It may just be the best perk of pregnancy, aside from the baby: A large bosom the likes of which A and B-cup women had once only dreamed of.
“I absolutely loved being voluptuous. That’s not a word that I have ever had anyone describe me as — voluptuous,” actress Keri Russell recently told USA Today, remembering her 2011 pregnancy during the filming of her new movie, “Austenland.” Russell has since bade goodbye to her curves — her daughter is now 19 months olds — but admits to missing her voluminous breasts.
“I don’t want the belly again, but I want those back,” she said.
Many women join Russell in mourning their shrinking postpartum bosoms, but not everyone. For some women, in fact, breasts actually stay larger after pregnancy and even after breastfeeding.
On an online message board at CircleofMoms.com, one woman wrote about seeing her chest expand from a C-cup to a size DD and staying there, even when her daughter was a year-and-a-half old.
“I don’t normally mind…until my back starts hurting,” she wrote. “It is truly amazing how each woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy…”
Carly Stewart, M.D. and medical expert at MoneyCrashers.com, says there is “no set rule” on how breast size is affected by pregnancy and breastfeeding.
“Some women’s breasts return to their pre-pregnancy size while others end up larger or smaller. There is no way to predict how a particular woman’s breasts will change,” she said.
One key to it all, says Dr. Jenny Jaque of Health Goes Female, are the hormonal shifts experienced by expectant moms.
Pregnancy, she explained, increases a woman’s levels of estrogen and progesterone, which stimulate the breasts’ ducts and glands to prepare them for producing milk.
Also important, she said, are changes in a woman’s weight. (Women of a normal weight are encouraged to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, according to guidelines issued by The Institute of Medicine, but more than 50 percent of women gain more than that, a 2012 study found.)
“All the hormone changes and fluctuations in a woman’s weight can result in larger or smaller breasts after giving birth and/or breastfeeding,” Dr. Jaque said.
But the women who do find their breasts remain larger after pregnancy or breastfeeding aren’t necessarily thrilled with the results. Some find their bosoms to be uneven and others despair over sagging. The latter, experts say, becomes a greater risk with age but, despite popular perception, might not be associated with breastfeeding: A 2004 study reported that the prevalence of apparent breast changes, including a loss of breast firmness, were similar between mothers who breastfed and those who did not.
“Unfortunately there is little a woman can do to prevent breasts from sagging after giving birth or breastfeeding other than weight control and wearing a supportive bra,” Dr. Jaque said.
If you’re unhappy with what your chest looks like after pregnancy, you may want to talk to a plastic surgeon.
“It is extremely popular for women after pregnancy to be frustrated with the new shape of their breasts and seek the consultation of a plastic surgeon for a breast lift or mastopexy,” said Melissa Doft, a plastic surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
But some aren’t fans of postpartum women going under the knife.
“With the increase use of plastic surgery for breast augmentation, many women have a distorted view what breast should look like,” said Deedee Frank, a nurse and lactation consultant with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. “I believe women need to see and understand the normal changes that occur with breasts throughout the life span.”
Photo via morgueFile.