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Bras Actually CAUSE Breast Sagging

By Ken L. Smith, Breast Health Facilitator for ACS                                                                     February 2017

To address this statement, we need to do three things:

  1. What are the facts, such as what naturally prevents a breast from sagging in the first place... from the very beginning? What is the structure of the breast that we need to consider, to better understand natural breast lift?

  2. If a woman wears a bra most of the time, will it prevent her breasts from sagging?

  3. If a woman wears a bra most of the time, will it actually weaken the structure that would have naturally lifted the breasts, causing them to sag more, and sag earlier?

Since our great grandparents fought World War I, we have all been led to believe that breasts will sag badly if they are not 'helped' by a bra. The truth is that all breasts will sag... over time.   Even if she lived in the Garden of Eden and never wore anything her whole life, a woman's breasts will eventually sag over time. We need to understand that the anatomical make-up of the breast naturally changes as a woman ages.

One of the main components of a breast that provides the lift that women desire is what has been named Cooper's Ligaments. These ligaments develop as the breast itself develops. One end of each ligament attaches to the clavicle or the fascia (or surface) of the chest (pectoral) muscles, and the other end attaches to the inside of the breast skin. This lifts the breast into its present location and helps to form its present shape.  As the breast becomes larger, it becomes heavier, and more weight is placed on these ligaments, so they will become stronger. Again, these ligaments are what provides the lift that a breast needs to stay up-lifted.

When a girl begins to go through puberty, her body prepares for producing children. Her breasts begin to develop from their childhood flatness to their adult shape and size. Due to genetics, some young women have breasts that do not start out as up-lifted and as perky as she would like them to be. Some will sag badly before they turn twenty-five years old. Nothing will prevent that from happening, other than reverting to surgery, which is NOT recommended normally.

It is today's fashion trend that we are currently experiencing that tells women that their breasts SHOULD be lifted up high and pointing forward. We would all love to remain in our youth... well, at least our physical body. Since young women usually have well-lifted breasts, we think that as long as our breasts remain high, we will at least LOOK like we are still young. It was not always that way, however. In the fifties they were supposed to be really pointed. And back in the twenties, garments were being made and sold to women to strap their breasts against their chests, because the fashion trend back then was for the women to have minimal breasts... boyish appearances. Bras were new on the market then, but they were used mostly to keep breasts from moving around. They did not have to try to make breasts look larger. Or pointed. Or have certain amounts of cleavage between them. If you have not noticed before this, some breasts have more space between them, and that is of concern to some today, almost as much as how large the breasts themselves are.

Breasts are just intended for the production of milk to feed a woman's newborn infant. I think we all can agree on that statement. So, when she conceives, her body immediately begins to prepare her breasts to produce milk, for use by the infant when it is born. At this time her breasts become larger and heavier. That means her breast ligaments will become stronger as her breasts enlarge, keeping up with the demand for more natural support of her breasts.

When a woman reaches menopause, she is no longer able to become pregnant and produce children, so her body makes the decision, on its own, to allow her breasts to go through what is referred to as 'involution', in which her fibrous supportive breast tissues atrophy. Her breasts may merely become smaller, if she does not put on more body fat. Also, her breast skin becomes less elastic and is less likely to shrink to fit the smaller breast tissue. Since the breast skin helps support the breast, in later life the skin is less helpful in preventing ptosis of the breast (sagging). If her connective tissue (ligaments) was actively part of the lifting program all along, it may become smaller as the breast mass becomes less. If they were ineffective all along, they will likely have little to do with what the breasts do at this stage.

Also, as a woman ages, and after she is beyond her child-bearing years, her breast acini (milk-producing) tissues tend to atrophy. That tissue may be replaced my fatty tissue, or the breasts will simply become smaller and/or less dense, making them more likely to droop.

Regardless of which one happens, with the acini and fibrous tissues leaving her breasts, they can no longer maintain their density... their 'perkiness', and if they were up-lifted before, they will now start to sag. These are simply facts of the life of a breast.

It has been noted by many women that have not worn bras very much, that their breasts tend not to sag quite as much as their 'sisters' have experienced. And some clients that have communicated with me, and others, that they have eliminated the use of their bras later on, that their breasts have actually become more lifted after several months of being bra-free. They asked "Why did my breasts regain some of their earlier lift?" Let's talk about how ligaments function and perhaps we can find an answer to these clients' question.

