Why Are My Breasts Getting Bigger After Menopause?

Last updated 02.28.2024 | by Dr. Karen Pike | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Most people associate menopause with hot flashesnight sweats, and mood swings. Yet, while these symptoms are common, so are changes to your breasts.

As we go through life, the size and shape of your breasts alters. It can happen at any age, but breast changes tend to become more pronounced during and after menopause.

For some women, their breasts become smaller as they age. But for many, myself included, they get bigger, and take on a different contour and density.

Noticing breast changes during menopause and understanding the reasons behind them is important. Not only can the right information put you at ease, but it can also potentially save your life.

So, are you a postmenopausal woman wondering why on earth your breasts have become larger?

Don’t worry, this post if for you. Below, I’ll examine the possible causes of an increase in breast size after menopause. I’ll also discuss some other common breast changes that can happen during this time and share my tips on how to manage them.

Why Does Breast Size Increase After Menopause?

Why Does Breast Size Increase After Menopause

Menopause can reduce the elasticity of our skin and change the way our body distributes fat. This can make breasts smaller over time.

However, many women notice that the opposite is true, and menopause seems to have increased the size of their chest. I’ve experienced this myself, and many of the women I’ve worked with also report the same thing.

Research shows that more than 18% of women go up a cup size after their menopausal transition is complete, compared to only 1.7% who need to buy a smaller bra[1].

Rest assured, this is perfectly normal. There are several reasons why this can happen, including:

1. Weight Gain

This is the most common and likely cause of an increase in breast size, both during and after menopause.

If gaining weight alone is the reason behind enlarged breasts, you will likely see that you’ve gained weight in other areas of your body, too. However, this isn’t always the case, especially for women who are prone to carrying extra weight in the thorax region. 

An increase in weight is much more common in women after menopause. Most of us gain an average of 1.5 lbs every year as we journey through our 50s, and chances are, some of this extra weight will settle in the breasts.

2. Genetics

Some women are genetically predisposed to gaining weight in the breasts before other areas of the body. And so, when they put on a few lbs, it’s their bras, not their jeans, that first feel the strain.

3. Shifting Hormones

Hormonal changes after menopause can alter the way that fat accumulates in your body. So, women who have been pear-shaped all their lives may suddenly observe that any new fat goes straight to their upper body, for example, the belly and breasts.

This change in body shape is due to a reduction in estrogen levels that happens throughout the menopausal process.

Bigger Breasts Throughout Menopause

It’s not just after menopause that women notice an increase in the size of their breasts. Breasts can begin getting bigger long before this phase of life is complete, and an increase in size is quite common throughout perimenopause.

Personally, this is when I first saw changes in my own breasts.

Perimenopause is when hormonal shifts begin, and many of the symptoms of menopause are most prominent. An increase in weight is common, and a decline in estrogen can cause a redistribution of body fat.

Other Breast Changes During and After Menopause

Other Breast Changes During and After Menopause

Breast growth can occur throughout perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. But during this time, many of my female patients observed their breasts changing in other ways too. Here are some of the most common changes to expect:

1. Tenderness and Soreness

Fluctuation in hormone levels can mean that breast tissue feels sore and tender to the touch. This is especially common during perimenopause, when you are still having periods. Enlarged breasts can also lead to pain and soreness.

2. Reduced Firmness

A decline in the hormone called estrogen means that once abundant, collagen is in short supply. This causes a decrease in the firmness of the breast tissue, which continues as we age.

3. Sagging

A reduction in collagen leads to a loss of skin elasticity. This, along with gravity, can send breasts southwards, resulting in dropping and sagging.

4. Lumpiness

Women notice that their breast feels lumpy during and after menopause, and in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about. Often, lumpy breasts are caused by benign cysts. These fluid-filled sacs sit under the skin, are soft to the touch, and, more often than not, don’t cause significant pain.

There are several other benign causes of lumpy breasts, but it’s important to regularly examine for new lumps or changes to existing ones. If you are concerned, reach out to your doctor straight away.

The Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

The Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Our risk factor for developing breast cancer rises significantly after menopause. So, staying vigilant and performing regular self-exams is essential. I examine my own breasts for changes around once per week, and I recommend all women do the same.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, get them checked out by your doctor as soon as possible, even if you’ve had a recent mammogram.

  • A new breast lump
  • Thickening of the breast tissue
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Skin changes on the breast and nipple, for example, dimpling, scaliness, flaking, or crusting
  • An inverted nipple
  • Orange peel texture to the surface of the breast
  • Redness of the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Changes in the appearance of one breast compared to another

What can you do About Enlarged Breasts After Menopause?

For some women, larger breasts can be a welcome change. Some women even go through their lives wishing they had a fuller chest, so going up a size or two might even be a cause for celebration.

But many post-menopausal women don’t feel so happy about an increase in chest size. This is especially true if their breasts were already large to begin with.

Enlarged breasts can be painful. This is usually due to additional weight stretching the ligaments and tissues, causing breast soreness and tenderness. Breasts getting bigger after menopause can also put additional strain on your back, neck, and shoulders, too, and lead to serious issues down the line.

Plus, an increase in breast size can make it harder to exercise, especially if you are squeezing into old, ill-fitting bras that don’t provide the right support. This can limit physical activity and lead to further weight gain.

I’ve worked with many women over the years who suffer from pain and discomfort due to excess breast tissue, and I’ve seen firsthand how life-limiting an increase in an already large chest size can be.

So, how can you reduce the size of your breasts?

Most women experience an increase in breasts due to weight gain. If that’s you, the only way to resolve the situation is to shed the pounds.

I know from personal experience that losing weight during and after menopause can be harder than it used to be. But postmenopausal weight loss is achievable for us all. If you are looking for tips, advice, and support, read my guide to losing weight and keeping it off during the menopausal stage.

In the meantime, it’s essential to wear a comfortable, well-fitting, and supportive brassiere. Research suggests that as many as 80% of us are wearing the wrong size bra. So, getting measured by a professional bra fitting service is essential.

Wearing the correct style and size of brassiere can relieve extra strain on your back, neck, and shoulders and help to prevent further sagging of the breast tissue.

FAQs

Can hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increase the size of my breasts?

Breast enlargement is sometimes cited as a side effect of hormone replacement therapy; however, there’s currently no clear evidence that this type of treatment directly causes an increase in breast size. 

That being said, HRT can lead to an increase in breast and nipple pain and tenderness.

Can postmenopausal breast enlargement be a sign of an underlying condition?

In most cases, an increase in breasts is nothing to worry about. If both breasts look the same size and you don’t have any potential symptoms of breast cancer, enlarged breasts are usually down to hormonal shifts and weight gain. However, if you are at all concerned, go see your doctor.

Are there any workout plans that can reduce the size of my breasts?

Unfortunately, spot fat reduction is a myth. There’s no way to directly target fat on a specific part of your body. Instead, your focus should be general weight loss through cardio and strength training exercises that burn calories and tone muscles.

Conclusion

Many women find that their breast size increases after menopause. There are various reasons this can happen, but weight gain and hormonal shifts are the most likely causes.

Most of the time, an increase in cup size is nothing to be concerned about. It’s simply a natural part of the aging process for a lot of women.

But if your breast size is causing you discomfort or pain, it’s necessary to make some changes. Losing weight and finding a well-fitting and supportive bra can make all the difference and have you feeling more like your old self once again.

Remember, if you’re concerned about any changes in your breasts, it’s essential to speak to your doctor. They can perform a thorough examination and determine if any further investigations or tests are necessary.

Author

  • Dr. Karen Pike

    Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. She received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played collegiate soccer. She attended Georgetown University for medical school and performed her residency in emergency medicine at Stanford University. She was part of the first-ever, women-majority emergency medicine program in United States. Dr. Pike is also the primary medical consultant for “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role she has held since the pilot episode when she partnered with Shonda Rhimes as the show’s original medical consultant. At her hospital, she was the second woman Chief of Staff. Today serves as the Director of the Emergency Department. Whether in leadership or direct patient care, her dedication to excellence in communication, quality, and collaboration is unwavering.