Nipples are the center of your breast. It is connected to women's mammary gland, where the milk is produced. Nipples are present in both males and females. But the function of this body part differs from one sex to another.
For both sexes, nipples can be an erogenous zone. It is a specific area in our body where it produces sexual excitement or libidinal gratification when stimulated. But the main purpose or function of nipples for females is to aid breastfeeding. If you ever wondered why men also have nipples, it is because while we were still an embryo, the nipples were already formed. Note that an embryo still has no sex, and it has the potential to become either a male or a female. Regardless of what sex the embryo has become, the nipples remain intact.
There are different types of nipples. It could be flat, protruding, or inverted. Inverted nipples are the type that never gets hard or erected. But any of these types are capable of breastfeeding. Nipples are amazing, especially for lactating women, because it could leak milk just by hearing a baby crying; it's called the let-down reflex.
Nipples tend to get hard sometimes. There are natural and common causes of this phenomenon. There are also serious indications when this happens, especially when it becomes more painful than it actually should. But it happens rarely, so that's good news. Hard or erect nipples sometimes face issues, as it is associated with sexual arousal or feeling "horny." Some females tend to get insecure and embarrassed when their nipples harden for unknown reasons. This is completely normal, especially for females, because of the causes of this thing range from menstruation to pregnancy and to orgasm. Nipples could get hard when you are sexually turned on, and it could stick out like sore thumbs when it gets cold. And most commonly, it just goes hard with no apparent reason. But there is certainly a mechanism in these unpredictable erections.
There's nothing to be ashamed of hard nipples because they are normal, involuntary, and are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. This is the system that coordinates and regulates all the unconscious functions of our body. Nipple erections are specifically caused by certain neurons that control the erectile muscles in the tissues found in the nipples. Underneath the nipple and areola, there are tiny muscles that contract and pull on the skin and push the nipple out. When the sympathetic nervous system signals the nerves in those tiny muscles, it causes them to contract, and the erection happens.
Nipples get hard because they are super sensitive. And getting a nipple piercing is likely to increase the sensitivity of your nipples once it is nicely healed. However, there are myths spreading around that nipple piercings will make your nipples permanently hard. It could make your nipples hard, especially when it's pierced for the first time. They will swell; thus, it will appear hard. But this effect will not stay forever. After a few weeks of getting it pierced, it will start to heal, and it will turn into its normal state. But again, it could make your nipples more sensitive than it was before. So, it will only take less effort for it to get hard. Nipple piercings do not give the nipples permanent hardness; it only makes them easily hardened. But the level of sensitivity of the nipples will still depend on the person. It varies from one person to the next. Wearing loose shirts or just doing things that will not trigger the sensitivity of your nipples will prevent your nipples from getting hard.
Nipple piercing can be expensive, but if you're into aesthetics and love to spice up bedroom antics, then this piercing is ideal for you. However, if you're a mother, you might have to think twice about getting one. There's really no problem feeding the baby once it has already healed. But you have to take it off every time you have to feed them because it might cause accidents.
First on the list of the possible causes of hard nipples is women's menstrual cycle. Every time a woman's period is about to come, their progesterone level increases. It is a female steroid hormone that makes the nipples tender and soars, especially when in its highest peak of the month. It causes pain and sensitivity, but it reduces once the level of the hormone gets back to normal. In connection with menstruation, females going through perimenopause and entering the menopausal stage also experience sore, tender, and sensitive nipples.
In regards to sexual activities, since nipples are erogenous zones, it becomes really sensitive when stimulated. Stimulation could be oral, as there is strong and forceful friction during the activity. This is temporary and will subside once the arousal is gone. Other activities, such as exercises and sports, may also cause nipple erection. Exercise can cause nipple friction, and this friction causes soreness, dryness, irritation, and even bleeding. This is felt more by women who do not use sports bras or use tight-fitting sports bras.
The tenderness of the nipples and breasts are also normal when a woman is pregnant. This is most common when they are in their first trimester and may occur again in their third one. It is important to choose well-fitting bras to minimize the pain and chafing. For lactating women, breastfeeding could be the most common reason why they experience erect nipples more often. The nipples get sore and tender when the baby's sucking becomes more efficient. The discomfort will eventually subside, and the hardness will become painless. If you are taking birth control pills, it might also be a cause of your sudden nipple erection. Birth control pills have side effects, and they are similar to the symptoms of pregnancy. These side effects will tone down once you have already adapted to the pills fully.
There are also certain medications and herbs that may contribute to the apparent hardening of your nipples. Medications prescribed for depression and anxiety were linked to symptoms concerning the breast and the nipples. And there are some herbal remedies that cause nipple pain, sensitivity, and tenderness. Herbs that help the production of breast milk are the ones that cause this to happen. The tenderness and soreness of the nipples may also come from allergies and sensitivities. As said earlier, nipples are very sensitive. Weather changes and types of fabrics such as wool could cause pain and irritation to the nipples, leading to hardness.
Nipples are especially hard when it is cold. If you have noticed, particularly when it's the winter season, your nipples become as hard as diamonds because of the cold weather. The nipples get hard, just like when we experience goosebumps on our skin. It could go normal throughout the day while you do your usual routine. But when the temperature drops to 40, and you are not properly padded, the nipples freeze.
There is an explanation of why nipples get hard, specifically when it's cold. But first, let's discuss how goosebumps happen, as it is connected to how nipples harden. Our skin has very small and smooth muscle cells. It contracts around our hair follicles when the temperature is low. And the contraction decreases the surface area of the skin, which was exposed to the cold. When it comes to the nipples exposed to cold, the areola's size decreases at the same time because everything in the surface area is getting tighter. The tightness pushes out the nipples, making them hard. Nipple hardening can cause chafing, which could be painful. This happens when you're too sensitive to the cold weather. To help the pain subside, you could provide some coverings to your nipples. A band-aid can help, especially if you have to go outside and do some extensive errands. You can also moisturize your whole body, including your nipples, with moisturizing agents such as coconut oil.
Hard nipples often come with soreness and tenderness. Sometimes the pain could become unbearable, and you already need to call for immediate medical attention. If you are a new mom, or you just recently gave birth, your breasts and nipples could be swollen and hard. This is called postpartum breast tenderness, and it could mean that there is an infection going on. So, you have to consult a doctor since only an examination can find what's really wrong with your breasts.
Another one is when you notice that there's a new lump noticeable within your breast, and there's a pain that does not go away. This could happen after your menstrual period, and it could indicate a serious medical condition. This also includes when you experience unexplained breast pain, discharge coming from your nipples, especially if it's blood and pus, and other signs of breast infection such as localized redness and fever.