A good bra can actually be your saving grace while you’re on your period, enabling you to move around freely or even vigorously exercise without experiencing pain – (if you are one of the approximately half of women who does). But what kind of bra is best? How do you even know where to start?
Why Do My Boobs Hurt?
First, let’s talk a bit about breast discomfort. Fibrocystic changes in the breasts are the most common causes of symptoms such as tenderness, swelling, heaviness or aches coinciding with your menstrual cycle. These changes in the breast tissue are often referred to as fibrocystic breast condition, or FBC for short.
Cyclical breast pain, accounting for up to 75% of all breast complaints, relates to how the breast tissue responds to your monthly cycle (hence the name). The average age of women who experience cyclical breast pain is 34 years old, and this pain usually lasts until menopause.
Great, Now What Do I Do?
Finding a solid bra is a good first step. The second step is admitting that you need a little expert help. Big-box retailers might cut it for some bras, but when you’re looking for a comfy, well-fitting bra, especially for that time of the month, it is beneficial to find a professional who knows what she is doing to help you with measurements and finding the best fit.
Before you go shopping, take inventory: Is your current bra really comfortable? If it hurts your back, chafes or causes any additional discomfort, you aren’t getting the “support” that you need. Also, because breasts tend to swell in the days and sometimes weeks leading up to a woman’s period, consider shopping before your period, as you may need to size-up in order to accommodate.
Let’s look at some types of bras and compare their benefits.
The Sports Bra
These bras have either been your breast friends since adolescence or they make you feel like you’re wearing a corset. If it’s the latter, it may be worthwhile to try out multiple styles because a good sports bra can be extremely helpful for minimizing period-related breast pain for some women.
Perhaps you’ve been tempted to hold your breasts when exercising (we have!), due to pain from your monthly cycle or from FBC. Exercising should not be painful for your boobs. A good sports bra will help to eliminate some of that unnecessary discomfort.
The Compression/Encapsulation Bra
Similar to a sports bra, compression and encapsulation bras are designed to fit securely and provide support, while also offering padding and shape that regular sports bras do not provide, according to Fiona Lipshaw of online personal bra shop Brayola.com
Compression or encapsulation bras are generally wire-free. Compression bras are best suited for smaller A-B cup size breasts. They flatten boobs and smooth the chest. Encapsulation bras are great for breast sizes C-DD and put each individual breast into its own supportive cup. Bras that provide compression and encapsulation are perfect for breasts that are a size DDD or more. Thicker straps of these bras can also help distribute the weight of breasts to reduce strain and shoulder fatigue, notes Lipshaw.
The “Old-Fashioned” Padding/Underwire Bra
Depending on preferences, these bras can offer more padding and more of a boost, helping to reduce impact from movements. Padding can go hand in hand with an underwire bra, or you can get the underwire without the padding (or vice versa).
Underwire bras may fit your activity level or work best with your wardrobe, but should never give you pain. Give yourself a break and only wear what is most comfortable for YOU – especially at that time of the month.
The No Bra
No matter how comfortable the bra is, there is nothing quite like the feeling of taking off your bra for the night. Liberate those ladies! Allow some breathing room to see if that helps reduce pain.
At the end of the day, make your breasts a priority. Discomfort may be status quo at that time of the month, but it shouldn’t be debilitating. Your bra can be your worst enemy, or it can be exactly what your girls need, so do your boobs a favor and take the time to find out what kind of bra suits you best!