Menopause & Breast Tenderness

Updated November 21, 2016

It may surprise you as you are gliding, or stumbling, into menopause that you find yourself experiencing very sore, tender and enlarged breasts. This is not unusual. It's reminiscent of going through puberty all over again, when your pubescent hormones were rioting. Well, they're rioting again. During perimenopause, which leads up to menopause, hormonal imbalance is pretty much the rule rather than the exception.

Oestrogen Dominance

When a woman is entering into menopause, she doesn't regularly ovulate as she did as a younger woman. When a woman does not ovulate, although she may have a period, she is not producing progesterone, which plays an important roll in keeping oestrogen reined in. If a woman is progesterone deficient, she can end up with oestrogen dominance, which is a term coined by Dr. John Lee. Progesterone, when present, balances and normalises the effects of oestrogen. Oestrogen builds tissue. If progesterone isn't there to limit this, the breasts can get bigger, swollen and very sore, according to

Fibrocystic Breasts

As a woman ages, she is going to ovulate less so she ends up with lots of oestrogen and no progesterone, which is only produced when ovulation occurs. This can lead to fibrocystic (lumpy) breasts that hurt. Throughout a woman's life, she may notice that her breasts swell and become tender before her period, which is normal, according to; however, when she is perimenopausal, or fully menopausal, and is not having a regular menstrual period, or its arrival is haphazard at best, breast cells that were normally sloughed away and out of the body, just like the lining of the uterus, during a period, don't go anywhere because there isn't a menstrual period. These cells go through a programmed cell death called apoptosis and, when this occurs, enzymes spring into action and start digesting the cells from within. The cells break down, leaving cellular fragments, that are additionally broken down by scavenger cells. The scavenger cells are inflammatory. This can lead to fibrosis or scarring of the breast tissue. The lobules and ducts that are located in the glandular tissue of the breasts can be damaged. Hormonelike substances that impact the ductal, structural and glandular support cells are released. The breasts get sore and lumpy and are described as fibrocystic.

The Good and the Bad

If your breasts are so tender that they're making you miserable, discuss this with your physician and she can advise you on what steps to take. Some people opt to use natural progesterone (not progestin, which is a synthetic hormone) cream or gel to ease their menopausal symptoms. However, there is always a downside. Too much progesterone can lead to cramping, anxiety, acne, foggy brain, hair loss, development of facial hair, depression, mood swings, mid-cycle pain, memory problems, vaginal dryness, bloating, puffiness and weight gain, according to, so don't experiment on yourself. Get the advice of a doctor, who, hopefully, knows what he is talking about.


Dr. Dixie Mills of Women to Women frequently encounters patients who complain of breast pain, which is called mastalgia. Her recommendation is to first and foremost be cognizant of what you are eating. She advises that a woman take daily supplements that include vitamin E, omega-3s and the B vitamins. Getting adequate exercise and rest, as well as learning how to better cope with your stress, will help ease menopause symptoms. Some women drink primrose oil tea to help reduce breast pain. According to Mills, Russian women have been known to put cabbage leaves on their sore breasts after which they wrap their chest in warm cotton linen and go to sleep. This reportedly reduces breast pain and tenderness. If you are taking birth control pills or undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) the hormones in these drugs may very well be contributing to your breast tenderness. You might want to reconsider using them.

Ditch the Bra

If your bra is driving you crazy and aggravating the problem, ditch it. It might not be advisable to do this at work, but you can certainly go braless in the privacy of your own home.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.