The last thing you probably expected to experience during peri-menopause and menopause was painful breasts. Remember how sore and sensitive your breasts were during puberty? Maybe not; that was a long time ago. However, you can probably remember how much your breasts hurt during the first trimester of pregnancy. The breast soreness and sensitivity of pregnancy and puberty were both caused by the hormone estrogen. The same thing can happen during your menopausal phase, especially if your estrogen soars.
During peri-menopause, the time that is leading up to the cessation of your menstrual period (menopause), estrogen will plummet, but occasionally it gets out of hand and soars. This is called estrogen overload and your breasts can get terribly painful when this occurs.
According to Dr. Dixie Mills of Womentowomen.com (See reference 1), breasts swell and can become lumpy and extremely sensitive when stimulated by estrogen and another hormone called progesterone. When a woman's hormones get off kilter in the years leading up to menopause, she may suffer breast tenderness. This may mean that she has too much or too little estrogen or too little progesterone. This is considered cyclic pain and it occurs in both breasts, although one breast can hurt more than the other. Once a woman has her period, including those in peri-menopause, the pain subsides.
If the Pain Persists into Menopause
However, if your menstrual period has completely stopped for a full year---at which time you are considered to be fully menopausal---and you are still experiencing breast pain, it could be due to the medications that you are taking, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT can cause breast pain and sensitivity because it contains synthetic hormones. These hormones---estrogen and progesterone---have an effect on our breasts whether they are the real McCoy or a synthetic version. Progesterone causes a woman to retain water, which makes her breast tissue stretch. This results in soreness. Estrogen actually increases the amount of breast tissue. Other medications, such as antidepressants, can cause breast pain. Ask your doctor about this. Maybe the dosage needs to be reduced. If you are taking cholesterol lowering medicine, heart medications or psychiatric medications in combination with HRT, this is likely to increase the incidence of breast pain.
Why It Hurts
According to the Mayo Clinic (See reference 2), when your breasts are enlarged by hormones, which cause the glandular tissues to get larger, this makes the fibrous tissues stretch and become painful.
Fluctuating hormones can lead to the development of breasts cysts. These fluid-filled cysts are generally benign; however, they can be very tender and lumpy and cause you pain.
According to 34-menopause-symptoms.com (See reference 3), herbal therapy (phytotherapy) has proven to be helpful to women who are suffering from menopausal symptoms, including breast pain. There are two types of herbal remedies: The first is phytoestrogenic herbs, such as black cohosh, which actually contain estrogenic components. These components are produced by the plant. Introducing these plant-produced estrogens will help reduce menopausal symptoms; however, the downside is that the body may be less capable of producing its own estrogen because of the introduction of the plant-produced estrogen. This can result in a reduction in body-own hormone levels, which isn't want you want to achieve.
Non-Estrogenic Herbal Therapy
The second type of herb is non-estrogenic. This includes, for example, maca. These herbs stimulate the production of hormones by nourishing the endocrine and pituitary glands. Once nourished, these glands are better able to produce natural hormones. Ask your physician or an experienced herbalist if herbs will help reduce your menopausal breast pain. Just because you have breast pain, do not automatically assume that you have cancer. However, it is always advisable to consult with your physician when you have a problem that is interfering with your life.