It is a good bet that many of these women were asked by their mothers to wear a bra as soon as their moms noticed there breast buds starting to develop, showing through their play clothes and tee shirts. Thinking that it was her duty, each of their moms likely 'invested' in their young girls' first bra. Usually referred to as a 'Training Bra', each girl wore it until her breasts enlarged enough that she needed a larger sized bra.

As the girl's breasts enlarged, they became heavier. Her bra was right there to support the developing breasts, performing the task of supporting them. The task that is naturally intended to be done by the Ligaments of Cooper that were always present in her breasts. Since they have no weight applied to them, the ligaments are not going to develop much past a minimal strength. No need for anything to develop larger than it is needed.

As the women's breasts continued to increase in size and weight, they continued to buy larger and stronger bras, continuing to supersede the task normally given to the ligaments. When each client decided to try living without the bra for a while, her breasts lost their artificial support. What was holding her breasts up now? It was some undersized, over-stressed ligaments. So why did her breasts lift after a couple of months then, after she removed her bra?

If you have ever experienced a broken bone where a leg or arm was placed in a cast and unused for weeks at a time, you would have realized that your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in that limb became smaller and weaker. They atrophied. The old "use it or lose it" routine. When the cast came off and you started to use that limb, it was weaker than you remembered, and was a lot weaker than its matching limb. Eventually it improved and soon it again matched the other limb. That happened because with use, the muscles and the tendons and ligaments re-developed, because of their being put back into use. The same way any muscle becomes stronger with use and exercise.

These women's breasts were not being suspended by the Cooper's Ligaments when they wore a bra, so removing their bra placed some stress upon those ligaments, which ligaments require in order to develop. They will not develop without a need... without some stress or pressure placed upon them. The ligaments in a casted leg are 'on vacation'... no stress... no weight... because the doctor said "I don't want you to put any pressure on that leg for six weeks!" But when the cast came off, the ligaments had to go back to work, just like the breast ligaments had to go back to work when the bra came off, after lolling around in that bra for decades.

How COULD that breast development gone, if they were allowed to develop naturally, without the help of a bra? Since we can't follow the development of that woman living in the Garden of Eden today, we might follow a young girl that lived on a farm with her widowed dad, and he never knew about training bras so he never bought her one. Did her breasts develop? Of course they did, just like they did on young women for centuries before bras even existed. And you can bet her breast ligaments grew nice and strong to support her growing breasts.

Well, what happened to those client's breast ligaments that grew when their breasts developed back there during their puberty? Well, were those ligaments allowed to develop? Or were the girls told to wear a "training bra"? From the very start, as their breasts developed, the training bra was there to support them, so with no weight on their breast ligaments, they did not develop beyond a minimum. Remember... no waste of the body's energy and building materials.

When a breast does not put weight on the Cooper's Ligaments, the ligaments do not develop as strong as they might, because there is no use for the ligaments to be that strong, if they are not being utilized. Now why, you might ask, would a breast NOT put weight on its own ligaments? How about if you hold them up artificially? When you wear a bra, does it not lift the breasts? If the weight of the breasts are completely supported by a bra, what weight is left to challenge the ligaments to grow strong and supportive? When the bra is worn, the breasts LOOK uplifted and perky. But what happens when you take off the bra? There are no strong ligaments to lift the breast... just weak ones, so the breasts struggle to maintain a lifted appearance, but fall to some degree. If a breast enlarges a little each year, especially during puberty, but it is supported by a bra, the ligaments continue to not develop, leaving the natural support structure undeveloped and weak. 

What happens when our farm girl marries and moves to town to be a teacher? Her principal tells her that she has to wear a bra "to be decent around the kids". The cows and chickens on the farm were not concerned about her growing breasts, so she has not had to spend the money and suffer from the discomfort or wearing a bra when she pitched the hay. Her breasts are nice and firm, and self-supporting, but now, to keep her new job, she buys the bra. Remember the cast on the arm? Now her breasts are constantly resting in her bra, and as her ligaments replace themselves, as all of our body cells do eventually, her body is not going to 'waste' energy and new body cells, making new strong ligaments if they are not needed. With no weight on her breast ligaments, the ligaments have no cause to be there, so they atrophy. They are slowly replaced by smaller, weaker ligaments. What is going to happen to those nice, firm, uplifted breasts? Oh, they will stay right there where they were... the bra will keep them there... until. Ten years into her teaching career, when she takes that bra off after she gets home, she will notice that her breasts are sagging... because she no longer has strong breast ligaments.

