Dr. Frank's Anthem Dentist Blog


Choosing the Correct Sized Bra


Over the years as I matured my bra size increased, particularly after having babies. Before that I was a size 34 bust, but after giving birth I went up in size. After menopause my bust size increased again and I found my normal bra did not fit me anymore. One day I took the plunge and went into my local underwear store and had myself properly fitted and measured. To my horror I discovered I was no where near the size I thought I was. The statistics from research carried out suggests that 70% of women are wearing the wrong bra size and many of these women have never actually been measured at all and so simply buy what they assume to be their size.

What most women do not realise is that a ill fitting bra can affect their health and well being. If for instance the bra is the wrong size it might cause severe back and shoulder pain with the constant resistance to the pressure on those areas of the body. As in the example above, bust size and shape will alter with variations of weight and hormonal change. This in turn will require a change in bra size. Because a woman’s shape may be in a constant state of flux, regular fittings about every 6 months are highly recommended.

To Find the Correct Bra Size

The best way to check that you are wearing the correct size bra is to go to a shop or store that offers a professional bra fitting service. A specially trained fitter will measure you to work out your correct size. The system used is to take a tape measure and place it underneath the bust and around the rib cage so that it feels secure but not uncomfortable. If the number measured in inches is an even number you add four, if it is an odd number you add five to give you your bra band size.

Once the band size is established the next measurement to find is the cup size. This is done by placing the tape measure over the fullest part of the bust and around the back all at the same level. Again this should be firm but not too tight. Your cup size is the difference between the two measurements. For example if your bust size is the same as your bra band size you are an A cup, a 1 inch difference = B cup, 2 inches = C cup, 3 inches = D cup and so on. All measurements taken are really only used as a guide to bra size because bras size can vary greatly from manufacturers to manufacturers. Sometimes a very experienced trained professional can judge your bra size by eye and will not need to use a tape measure. Because women vary so greatly in shape and size it is not only the size of bra that is important, but also the type of support required and distribution of weight. A professional fitter will be able to offer you advice on the correct type of bra to suit your needs.

The importance of being measured professionally, particularly for big bra sizes, should not be overlooked.

Tips for ensuring correct bra fit:-

  • If you find that your bra rides up your back it may be because it has stretched. Try tightening the bra with the hook and eye clasp or buying a smaller band size (32 instead of 34).
  • If the opposite is happening and your bra is too tight try another band size up or even a bra that has a wider band fitting. You can get extra hooks to fit on the end of your current bra that will ease the tightness under the bust.
  • Bulging sides can be remedied by wearing a bra that offers more cup coverage or is one band size bigger. 
  • If you find that your bust is bulging out of the cups then you will most likely need a larger cup or band size. (Unless of course that is the fashion statement you are aiming for!)
  • For ladies who have larger busts, a bra with wider shoulder straps or even padded ones will give relief from sore shoulders.
  • A sagging bust line can be overcome by choosing a bra that offers firmer support and avoiding stretchy fabrics. 
  • An under-wired bra may give problems with soreness under the bust if not correctly fitted. In which some womes prefer to wear a non-wired soft cup bra.
  • Straps that slip usually mean they are too long so they can be shortened to resolve the problem. Otherwise choose a bra style with wider straps that will not slip down or buy a bra clasp to hold the straps together at the back

The Prevalence of Cancer

According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer is the most widespread type of cancer in the UK and around 125 women a day are diagnosed with this particular form of cancer. Breast cancer rates have increased by 13% over the last ten years and one in nine women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. This may be due to the national screening programme, but early detection is vital for a good prognosis. Survival rates of five years or more after treatment is 80% and that means that there are a large number of women who require specialist bras especially after surgery.

As a result of the increased rates of breast cancer and manufacturers looking to specialise in new markets, the range of stylish Mastectomy bras and lingerie has increased quite considerably, so having had breast surgery does not mean that you can’t have stylish designer lingerie any longer.

Mastectomy Bra

Choosing lingerie after surgery where the breast or part of a breast has been removed can sometimes be quite difficult and there will naturally be a period of adjustment. Part of the rehabilitation will be to acquire a prosthesis to use in conjunction with a mastectomy Bra towards recovering the normal silhouette.

The amount of surgery you have had will establish the type of product you require. The prosthesis should match the natural remaining breast or if two are required they need to restore the natural outline. When going for a fitting for a mastectomy bra it is important to have the right prosthesis with you.

It is essential to visit a specialist post operative lingerie retailer if you require full figure bra fitting as this will enable you to be more comfortable and aid your recovery.

