative (increasing) effect, so you need to take it daily over several months to see maximal benefit. Around 60% of women may obtain some relief from evening primrose oil."
See your doctor to discuss what you can do if breast pain is troubling you and you think it is related to your menstrual cycle.
Last updated 24 July 2017 — Last reviewed 09 December 2013
** Currently under review **
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at December 2013.