Do the bra manufacturers still claim that bras keep breasts from sagging? Some don't:

"We have no medical evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle so keeping it toned up is an impossibility" John Dixey, former CEO of Platex

Of course, he is not talking about ligaments here... he's talking about muscles... and who ever thought that a bra 'exercised the muscles of the breast'... which don't exist? Strange. At least they are admitting that the bra does NOT prevent sagging.

 At this point, you are thinking back on what you have heard and read from the undergarment industry about how important it is to support your breasts or they will sag. Do you still believe that? Is that what happened to our young teacher from the farm? Her breasts would eventually have sagged as she got older, because of what we already know about breast anatomy, but from the experience of the clients mentioned earlier, the farm girl would likely have had higher-lifted breasts for a longer time... had she not caused her ligaments to weaken because she had to resort to wearing that bra.

It has been proven through studies that when you wear a bra, it allows your Cooper's Ligaments to atrophy, which means your breasts' natural support weakens, and that translates to 'ptosis of the breasts" or SAG.

OK, so how can we stop that from happening? Just think about what happened... natural breast support naturally grew into place in the beginning of breast development, but it was not needed after the bra was put on, so that natural support atrophied. Have you done that? Have you killed your Cooper's? Or at least seriously wounded them? Most women did that. Or are doing that.

But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not the train coming. What did the muscles and tendons do when the cast was removed from the broken leg? They got better, right? And how did that happen? The leg was put to use, which told your body to re-build those muscles and ligaments that have been slacking off for the last six weeks. And they got bigger, stronger, and better.

Well, you can do the same thing to your Cooper's Ligaments. Put them back to work! How do you do that? You remove what is preventing your ligaments from being needed. From working. From developing. You remove what is removing the weight of your breasts from their ligaments. You put their ligaments back to work so they will re-develop. You take off the bra.

It has been shown through multiple studies that women that remove their bras and leave them off regain the natural lift that their breasts need. My clients that I mentioned earlier have experienced that first hand. Do the breasts go back to where they were when they were twenty? No, the clients are no longer twenty. We already know they WILL sag as you age, but they will NOT sag AS MUCH, or AS EARLY as they will if you continue to wear a bra.

Breasts are not like clay where they sag lower and lower if left unsupported, which is what most bra saleswomen have told their customers for decades. That is why the undergarment industry is a 36 Billion dollar a year industry. But they truly believe that is true... it is what the manufacturer trained them to tell you, so we cannot fault them on that. However, we DO have the opportunity to test this theory for ourselves. Just take off the bra. Do that for one month and I guarantee you that you will never put it back on. Don't believe me? Why don't you see if that is true. You have nothing to lose  by trying it. They will NOT sag any more than they do now. In fact, if you measure them accurately, I'm willing to wager that they will lift slightly. The older you are, the less they will lift, because we know that they will all sag eventually. Can you imagine an 80-year old woman with bullet-shaped breasts? We eventually have to make the transition from pointy, bouncy, perky to what is elegantly  majestic. But if you are twenty now, for goodness sake, you can keep them from dropping for a good many years, and yours will actually lift a goodly amount if you have been wearing bras for ten years now.

If you would like to read some stories from some of these clients that have removed their bras, you can see some in "I'm Bra Free ~ Personal Stories"

You can search on Google for research about bras causing breasts to sag. You will find quite a few articles, and I guarantee that most of them will be negative. They will try to convince you that this "theory" of going bra-free is "unproven" and basically not a good idea. Not good for whom is the real question here. Certainly not good for your bra retailer.

I have shown here a couple articles that I found just recently:

Here's Why You Shouldn't Wear A Bra, According To Science

October 13th is National No Bra Day, invented to promote breast cancer awareness and to help raise money for research.

Bras are a divisive symbol; some consider them a ludicrous invention, others as a tool for emancipation. Scientifically speaking, the most notorious research on bras and breasts came out a couple of years ago. 

Sport science researcher Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor based at the University of Franche-Comte in the eastern town of Besançon, led a team that conducted a 15-year study on the effect of bras on 330 women aged 18 to 35.

The study was conducted at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (University Hospital) in Besançon, and the team used a slide rule and a caliper to record the changes to the women's breasts year in and year out.

The findings suggested that wearing a bra from an early age did nothing to help support the chest, reduce back pain or prevent breast sagging. “Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra,” Professor Rouillon told France Info in an interview.

The researchers believe that young women would gain more tone and supporting breast tissue if no bra were used. In the study, women that stopped wearing bras – through choice, not as a requirement of the study – had a 7-millimeter (0.3-inch) lift in their nipples when compared with regular bra users. Bras, they claim, could hamper circulation and reduce breast tone over time.

