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Breast Tenderness and Pain—Is Your Coffee to Blame?

By Alison Stanton
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May I ask you a personal question? Do your breasts hurt?

If you answered “yes,” you are not alone. According to research, many women feel discomfort in their breasts at some point or another. For many of us, this pain will come around menstruation, when breasts tend to be bigger and more sensitive anyway. But for other women, these uncomfortable feelings just don’t want to go away.

Since I asked the personal question it’s only fair that I answer it too so here goes—yes, they sure can and do! And I have a young son who loves to crawl up on my lap and too often I have to sort of move to one side to make sure he’s not bumping up too hard against “the girls”.

Not too long ago, I got to thinking about the situation and why breasts can so often get sore and painful for so many women, myself included. It struck me how when I was pregnant, rather than have the increased sensitivity and pain that so many women report during this time, mine actually felt better. Then I got to thinking—what, besides the pregnancy itself, was different during those two times I was expecting? And before long it hit me—in both pregnancies I almost completely eliminated caffeine.

This epiphany got me to thinking even more, and then it got me doing research. What I realized is that now that I’m a busy mom of two boys who works from home and tries to keep an average of about 25 plates in the air at all times, I have upped my caffeine intake more than ever. Just ask the friendly baristas at my neighborhood Starbucks—they’ll tell you. I love my caffeine and I have two big doses of it a day—at home in the morning, and at Starbucks literally every afternoon.

So could this increase in my beloved coffee be the reason for my sensitive girls? I got on the computer and did some research, and lo and behold, there is a direct connection between caffeine and breast tenderness.

For example, in a study conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, 61 percent of women with breast pain had a reduction in breast tenderness when they cut out caffeine.

Add a Comment13 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

It's not the caffeine. It must be something else in the coffee. I switched to decaf more than a year ago and have been drinking "instant" for the convenience. And I've been fine. Then on a whim, two weeks ago, I started drinking ground decaf French roast. OMG, the pain! Either the stuff was mislabeled as decaf or it's something else in the coffee that does it.

February 26, 2015 - 8:43am
EmpowHER Guest

Since my forties, I have been experiencing lumpy painful breasts 2 weeks before my period that lasts until after my period is over. I have been a coffee drinker for 25 years so when my doctor suggested quitting, I ignored her advice. Recently, I had to quit drinking coffee due to stomach pain. I cannot believe the difference it has made with my breast pain and lumpiness. It has vanished! I am 1 week away from my period and I have absolutely no pain or lumpiness. It was really hard to give up coffee. I swore I never would but now, I am so glad I did. The stomach pain has subsided, too!

January 25, 2015 - 6:51am
EmpowHER Guest

I am experiencing breast pain - pretty chronic - both breasts and when I went to the doctor she said I have a lot of new cysts - clusters even. She mentioned that I should cut out barista coffee - she said that I could still have caffeine from instant coffee and that I could drink tea. It's only been three days and I am in more pain than when I went to see her. I have had a green tea or two and still eating chocolate so perhaps it's time to say goodbye to those too from the comments I've read here.

January 5, 2015 - 6:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I only have pain on my left breast, but when I don't have caffeine, I am pain free. So I now drink decaf, and have finally found a good full bodied brand, that is also organic.... I get the K-Cups and use the second to largest cup size, so its stronger... if anyone is looking, its called Gorilla organic .... LOVE IT! I get it at Acme and Shop rite....

December 13, 2014 - 7:21pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I was wondering if decaf would work, because it still has a little caffeine?

February 24, 2015 - 9:38am
EmpowHER Guest

Coffee gave me breast lumps. I tried many doctors and no one could find anything. They told me the burning should go away but the lump was growing and the pain was getting worst. I had a good diet. So one day I cut my coffee from the root. My friend told me, it's the coffee. 2 weeks later the pain was almost gone, 2 months later the 'lime size' lumps dissolved. Today. After a year without caffeine, I craved coffee, I had it, an u feel a bad burn again on my breast. I must be too sensitive but I must say goodbye to coffee once and for all :((

November 19, 2014 - 3:12pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Alison,

I'm so glad you wrote this article because I have been experiencing similar pain and had no idea why. At a young age of 22 (and never pregnant) my mind went immediately to breast cancer (it doesn't help that October is breast cancer awareness month so it's already on my mind). I went to the doctor yesterday and he said that it could be due to the caffeine and chocolate that I consume on a daily basis. The only thing I found to be weird is that it's only one breast, instead of both. It has also noticeably increased in size recently in addition to the pain that I've had for a while, which made me wonder a bit. Have you noticed that too at all? I'm getting an ultrasound in a week so at least I'll get confirmation then but I'm still worried because it just seems so weird. Who would've thought that caffeine would have such a strange side effect?!

October 24, 2014 - 7:45am
EmpowHER Guest

I'm menopausal and on HRT. I used to get breast tenderness all the time. I cut down my coffee because I have an anxiety disorder and I finally decided to stop pretending coffee wasn't making it worse. I gave up filter coffee altogether, and now have one cup of instant cappucino a day (withdrawal was pretty bad for a a few weeks - headache, sleeplessness, irritability). But I feel better for cutting down. And the breast tenderness has absolutely vanished. I didn't cut down caffeine for that reason, but it was a very welcome side-effect.

April 2, 2013 - 3:19pm

This is interesting...I've seen a lot of discussion of different risks and drawbacks associated with heavy caffeine use. I am male (and thus obviously not pregnant), so I can't comment about breast pain, but I have noticed that in general, on days in which I drink large amounts of caffeine, I notice aches and pains all throughout my body a lot more than I normally would. It is well-known that high doses of caffeine can greatly increase stress, and stress is not only universally hard on the body, but it also can make us feel pain and other uncomfortable sensations more intensely.

Do you have a link to the original study that this article was written about? I looked in google scholar and found a number of different articles relating to this topic, but most of them were substantially older than this article. At, we have been working on an article on tea and pregnancy, and this might be a relevant issue to add there if there are any solid studies on it. Women interested in reducing their caffeine intake during pregnancy might also want to read that article.

It is worth mentioning, for people who do feel a need for some sort of caffeine throughout the day, that tea offers a good low-caffeine alternative to coffee. The current scientific consensus, as we discuss in our article, and as is mentioned here in this article here on empowher, is that moderate (<200mg / day) caffeine intake during pregnancy is completely safe. Two cups of strong coffee can place you over this limit, but three or more cups of tea is safe, unless the tea is brewed exceptionally strongly. Also important, tea has also been shown to boost alertness equally well will coffee, even though it contains caffeine, because it also contains other alertness-boosting substances. See this study for more info about that.

I think the important thing here though is to practice moderation. An excess of anything is going to be unhealthy, whether you are pregnant or not. If you live a balanced lifestyle, without excess of caffeine or anything else, you have nothing to worry about!

August 3, 2010 - 11:38am
Alison Stanton

Hi! Thank you for your comment! I did see a decrease in pain from cutting back on caffeine. I confess that I'm drinking more caffeine again but my experiment did work. It's definitely worth a try I think--if it works for you too will you please let me know? thanks for reading the article!

July 14, 2010 - 10:20pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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