We wear a bra almost every single day, but it's easy to take their importance for granted. They support our breasts, limit our risk of sagging and wrinkles, help us feel comfortable and, with the right one, make us feel sexy; so it's important that we make sure we are wearing the right one at different stages in our lives.
We spoke to consultant breast surgeon at the London Breast Clinic, Tena Walters, about the 12 times in a woman's life that require a new or special bra. Wherever you fall on the timeline, make sure you consider your next bra upgrade…
But, first, let's have a lesson in bra fitting...
Bras should encompass four measurements: the cleavage to the armpit, the projection of the breast from the chest outwards, the height and around the back.
Not all bras consider these elements so sizes can differ greatly between brands. Therefore, you cannot assume that you'll be the same size everywhere you go – try on every bra to ensure it fits correctly.
To know if your bra fits correctly, look were the indentation line is when you take it off – it should follow the line of the mammary fold.
If bras do not fit correctly, the underwire can push into the breast tissue and cause small lumps to form. These are nothing to worry about but should be assessed by a doctor to confirm their cause.
It is important to know that once the ligaments in the breast have stretched due to inadequate support or changes in size, they do not have the ability to spring back. Wearing a properly fitted, supportive bra can prevent unnecessary ligament stretching.
12 times you should buy a new bra
1. Before puberty
It is common for girls as young as seven to develop a breast bud behind the nipple. This can sometimes feel hard but is nothing to worry about and does not require a bra.
2. During puberty
Throughout puberty, it is important to wear a soft bra, which can adapt as the breasts grow. They do not need to be heavily supported or underwired as the breasts are constantly changing.
3. During menstruation
Some women experience noticeable changes in their breasts during their period including tenderness and swelling. It is sometimes necessary to have a period bra that is slightly bigger to properly support your breasts through menstruation.
4. When pregnant
During pregnancy the breasts swell in preparation for breastfeeding. Pregnant women should consider getting a new, larger bra three to four months in and be prepared to change it again towards the end of the pregnancy if the breasts continue to grow.
5. While breastfeeding
Women need an appropriate bra while they breastfeed that allows room for nipple pads if necessary, is soft against sore nipples and skin and is easy to remove.
6. Post menopause
Due to a decrease in oestrogen levels, the breast tissue can change throughout the menopause and become less elastic and more droopy. This requires a bra that can properly support them.
In addition, it is common for women to gain weight after the menopause which can increase the back measurement of the bra.
7. During the night
Some women, especially those with very large breasts benefit from wearing a soft crop top style bra during the night to give them support even while they sleep. This can help ease breast pain and help keep the breast ligaments and skin in place.
8. During chemotherapy
It is common for women to gain weight whilst undergoing chemotherapy so it is important to make sure your bra is comfortable and supportive during this time.
9. Post breast cancer
Women who have had surgery due to breast cancer need to consider their post treatment bra. It might need to allow room for a chicken fillet or play a part in feeling confident with their body. Some women may find that, after certain breast surgeries, their doctor might recommend that they don't need a bra at all.
Proper support during sporting activities is essential in preventing the breasts from sagging due to stretched ligaments.
11. Gaining/losing weight
Every time a woman's weight fluctuates, she should get a new bra to suit the new shape and size of her body.
12. Old age
It is common for women to lose weight as they enter their later years and their breasts deflate leaving them with fatty tissue as opposed to mammary glands. This still requires a properly fitted bra.