"For younger women, not wearing a bra will lead to increased collagen production and elasticity, which improves lift in a developing breast," said Dr. Stafford Broumand, who was not connected with the study, for Refinery 29. Of course, many women wear bras for other reasons than to just reduce the sag of their breasts. 

The team advises caution on drawing general conclusions from this research, as the women in the study are not representative of the population as a whole. Professor Rouillon believes more research is necessary to understand the potential impacts – positive or negative – that bras may have, and admits these are very preliminary results. Moreover, although the findings were scheduled to be published, IFLScience was unable to find the paper in the literature. 

[H/T: Counsel & Heal]

http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/no-bra-day-special-are-bras-bad-you/

You may notice that even though the study shows that the bra causes damage to breasts, those that report the findings cannot resist making comments that are contrary to the study findings.

Here is another one, which addresses the question of whether the bra actually causes the breasts to sag:

Is Your Bra Making Your Breasts Sag?

Breast sagging is something that none of us want to deal with, but we all know that it can come with age, pregnancy, breast feeding, weight gain, and genetics. However, are there some ways to slow it down? I have spend a significant amount of time trying to come up wit that answer and the only thing I have really figured out is no one really knows, but there are definitely some different theories on the subject.

Theory #1  Wearing a bra can cause sagging.

Breasts do not have muscle in them, they have ligaments and connective tissue. One study with this claim was in Japan over a 3 month period. Women aged 22-39 did not wear a bra for three months and measured, then wore a bra constantly for 3 months and the results were that during the bra wearing months the breast hung lower when measured. This was regardless of the women weight.

Another study in France with 250 women who practiced sports regularly stopped wearing a bra for an entire year. At the 6 week check up most of the women reported discomfort with not wearing a bra, but after the study was finished, 88% of the women reported improved comfort, even felt better than before the study started. The study showed perkier, more elevated and firmer breasts. However, another study with jogging showed that the bouncing can tear the ligaments so it is recommended to wear a sports bra for that type of exercise.

Theory #2  Wearing an ill-fitting bra is what causes the sagging.

If your bra does not fit and your breast hangs out on the sides, or the wires or fabric is digging into your skin then that will contribute to tearing of ligaments, and can cause stretching.

It is important that you wear the right bra size.

Conclusion

  • It is recommended that o don't wear your bra for more than 12 hours a day. Your breasts need to have circulation which helps with elasticity.
  • Wear a sports bra when doing any exercise that involves your breasts bouncing.
  • Moisturize and exfoliate morning and night to help elasticity, stretch marks, and keeps your skin healthy.
  • Try not to wear a bra unless you have to, if your breasts depend on your bra it won't use it's own ligaments to hold its own and they can deteriorate.
  • Tone up pectoral muscles. Simple push-ups against the wall, or using free weights will help.
  • Lose weight.
  • Get a bra that fits you correctly.

Erin Kennedy of My Thirty Spot

http://www.mythirtyspot.com/is-your-bra-making-you-sag/

 

And these are some quotes from books that are supportive to both questions that this article poses:

"Now And Then, Go Braless - Allowing yourself to go braless occasionally, whether at home or in a situation you feel is appropriate, is a healthful habit. Ligaments attach your breasts to the pectoral muscle on your chest. When you wear a bra, your supported breast does not allow the pectoral muscle to be exercised as much as it could be. When you do not wear a bra, as you move your arms, reach, and lift, your pectoral muscle is strengthened. The muscle can then offer better support to your breasts.

"The Complete Book Of Breast Care" by Niels H. Lauersen, M.D., Ph.D., & Eileen Stukane

 

In a conversation with Dr. Gregory Heigh and Dr. Claire Heigh (man and wife), they stated that they…

"…have found that going bra-free can actually cause breasts to sag less.
Bras can cause breasts to sag because chest muscles are worked less when breasts are supported and confined in a bra. Over time, these muscles and also ligaments can atrophy (shrink in size) because of lack of use." It is basically a matter of "Use it or lose it.
When the chest muscles and breast ligaments have to bear the weight of the breasts, muscle tone returns."

 

From the Summary ("Pulling It All Together") chapter of "Breast Health and Bra Comfort" by Geoff Kirby (2014):
  • "First of all there is no evidence that wearing a bra is beneficial to health. It is not a garment performing a task that compliments natural bodily health."
  • "Bra wearing has no medical benefits"
  • "The reason many women refuse to cast off their bras is because they fear their breasts will sag.   -   They won't.  In fact, bra wearing encourages sagging and leaving off a bra makes breasts firmer and perkier."

