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Why Are My Breasts Getting Bigger?

Two kids in, they aren’t perky .… but they are definitely larger.

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Cécile Dormeau
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There I was in the dressing room at my local Nordstrom staring at myself in the full-length mirror as I tried on an array of bras ranging from basic to frilly. I had selected my usual size — 36C — to try on. I went through the various styles, none really getting it done, before a lovely saleswoman popped into the dressing room and asked if she could help me.

For the first time ever in my more than 40 years of life, and more than 30 years of wearing a bra, I allowed someone to take my measurements and “size me” for a bra. Turns out the size I thought was correct was all wrong. I actually am a 34D.

“I need a D? I’ve never been a D, barely a C,” I say.

“Our bodies change as we get older,” she politely says as she instructs me to lean forward and push my breasts from the sides forward into the cups, basically moving the “boob fat” I never ever wanted to admit I might have.

Yes, things do change. A woman’s breasts are a thing of beauty and wonder that morph throughout her lifetime. Whether a double-A or double-D cup size, we all strap them in with fabric bands to boost our cleavage and keep them in place. A woman’s breast size is in part due to genetics, but surging hormones at different stages of life affect cup size as well, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum.

In my case, I find myself in my mid-40s with breasts bigger than they’ve ever been. I’ve birthed two babies, breastfed and am now on the other side … shopping for a size 34D bra. Just like puberty, pregnancy and postpartum, hormonal changes in our 40s can cause changes in breast size, partly due to another “P”: perimenopause.

“Women in their 40s are likely to begin to experience perimenopausal changes,” says Alyse Kelly-Jones, M.D., an ob-gyn at Novant Health Mintview OB/GYN in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Perimenopause is a period of seven to 10 years when hormones start changing and normal cycles get really wacky.”

As a woman gets closer to menopause, which is defined as one full year without a period, she has little-to-no ovarian function, but then all of a sudden, her body may make an abundance of hormones, including buckets of estrogen, Kelly-Jones says.

And just like that, breasts bulge and night sweats and hot flashes flare. Along with changes in hormones in our 40s, it’s easier to gain weight, Kelly-Jones says, and harder to get it off. And since breasts are mostly fat tissue, there is such a thing as breast weight gain. Couple hormones with weight gain, and bam, up a cup size we go.

“Many of my patients who gain weight in their 40s tell me they’ve changed nothing,” Kelly-Jones says, “but that’s the problem. You can’t keep eating and drinking the same things you did in your 20s and 30s and expect the same results.”

The changes are a wake-up call to adopt healthier habits and to “eat cleaner.”

No pair of breasts is the same shape or size, and though shape can change during various stages of life, Kelly-Jones reminds women in their 40s to do their self-breast exams. If suddenly one breast is larger than another, or you feel a lump or have nipple discharge, call your doctor. She also recommends women in their 40s get regular mammograms and be gentle with their bodies as they age.

Michele Huggins is a Gen Xer, mom to two boys ages 10 and 4, and content creator who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, boys and Border collie.