Changing hormone levels around ovulation may cause sore nipples or tender breasts. However, this is not necessarily a sign of ovulation or pregnancy.

Everybody is different, and breast pain is not a reliable indicator of ovulation. People monitoring their fertility should look for other symptoms.

Sore nipples around ovulation are also not a sign of pregnancy because this is too early for a person to experience pregnancy symptoms.

This article explores the potential connections between sore nipples, ovulation, and pregnancy.

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A number of hormones trigger ovulation.

Before ovulation, estrogen and luteinizing hormone levels are higher. For some people, estrogen may stimulate breast tissue and cause breast pain.

Shortly after ovulation, estrogen levels drop, and progesterone levels rise. In some people, these shifts in progesterone may trigger breast pain or sore nipples.

If a person becomes pregnant, progesterone levels will continue to rise. This causes breast tissue changes that can make the nipples or breasts sore.

However, it takes several weeks for these developments to occur, so breasts that become sore suddenly after ovulation do not indicate pregnancy.

Sore nipples may be a sign of cyclical breast pain. This type of pain usually coincides with a person’s menstrual cycle each month, though the specific point may vary.

For example, some females experience nipple pain before ovulation, while others get it right after.

Sore breasts are not a reliable sign of ovulation.

Some other symptoms include:

  • A positive ovulation test: Ovulation tests measure increases in luteinizing hormone. For most people, a rise in luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation within a day or two of the positive test.
  • Cervical mucus: Rises in estrogen cause cervical fluid to become watery and have a consistency similar to raw egg whites. As a person produces more of this fluid, ovulation may be imminent.
  • Basal body temperature: Progesterone rises right after ovulation, causing a person’s morning body temperature to increase slightly. Therefore, a rise in morning body temperature indicates a person has ovulated.

Some people notice other signs, such as ovulation pain in their side or bloating. These symptoms are less reliable, especially if they do not log their ovulation symptoms over time.

Sore nipples are a common pregnancy symptom. However, ovulation and the days immediately after are too early for a person to be pregnant or have pregnancy symptoms.

Implantation marks the beginning of pregnancy. It occurs when a fertilized egg embeds in the lining of the uterus. At this stage, the body begins producing pregnancy hormones that can trigger pregnancy symptoms.

Before implantation, the symptoms that a person feels are due to other factors than pregnancy.

Therefore, nipple soreness around ovulation cannot indicate pregnancy, even if a person conceives in that month.

Early pregnancy symptoms cannot appear until implantation, which causes the body to begin producing human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and other pregnancy-related hormones.

Many people experience pregnancy symptoms, even though they are not pregnant. For this reason, the most reliable indication of pregnancy is a positive pregnancy test.

Some early symptoms signal when a person is about to receive a positive test. They include:

There is no reliable way to distinguish nipple pain due to ovulation from nipple pain due to pregnancy. The pain is often identical.

One of the best ways to distinguish them is the timing. If nipple pain occurs at or right around the time a person expects to ovulate, pregnancy is highly unlikely.

Nipple pain that occurs after ovulation that gets worse, or nipple pain that does not go away around the time a person expects their period, may signal pregnancy.

The only way to know with a high degree of certainty is to take a pregnancy test.

Early in pregnancy, HCG levels start low and quickly rise. Pregnancy tests will measure the levels of this hormone.

If a pregnancy test is negative, and a person’s period does not arrive, they may receive a positive result if they test again in a few days.

Normal hormonal fluctuations can trigger nipple soreness. If the pain is not severe or only lasts a few days, the discomfort is likely due to hormonal changes.

However, if the pain persists, some potential causes may include:

  • an injury to the nipple
  • pain from nipple play during sex
  • breastfeeding pain or injuries
  • mastitis, a breast infection
  • a cyst in the breast
  • lifestyle or diet factors, including caffeine or alcohol consumption
  • muscle pain
  • in rare cases, cancer

See a healthcare provider if:

  • a person gets a positive pregnancy test or does not get their period
  • the pain is very intense
  • the pain follows an injury and does not go away in a few days
  • there is a lump in the breast or discharge from the nipple
  • there is acute pain when breastfeeding

Sore nipples are a common symptom throughout the menstrual cycle. Sometimes they indicate a person is pregnant or about to ovulate.

They may also signal a health problem or mean nothing at all.

The best way to identify the cause of sore nipples is to track the symptom across several ovulation cycles and look for specific patterns. A healthcare provider can provide further assistance.