 

 

The website "Brafree.org" is done by a doctor that practices what she preaches, and she has a list of excellent references that address the technical, medical terms and processes that are involved when studying the actions and functions of the ligaments.

Elizabeth R. Vaughan, M.D., F.A.A.E.M. offers a website (http://www.brafree.org/research.html#9 ) on which she lists 8 examples of References on Breast Ligament Atrophy which explain in scientific terminology how and why ligaments and tendons function (or become atrophied) and support the claim that by removing the bra, the ligaments that position of the breasts on the chest will in fact be improved. Dr. Vaughan states:

"The myth that bras prevent the breast ptosis (sagging) has no scientific support. Medical research actually shows that weight-bearing and movement is necessary to the maintenance of healthy ligaments. And, ligaments are responsible for supporting and giving shape to the breasts:"        

(These are abbreviated summations of her references. Visit this URL to see the full references):

  • J.G. Gamble et al. Am J. Sports Med. vol. 12, 22-28 (1984) ... [This suggests that if you immobilize a bodily part, such as knee or a breast, that the ligaments will get thinner & weaker, because they will switch to a degradative state. Ligaments are largely responsible for holding the shape of the breast.]
  • S. Bayati and B.R. Seckel Plast. Reconstr. Surg. vol.9, 501 (1995) ... [Ligaments support the breast and determine how they sag.]
  • F.L. Harwood and D. Amiel J. Appl. PHysiol. vol. 72, 1687-91 (1992)  ... Ligaments need to be under some amount of stress (weight-bearing), in order to keep their strength.
  • W.H. Akeson et al. Clin. Orthop. vol 219, 28 (1987) ... [ Stress-deprived ligaments become less strong and more likely to stretch and break under a load. ]
  • D. Amiel et al. Clin. Orthop. vol.172, 265 (1983) "Immobilization causes atrophy with reduction of collagen mass and increased collagen degradation... "
  • L. Klein et al. J. Bone Joint Surg. vol 64, 225 (1982) Isotopic evidence for resorption of soft tissues and bone in immobilized dogs. "We have demonstrated significant atrophy of soft tissue (lateral meniscus and ant. curc. ligament) as well as of bone in immobilized joints of dogs."
  • L. Klein et al. J. Orthop. Res. vol. 7, 80 (1989) Prevention of ligament and meniscus atrophy by active joint motion in a non-weight bearing model. Models of immobilization have shown that resorption of isotope and atrophy of mass occurred for hard tissue (bone) and soft tissues (ligament, tendon, and meniscus). In dogs, this model showed bone loss, but the active joint motion protected ligaments and tendons.
  • P. Diekstall et al. Sportverlitz Sportchaden, vol 9, 35-43 (Jun 95). Prolonged immobilization can threaten the surgical results. The reduction in muscle diameter is reported to be 10 to 60 % after 4 weeks of immobilization depending on the different muscle groups. The result of immobilization is shortening of all fibrous tissues. The loss of ligament-specific orientation of fibrils leads to significant reduction in tensile strength.

 

 

If you do an internet search, you will find many contributions that seem to rejoice in finding plausible contradictions to any study that suggests you minimize the use of a bra. It is clear that many people will lose a lot of money if you don't buy several bras every year. And not only that, the manufacturers very likely fear that if people realize how much damage has actually been caused by the wearing of a bra, many lawsuits for liability may result. Read the 'claims' of any articles with close scrutiny. When they make a statement, ask yourself if they have any clinical basis for what they are claiming? Are they making references to actual studies that have been done? Do they offer you an URL to go to that study and read it for yourself? Do they have better credentials than those people that did the studies which they are reading and criticizing? Are they using the same tired negative clichés that others have used in their own reports?  Do they seem to really care about you? Is there any possibility that they may gain financially by your following the advice they are offering to you?

The important thing here is your health, your comfort, and your beauty. And you have the most control here. You can simply remove your bra and find out for yourself if this information is true or not. You can tell within a month if your breasts will sag more, and if they will be much more comfortable. Thousands of women have already tried it and they are not going back to their old, uncomfortable ways of dressing. Their dangerous ways of dressing. Because we must remember... five international studies have shown that wearing a bra has a positive correlation to an increased risk of breast cancer. Not one single, solitary study has ever shown that to be untrue.

If you do decide to take this easy, giant step to better breast health and comfort, write to me about it. Inform me, and I can better inform others. If (and only if) you agree to our doing it, we would love to post your story.

Send any correspondence to Ken at BreastCare@comcast.net  . Your anonymity is a guaranteed promise.