I was looking forward to never again wearing bras after breast reconstruction. This was possibly the only benefit of giving up my breasts to cancer. Then, about four weeks after replacing the tissue expanders with implants, my plastic surgeon broke it to me.
I needed to wear a well-fitted underwire bra.
My heart sank, but it had to be done. Apparently the implants need boundaries. They might otherwise migrate, and I could end up with a side-boob (implant drifts sideways toward the underarm) or a uni-boob (the mucscle between your breasts detaches from your chest). Both scenarios were enough to make me a compliant patient.
On the bright side, wearing a bra is not an everlasting requirement. I can stop after scar tissue forms around the implants. But, even then, I might not completely give up bras. Permanently erect nipples are another unexpected outcome of my breast reconstruction, and the bra helps disguise them so people can look at my face when they’re talking to me.
I’ve spoken with some women whose plastic surgeons have told them they can do whatever they want with regard to wearing a bra after their reconstruction. I don’t know why different surgeons recommend different things. Maybe it depends on how they do the reconstruction. In some cases, the location of the sutures probably determines what type of bra you can wear and when you can start wearing it. Nevertheless, whether you choose to wear bras after breast reconstruction or if your surgeon, like mine, insists that you keep those babies in check, here is what I learned about selecting a bra for reconstructed breasts.
I highly recommend that you get fitted for a bra post reconstruction. Your new breasts will be quite different from your natural ones, even if you tried to remain close to your original size. Also, many women wear the wrong bra size, but natural breasts are more forgiving. They have movement, so you can adjust them to fill the cup evenly. Reconstructed breasts are firmer. I have silicone implants which are relatively soft and move a bit, but they don’t fully conform to the bra. For example, the underwires no longer lay flat on the center of my chest the way they used to because my implants have a high profile. Also, depending on the bra, I may have a slight gap on the side near my underarm. You may have to try several bra styles before you find one with a good fit, but getting a professional fitting will help reduce the frustration of finding your new size.
I have heard that Nordstrom has excellent fitters, and some of them specialize in fitting women with reconstructed breasts. Tell them about your situation, and ask for a surgical fitter. I did not get fitted at Nordstrom because I did not know about them when I was looking for a bra. However, I went to Soma and had a good experience with the fitter there.
What to Look for in Bras after Breast Reconstruction
If your surgeon has asked you to wear an underwire bra as much as possible, then he probably wants to train your implants to sit in the right position. This is why it is important that your bra fits snugly. Get a bra that fits snug on the loosest band setting. That way if you lose weight or if the bra stretches over time, you can adjust it. Also, make sure the underwires sit right under the implants, not on them. My surgeon cautioned me to stay away from push-up bras because we want to keep the implants in the right position vertically and horizontally.
If you did not have a nipple-sparing mastectomy, then you may want to look for a lined bra. Without nipples, you could have a small gap in the cup and a lined or moulded bra will help compensate for this and prevent a visible indentation.
Bra Support for an Active Lifestyle
If you run or do any exercises that involve a lot of jumping, then you will need extra support. You should minimize implant movement during these activities, not only for your own comfort but to keep the implants from shifting. I have not found a sports bra that provides enough support on its own. Instead, I wear my regular underwire bra with a supportive sports bra over it. The underwire bra helps keep the implants from moving sideways, and the sports bra keeps the implants close to my body.
You should experiment with various bra styles to see which one fits your implants the best. I tried shopping for a bra at Victoria’s Secret, but I did not like the thin straps on their bras. Since I have to wear my bra tightly, wider straps are more comfortable. I also tried Macy’s, but they did not have any bras in my new size. Finally, I found two bra styles at Soma that fit well: Vanishing Back and Embraceable. Of those, I prefer the Vanishing Back bra because it fits just right without any gaps anywhere. The Embraceable bra provides an okay fit, but it is more affordable. Both bras are comfortable and provide good support.
What has been your experience with finding well-fitting bras after breast reconstruction? Are there other brands or styles you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Until next time,