Did you know that almost 20% of women go up a bra size after menopause?
As we go through life, the size and shape of our 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?
However, many women notice that the opposite is true, and menopause seems to have increased the size of their chest. I’ve noticed this in 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.
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 weight gain alone is the reason behind enlarged breasts, you will likely notice 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 chest region.
Weight gain 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.
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 notice 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 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 cup size is quite common throughout perimenopause.
Personally, this is when I first noticed changes in my own breasts.
Perimenopause is when hormonal shifts begin, and many of the symptoms of menopause are most prominent. Weight gain is common, and a decline in estrogen can cause a redistribution of body fat.
Other Breast Changes During and After Menopause
Breast size can increase throughout perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. But during this time, many of my female patients notice their breasts changing in other ways too. Here are some of the most common changes to expect:
1. Tenderness and Soreness
Fluctuating hormones 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 after menopause can also lead to pain and soreness.
2. Reduced Firmness
A decline in 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.
A reduction in collagen leads to a loss of skin elasticity. This, along with gravity, can send breast tissue southwards, resulting in dropping and sagging.
Many women notice that their breast tissue 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’re concerned, reach out to your doctor straight away.
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 after menopause can be a welcome change. Some women even go through their lives wishing they had a fuller chest, so going up a cup 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 soreness and tenderness. Heavier breasts can also put additional strain on your back, neck, and shoulders, too, and lead to serious issues down the line.
Plus, an increase in cup size can make it harder to exercise, especially if you’re 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 with pain and discomfort due to excess breast tissue, and I’ve seen first hand 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 breast size 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’re looking for tips, advice, and support, read my guide to losing weight and keeping it off during and after menopause.
In the meantime, it’s important to wear a comfortable, well-fitting, and supportive bra. 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 bra can relieve extra strain on your back, neck, and shoulders and help to prevent further sagging of the breast tissue.
Breast enlargement is sometimes cited as a side effect of HRT; 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.
In most cases, an increase in breast size is nothing to worry about. If both breasts are 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’re at all concerned, speak to your doctor.
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.
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 many women.
But if your breast size is causing you discomfort or pain, it’s important 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 important to speak to your doctor. They can perform a thorough examination and determine if any further investigations or tests are necessary.