Whether you love them or hate them, your breasts are responsible for incredible things. But we bet you don’t know everything they can do. First, let’s start with the obvious.
Breasts nourish new life and yours
It’s remarkable that our breasts have the ability to make milk and feed our babies, says Kristi Weaver, DO, OB-GYN at Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Kansas. “I see it every day, and I still almost don't believe it,” says Dr. Weaver.
While you already know that, did you know that breastfeeding is actually good for mothers too?
Just like babies, moms who breastfeed reap the benefits. Breastfeeding helps decrease the size of the uterus. “Lactation, or milk letdown, is actually stimulated by the same hormone in the brain, oxytocin, that causes uterine contraction,” explains Weaver. “When we breastfeed our babies, the oxytocin hormone is released and the uterus contracts down.”
Weaver says breastfeeding triggers the brain to release the “feel good” hormone prolactin and helps moms feel more at ease. Women who breastfeed can also burn up to 500 extra calories per day, says Weaver.
Breastfeeding can also help lower your risk of postpartum hemorrhage, and breast and ovarian cancer long-term.
They aren’t identical
If your bra seems tighter on one side of your chest, you’re not imagining things—most women have one breast that’s up to 20 percent of a cup size larger, says Weaver. Another fun fact: more than 60 percent of women have a larger left breast.
Experts don’t know exactly what causes the variation in size, but hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy or menopause are likely contributors. A traumatic injury to the chest and non-cancerous tumors, called fibroadenoma, can also lead to the size fluctuation.
So don’t fret if you have asymmetrical breasts—it’s totally normal.
Nipples can boost your sex life
A little nipple stimulation may send you on the fast track to an orgasm. “Interestingly, nipple stimulation activates the same region of the brain that is activated by clitoral and vaginal touch,” says Weaver. This area of the brain is known as the genital sensory cortex, and it’s activated by the stimulation of the clitoris, cervix and vagina, too.
And while only a small percentage of women are able to orgasm with nipple stimulation alone, it can certainly enhance a genital orgasm, Weaver adds. Nipple stimulation can include kissing, touching and sucking, but what feels good is different for everyone. If you’re curious, talk to your partner about experimenting.
Your breasts are constantly changing
It’s normal for your breast size and density to fluctuate as you age. “When we're young, we have more glandular tissue in our breasts and as we age, it changes to more fatty tissue,” says Weaver.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding and weight fluctuations cause density changes and sagging, too. “When you have too much weight loss or gain, the glandular tissue in your breast is replaced with fatty tissue. It’s difficult to regain glandular tissue,” says Weaver.
Want to keep your breasts perky? Quit smoking, stay out of the sun, maintain a healthy weight and eat more collagen-building foods.
Additionally, the color and size of your nipple can grow or change
There’s no “normal” when it comes to nipple and areola color and size.
“Some women have very small nipples and small areolar tissue, while some women have very large areolas,” says Weaver.
Why? It probably has a lot to do with your hormones—particularly during pregnancy. You may notice an increase in your nipple and areola size and color after puberty, and especially during pregnancy.
“Huge amounts of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy increase the size of that tissue and causes some darkening of the area,” says Weaver. The color change is really thought to help infants better identify the nipple from the surrounding breast tissue so they can feed better, adds Weaver.
A bad bra can cause sagging
If your breasts aren’t getting enough support, they’re going to start drooping. “It's estimated that over 80 percent of women are not wearing the correct size bra, and improper support can lead to sagging,” says Weaver. Properly fitted bras should lift you up and help your breasts keep their shape.
Exercise bras are important, too. High-impact workouts can cause your breasts to move as much as eight inches up and down depending on your breast size, says Weaver. “Eight inches of movement during a 30-minute workout can cause lot of stress on the breast tissue over time.”
The best thing you can do is get a proper bra fitting. Once your girls are in the right bra, you may feel more confident, too.