A Mastectomy bra is generally made from fabric that is designed to be more comfortable on sensitive and post-operative areas of skin, but this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style or elegance, and a wide range of beautiful post-surgery lingerie is obtainable. These can be purchased as complete sets with matching bottoms. Apart from the different fabrics used, the main difference of a Mastectomy bra is that is has pockets to accommodate the prostheses and generally there will be a choice of a higher neckline and higher panels between cups. A Mastectomy bra will usually have adjustable straps for effective support. There is no need not to be stylish and feminine; bras with satin and lace trim also feature. Some Mastectomy bras also have a silver lining which aids healing.

Where there is a bilateral mastectomy the bra will need to accommodate the natural breast in one cup and the prosthesis in the other. Ensure that you find a shop with a qualified fitter to help you find exactly the correct size and fit to suit your shape. No prosthesis will look right if your bra does not fit properly and ideally the two should be fitted together.

Points to look out for when choosing the correct mastectomy bra for you are:-

  • The prosthesis must fill the bra cup properly so that it doesn’t pucker or be over stretched
  • The underarm section is the same on both sides
  • The breasts are evenly aligned.

Where only part of the breast tissue has been removed (lumpectomy) then there is only a need for a breast enhancer. There are a range of styles and shapes for partial reconstruction usually made from silicone.

Polypropylene beans mould into the shape of the bra to give a really natural look and the beans allow air to circulate making it cool and comfortable.

There is also a range of swimsuits and bikinis designed with subtle modifications for the beach such as pockets for the prostheses, slightly higher necklines and closer underarm fitting with pre-formed cups to give natural contour to the figure. Again these come in every shape and size and don’t mean that you have to sacrifice new fashions.

Maternity Bras

When women become pregnant they outgrow their ordinary everyday bras very early on in pregnancy. The breasts become bigger and heavier in the first few weeks so a good support bra of the correct size is vital. As the pregnancy develops the breast size continues to change and fluctuate so regular measuring and fittings will help with comfort and health. Many midwives and retail outlets advise against purchasing an underwired bra during pregnancy and although there is no concrete evidence to show that underwires are harmful during this time, there does appear to be some potential risk. The reason for this advice is that the rigid wires found in underwired bras may interfere with the natural changes in the size and shape of the breast and restrict the increased blood flow to, and possibly hinder, the developing milk duct system. This in turn could cause major pain, discomfort and possibly mastitis during the feeding stage.

If you are used to beautiful designer lingerie you might expect post operative bras to be very dull and clinical but some of the newer designs are much prettier than they used to be and more feminine.

To make sure you are wearing the best supporting bra a professional measuring and fitting service is a must during pregnancy. It is important that you are measured every 6 to 8 weeks so that your specially trained fitter can assess your changing shape and fit you accordingly. When you are buying a maternity bra it is important that it offers you great support with wide straps and side panels. A wide under bust band and a deep centre at the front will also enhance this support.

A lot of pregnant women find that they feel very hot during pregnancy and a bra that is mainly cotton will help let the skin breathe. Look for a bra that has at least 4 rows of hooks and eyes so that your bra can grow through your pregnancy with you. Make sure that the bra fits without the breast spilling over the top and that the cups fit comfortably. As with your everyday bra make sure that the centre front is lying snugly on your breastbone, and if it’s within the first few weeks of pregnancy remember that your rib cage will expand so fit your bra on the smallest fastenings so that you have plenty of room for expansion later in your pregnancy. The opposite will apply for maternity bras purchased later in pregnancy of course, fit on the loosest hook and eye so that when your rib cage shrinks after birth, you can tighten your bra accordingly.


During the early stages of a woman’s life she will need appropriate bras to suit each stage. During the early teenage years a more modest non wired bra is the most appropriate.

Later in adolescence where appearance is a serious business, a more fashionable good fitting bra to create a feminine silhouette is required.

In pregnancy a comfortable good supportive bra which has expanding fastenings allows for changes during that period without restriction and damage. Following the birth, a good nursing bra to allow for easy access needs to still support the breast as it fluctuates hourly during the day.

If women undertake vigorous exercise then it is doubly important she wears a good sports bra to reduce bounce as that stretches the pectoral muscles. Once this has occurred there is no way it can be rectified.

As a woman ages the breasts mature and so will need a good supportive structure that helps prevent sagging and yet retains a good outline. After menopause many women loose the full breast shape and at that point it is more important to find an appropriate type of bra that will help them feel good about themselves.

Many women have been unfortunate enough to have had a full or partial mastectomy in which case correct prosthesis and mastectomy bras are an essential part of the recovery programme.

Many women spend a great deal of time and money on hairdo’s, makeup and face pampering, yet often they neglect their greatest assets. Maybe it’s time we women start to think differently about the way we look after our bosoms’ and make sure they are clothed in comfortable, supportive and good looking items.

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