Your nipples, and maybe even your breasts, may feel sore or achy around ovulation. The discomfort could range from minor to severe. You might have pain in one or both nipples.
Ovulation is a phase in the menstrual cycle that happens when the ovary releases an egg each month. It occurs about 14 days before your period starts. For a 28-day cycle, that means you’d ovulate on day 14, whereas for a 31-day cycle, you’d ovulate around day 17. The chances of getting pregnant are highest during ovulation.
Read on to learn more about ovulation and sore nipples, and other possible causes for nipple pain or tenderness.
Hormone fluctuations happen during different stages of your menstrual cycle, and those fluctuations can cause symptoms at various times throughout the month. Not everyone will experience symptoms. It depends on how sensitive your body is to these hormone changes.
If you do have symptoms related to ovulation, you may experience:
- Sore nipples. Sore nipples can occur at various times throughout your cycle, not just around ovulation. Breast discomfort that’s caused by hormones and linked to your cycle is known as cyclical mastalgia.
- Vaginal discharge changes. Right before you ovulate, you may notice you have more clear, wet, and stretchy vaginal secretions.
- Basal body temperature changes. Your basal body temperature, or your temperature at rest, goes up right after ovulation. You can use a special thermometer to measure and track your basal body temperature.
- Light bleeding or spotting. You may have bleeding or spotting around the time of ovulation. This is likely related to hormone changes.
- Increased sex drive. Some people report having a higher sex drive when they ovulate.
- Ovary pain. You might experience mittelschmerz, which is a term that describes lower abdominal or pelvic pain linked to ovulation. Most of the time, this discomfort only lasts a few minutes or hours.
Paying attention to your symptoms can be a helpful way to predict when you’re ovulating. But, because signs vary, monitoring symptoms alone isn’t a foolproof way to forecast ovulation.
Nipple or breast pain that starts during ovulation typically continues until the start of your period. But, each case is different.
You can find out if your breast discomfort is related to your menstrual cycle by charting your symptoms each month to see when they start and stop.
Other factors may be to blame for your nipple soreness, including:
Breast changes, such as swelling or tenderness, are one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. This discomfort can start as early as one week after conception and will likely get better after a few weeks.
Other symptoms of early pregnancy may include:
- missed period
- increased urination
Sore nipples can be caused by breastfeeding, especially when you first start nursing. Sore nipples during breastfeeding may be due to:
- improper latch
- inverted nipples
- incorrect positioning
- blocked duct
- other factors
Sometimes, nipple or breast pain while breastfeeding may signal an infection called mastitis. Signs of an infection include:
- breast pain
- breast redness and warmth
You should see you doctor if you notice any of these symptoms while breastfeeding.
You may have breast or nipple tenderness leading up to your period. The discomfort can last until your cycle ends.
Although it’s rare, nipple pain can be a sign of breast cancer. Other symptoms may include:
- a lump in your breast or underarm area
- swelling in all or part of the breast
- skin irritation or dimpling
- nipple discharge
- redness or thickness of the nipple or skin on the breast
- nipple that turns inward
Certain skin problems, such as eczema, can cause dry skin that can become easily irritated, leading to nipple soreness.
Other causes for nipple pain might include:
- wearing a bra that doesn’t fit properly
- certain medications
Sore nipples can be a sign of ovulation, but they may also be caused by other factors. The discomfort can be slight or very painful.
If nipple discomfort is severe or affecting your daily life, your doctor may recommend birth control pills or other supplemental hormones or hormone blockers. These may help reduce hormone-related symptoms.
Dietary changes, such as avoiding caffeine, following a low-fat diet, or taking vitamin E, may also help.
Talk to your healthcare provider if your nipple soreness is severe or doesn’t go away after having a menstrual cycle.