To wear or not to wear a bra? This question is asked by every woman at least once in her lifetime (if not every day). Many women have been taught to wear a brassiere or bra from the moment their breasts start developing - whether it was at the age of 9 or 15 years. 

The first functional bra may have come into existence just over a century ago when it replaced more restrictive clothing like corsets. Since then, many women have wondered if wearing a bra has any benefits at all.

The logic used traditionally dictates that bras give both support and shape to the breasts. And yet, many consider this piece of garment to be restrictive, painful and the cause of many health problems.

Add to this the fact that many African and Asian cultures - including women of the Indian subcontinent - did not wear restrictive upper-body garments until they were colonized by Europeans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the question of wearing bras or not becomes more complicated still.

There is, unfortunately, very little medical research into this matter - and fewer still take cultural histories and biological development of Asian or Indian women into account. Based on the currently available research, whether or not you should wear a bra can be determined by your age, health status and degree of daily physical activity. Here’s everything you need to know to make an informed decision:

  1. Wearing a bra linked to sagging breasts
  2. Wearing a bra does not cause cancer
  3. Wearing a bra during exercises
  4. Wearing a bra during pregnancy
  5. Wearing a bra while breastfeeding
  6. When to avoid wearing a bra

A 15-year-long study conducted by Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Besancon, France, is considered to be one of the most definitive researches to throw light on the big bra question. The study observed 300 women between the ages of 18 and 35 years and showed that:

  • Women who did not wear bras naturally developed more muscle tissue underneath and around their breasts to support the breast.
  • Moreover, women who did not wear a bra also showed a natural 7mm per year lift in their nipples, had fewer stretch marks, and their breasts were firmer than those of women who wore bras.
  • The study proved that not wearing a bra naturally protects the breasts from gravity by forcing women to have a better posture and helps the body develop specific muscles that naturally lift and support the breasts.
  • The study also indicated that women who wear bras might experience more sagging over the years because the restrictive material and shape of bras might prevent breast muscle tissues from growing.

Clearly, being dependent on a bra might affect a woman’s natural, biological ability to adapt to gravity as her breasts change with age. Rouillon did clarify, however, that women who have been wearing a bra for decades should not suddenly give them up, because their breasts are now used to getting support from bras.

Read more: Causes of sagging breasts and remedies to make breasts firmer

Women Health Supplements
₹719  ₹799  10% OFF

You might buy into the idea that wearing a bra can cause breast cancer, but then you’d be believing a myth. While wearing the wrong bra can lead to breast pain, back pain and other health issues, this garment hasn't successfully been linked to higher risk for breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, yet.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), bras were once thought to cause breast cancer. The idea was that bras impaired lymph flow in the body. (Lymph normally flows through an intricate network of lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels.) This idea has since been debunked.

The ACS also quotes a 2014 study involving 1,500 women which proved that there is absolutely no link between wearing a bra and breast cancer risk. A 2015 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Preview also corroborated similar findings.

Read more: How to check for breast lumps at home

When it comes to wearing a bra while playing a sport, exercising, jogging, running or performing any strenuous activity, the rules change. These physical activities cause movement of the breast muscles, which can cause breast pain. This is the reason why the garment industry invented and continues to upgrade the sports bra, which is supposed to provide proper support to breasts during exercise and reduce the force of the up-and-down movement of the breasts.

A number of studies have tested the validity of this idea and indicated that getting fitted for the right sports bra for exercise can help deal with this issue. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport in 1999 tested the strain on breasts during exercise and the support provided by a sports bra, a fashion bra, a crop top and bare breast. The findings of that study confirmed that a fitted sports bra provides the best support during exercise and ensures pain reduction too.

myUpchar doctors after many years of research have created myUpchar Ayurveda Prajnas Fertility Booster by using 100% original and pure herbs of Ayurveda. This ayurvedic medicine has been recommended by our doctors for lakhs of male and female infertility problems with good results.
Fertility Booster
₹899  ₹999  10% OFF

Pregnancy is that time of a woman’s life when she needs extra care and support in every way. And a good bra is way more important than you might imagine it to be. Here's why:

  • Sometime between the 8th week of pregnancy and the 12th week of pregnancy, expecting mothers start noticing a change their breasts - that's right, the first noticeable changes during pregnancy have to do with the breasts and not the tummy.
  • The progesterone levels start rising and the milk ducts start growing in expecting moms around this time. As the new mom's body prepares for lactation, she might experience breast soreness. Her breasts will grow in size and feel fuller and heavier and can cause back pain and neck pain too.
  • Even the ribcage might expand to make space for the growing baby.

This is just the time when moms-to-be should get fitted for a new bra that can help them transition through to maternity.

If you are expecting, it’s important to physically go to a store and get yourself fitted with the right bra because your breasts will need more support for at least a year and a half. It’s also important to remember that your milk might come in before you actually give birth, so you might need nursing pads - disposable or washable pads that soak up any leaking milk - as well. You should make sure that your new bra has the following features for optimal support during your pregnancy and beyond:

  • Wider straps
  • Soft cups without an underwire 
  • Cotton and breathable fabrics
  • At least a three-hook closure
  • Get at least two of these bras

While you might have got yourself fitted for a new bra during pregnancy, it’s important to get fitted for a nursing bra as your due date comes closer so that you're prepared for breastfeeding. A nursing bra is meant to provide proper support to your lactating breasts, and the feature that sets them apart is that they open in front so that you can easily access your breasts whenever your baby needs to be fed.

According to the UK's National Childbirth Trust, you should get fitted for a good nursing bra close to your due date and practice opening it with one hand so that you’re ready for when your baby arrives. It’s important to remember that not all women who breastfeed go for a nursing bra because it can be restricting and getting fitted regularly can be expensive. So many women choose to go braless or wear a stretchy, padded crop top that’s easy to lift up. Irrespective of which type of bra you get, make sure you have nursing pads that can soak up any leaking milk.

₹360  ₹400  10% OFF

If you wear a bra, there are some things you must remember. Getting fitted for the right bra during different stages and ages of life is very important. This is because just like the rest of your body, your breasts change with time and how you live your life. It’s also necessary to give your breasts enough rest so that the breast tissues can grow properly, and remember that not all situations in life need you to wear a bra. Here are a few situations when you should ditch the bra:

Surgeons may ask you to avoid a bra for some time or wear a specific type (like a wireless bra) after a breast cancer surgery like a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

Read on app