By Sola Ogundipe
Hundreds of millions of women wear a brassiere (bra). Why? This was the subject of discussion at a function recently. In the course of finding an answer to this knotty question, I discovered that, many women wear bras without ever asking why. Interestingly, bra wearing is not a necessity for most women for their breasts’ sake; rather, it is worn more for cultural reasons.
The modern bra with its two separate cups dates back to the corset in the early 20th century, in an attempt to manufacture a more comfortable underwear piece and has evolved from simple underwear into an actual sexual garment that emphasises the sexual nature of breasts.
This can be readily seen, for example, by the terminology used to advertise bras: enticing, hot, ravishing, seducing, etc. For most purposes however, wearing a bra is feminine and rather strangely, going braless is sometimes also connected with feminism.
So why wear, or not wear a bra?
According to experts, women’s breasts change sizes an average of five times over their life. That means that the bra size you wore when you are 20 now will no longer will fit you properly. And there is a good chance that the bra you are now wearing will no longer fit you in a few years time. Skin, not muscle actually supports the breasts, and skin stretches with movement. Wearing a good support bra is essential to minimise this stretching.
To wear or not to wear, would, depend, first of all, on the breast size, and secondly, on the woman’s habits. I gather that very large and heavy-breasted women usually need to wear bras for support, and they feel pain and discomfort if they don’t wear bras.
For women with small-to-medium size breasts, if they are used to wearing bras, say they feel a little uncomfortable without them.
However, this is more a psychological issue and a question of habit: women tend to feel awkward or self-conscious without bras if they are used to wearing them. In fact, when a person gets used to automatically wearing bras, it’s possible to not even notice or pay any attention to the slight discomfort from bras.
Why you DO need a bra
Your bust has no muscle. When gravity pulls your breast down, it also stretches your throat and face tissue. Your breast depends on an outside source of support to keep its shape and the shape of your breast is determined by the bras you wear. Ordinary bras on the market today are only covers. The woman’s bust must be lifted to allow for proper circulation. Without proper support, lymphatic drainage is impeded, which interferes with cellular health. Breast disease such as cancer is more likely when there is no circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Why you DON’T need a bra
Several medical experts argue that there is no evidence that wearing a bra brings any medical benefit. They say you could be putting your health at risk by wearing bras, researchers have warned. Surgeons found women are more likely to suffer regular breast pain, which has been linked to breast cancer. Across the world, breast cancer is a problem only in cultures where women wear bras. There is already international evidence that cultures where women do not wear bras are free of breast cancer. Tight bras cause congestion in the lymph nodes — a vital part of the immune system and the body’s first line of defence against the spread of cancer. Repeated inflammation from constricting bras are implicated in painful breast cysts and lumps, scar tissue develops, and milk ducts become plugged, all of which is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
In one study, 100 premenopausal women who went braless for three months and then returned to wearing one for another three months found that, on average, the number of totally pain-free days went up by 7 per cent when the women stopped wearing a bras. Several separate studies have shown a link between breast pain and breast cancer. It is estimated that two in five women suffer from breast pain, with some also having cysts. The pain can leave breasts feeling extremely tender, and restrict movement. Breast pain is very common but very hard to treat.
Body of evidence
The figures are numbing. Of 4,000 women interviewed in a major study lasting over two years, half the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer; 75 percent of women who slept in their bras developed breast cancer; 1 in 7 who wore their bras for 12 or more hours per day developed breast cancer; 1 in 168 who did not wear a bra developed breast cancer.
Within one month of ditching their bras, women with cysts, breast pain, or tenderness found their symptoms disappeared.
A study published in the European Journal of Cancer found that premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users. More interestingly, Japanese, Fijians, and women from other cultures tend to have a significantly higher likelihood of developing breast cancer when they began wearing bras. Japanese researchers found bras can lower melantonin by 60 percent. Melatonin has anti-cancer properties. And Spanish researchers wrote about the use of melantonin in breast cancer prevention and treatment.
Go braless as much as possible?
Most women agree it’s actually easier to do this. When these muscles and ligaments are forced to bear the weight of breasts, muscle tone returns. The more you wear a bra, the more you need to wear a bra. Chest muscles and breast ligaments atrophy, which then makes it feel uncomfortable to go braless.
A study found that “medically, physiologically, and anatomically, breasts gained no benefit from their weight being supported in a bra.” There was some evidence that eliminating bra use helped ease back pain. *Some say bra wearing is a “false need.”
A medical doctor (female) summed up this way: Remove your bra when you get home. Don’t wear a bra to bed. And if you’re self-conscious when going out, try wearing camisoles, thicker material, or nipple pads. However, it does make sense to wear a support bra while exercising.
Wear loose bras in softer materials
Tight bras and under wires promote congestion and stagnation of toxic waste materials that are supposed to be flowing out for excretion. Further, the closing of lymphatic vessels reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
There’s no need to toss your expensive underwire bras. If you cut a small opening at one end of the wire, you can manually remove it from each cup. You’ll probably find that your bra supports you nearly as well without them. If you still need the support, you can buy and insert plastic wires.