The brassiere comes in different shapes, colours and sizes. There are 31 common types of bras, ranging from …
The brassiere comes in different shapes, colours and sizes. There are 31 common types of bras, ranging from the simple to the bizarre. In fact, your social status will shape the type of bra you wear. They include adhesive bra, belly dance bra, bridal bra, convertible bra, cup-less bra, full-support bra, mastectomy bra, maternity/nursing bra, minimiser bra (for those with large busts), novelty bra, padded bra, peephole bra, push-up bra, sport bra, T-shirt bra, trainer bra, U-plunge bra, underwire bra and water bra. This last one has water or silicone gel-filled cups to make your breasts look larger.
For the average woman, wearing the bra probably comes before any other underwear, thus underscoring its importance. You can then imagine the uproar that greeted the result of a new study released last Friday by French researcher, Prof. Jean-Denis Rouillon of Besançon University, who claims to have spent the last 15 years measuring women’s breasts. He submits his ground-breaking finding: brassieres do no good, either in terms of preventing sagging or back pain!
He goes ahead to describe the bra as a “false necessity” that actually weakens the breast-supporting muscles by removing their need to work. Hear him: “Medically, physiologically and anatomically, breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity.”
Earlier, in 2000, two breast surgeons — Prof. of Surgery at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, Robert Mansel; and a consultant surgeon at the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, Simon Cawthorn — did an experiment involving 100 women at two breast clinics. All the women had breast pain. The researchers found that over half of the premenopausal women with pain found relief when they quit wearing bras for three months.
For some of the subjects, the study claims, the pain relief was very dramatic, changing their lives. When they resumed bra wearing for the last three months of the study, the pain returned. Besides the pain data, the doctors also showed video thermography footage that dramatically demonstrated the heat build-up from bra wearing, and they discussed the possible connections with cancer causation. Awesome!
The bra has been a victim of prejudice for long, even among women. For instance, in the ’70s, some women burnt their bras as a sign of liberation. But most women didn’t buy into that, as they have continued to wear their bras, which now come in different shapes, colours and with lofty promises for the uplifting of the mammary glands.
There are many reasons why women wear bra, of course; and one cogent argument is cosmetic — the bra props up the breasts and holds them in place. It prevents them from bobbing as one goes about, and generally wards off unnecessary attention that braless boobs are likely to engender, especially for those with ample bosom.
In trying to connect bra with breast cancer, a Medical Anthropologist, Sydney Singer, says, “The purpose of bras is to bind the breast. Throughout the world, the only cultures where there is breast cancer is where there are bras. Cancer rates are lower in Fiji where many women don’t wear bras. There is nothing good about bras.” The jury is still out on Singer’s study.
Again, breast specialists are skeptical about the function a bra performs. Mansel says, “When one looks at where there’s positive evidence that bras are good for health, that evidence does not exist, because the groups that don’t wear bras tend to be those having lower breast cancer incidences.”
For those who think women don’t need bra, though, actress Cozy Orjiakor and those in her class may disagree. It is unimaginable that people who are really endowed in that part of the body could do without the grace and comfort that a good bra provides, what with their confession that their big breasts weigh them down physically, causing neck, shoulder and back aches.
Physicians are of the view that bras don’t actually prevent sagging, which is another reason why women wear them. General Practitioner, Dr. June Okorie, explains the ‘biology of sagging’: “Sagging of breasts is a natural and inevitable process that happens to all women at some point, except for those with fairly small breasts. Breasts sag because they do not have muscles; rather, they have ligaments and connective tissues.
“By the time the breasts are fully mature at pregnancy, gravity sets in and they start to droop, stretching the ligaments and the skin.”
She says the elasticity of a woman’s skin and that of the ligaments, as determined by genes and diet, will affect the extent and rate of sagging.
While Okorie notes that aging is the greatest determinant for how saggy breasts can get, she warns that large breasts will sag easier because gravity pulls them down more.
She explains further that during pregnancy, the breasts are full of milk, preparatory to delivery and eventual breast-feeding. However, she says, breast involution sets in after weaning a child, whereby the milk-making system inside the breasts shrinks because it’s no longer needed.
“This happens either after weaning or right after pregnancy if you don’t breast-feed at all; or during menopause. When the tissues inside breasts shrink, and the skin surrounding them doesn’t, the breasts can look ‘empty’ and saggy. Over time, some fat gets deposited back to the breasts so they will look somewhat fuller; but sagging usually remains,” she explains.
Worse still, a bra manufacturing executive, Mr. John Dixie, while speaking during a documentary entitled, Bras, Bare Facts, says, “We have no evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle, so keeping it toned up is an impossibility. What bra can do, particularly for larger-breasted women, is obviously to provide the comfort and the support. So, if a woman wants a particular breast profile, she will buy a particular brand, and that is what they’re designed for. There’s no permanent effect on the breasts from wearing a particular bra. The bra will give you the shape it’s been designed to give while you’re wearing it. Of course, when you take it off, you go au natural.” Coming from an individual who should know better, this is instructive.
Cawthorne notes that women choose their bras for the shape rather than the comfort, saying that’s why some women have deep marks on their breasts where their bras have been digging into the flesh.
When Healthwise presented these findings to some women, the collective reaction is that it’s impossible to leave the bra out of the wardrobe. The majority agree that though the bra is more for cosmetic reasons, they cannot do without it.
A respondent says, “I can’t imagine a world without bra!” Can you?