is it possible to reverse breast shrinkage after going off the pill?
May 21, 2006 7:55 PM   Subscribe

after being on birth control pills for many (8+) years, i had to go off them (permanently) for medical reasons. six months later, my breasts have noticeably shrunk almost a full cup size.

i wasn't busty to begin with - when i first started on the pill, i was between a large A and small B cup; on the pill, i went up to a full B cup. off the pill, i've shrunk to a small A - in fact, almost a double-A. none of my bras, camisoles or swimsuits fit any more, and nearly all my shirts, dresses and blouses gape open or look baggy. i haven't had any weight loss that would otherwise explain the size decrease.

sure, i could buy a bunch of padded bras in order to wear my clothes again (or go broke and buy a whole new wardrobe) but understandably, i'd rather not! (my husband has been very cool about the whole thing - he's indicated no disappointment in having less boobage to play with - but he also understands why this is upsetting for me.)

i have NO interest in breast implants - i would just like to return to my previous size (or at least get a back in the neighborhood). so are there any non-surgical ways (supplements, exercise, etc) to enhance breast size that work - ie., aren't total scams?

(and please, no suggestions of going back on the pill, or trying the ring/patch/different brands/etc. it's a medical thing - i can't be on any form of hormonal birth control ever again, full stop. and please don't tell me to get pregnant, either.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Exercise would build up the muscles underneath but not do anything for the breasts themselves.

The increase was hormonal, as of course you realize. Same thing happens when you get pregnant.

ON the bright side smaller ones sag less. I now have furniture disease. *

* when your chest falls into your drawers.
posted by konolia at 7:58 PM on May 21, 2006

Unfortunately, breast growth is a side effect of taking birth control pills -- and breast shrinkage is a consequence of ceasing to do so.

Birth control pills contain an analogue to the hormone secreted during pregnancy. That's because during pregnancy ovulation is naturally suppressed. But that hormone (and its analogues) also prepare a woman's body for birth ... and for nursing.

That's why birth control pills make the breasts swell. And now that you've stopped taking them, the hormonal message to your body has changed to "Baby not coming! Breasts no longer need to be prepared for nursing!"

Since I'm a man I can't give you direct advice on how to make your breasts larger, but I can tell you that the FDA has actually approved a device which is based on using physical suction. It's known as "Brava" but apparently from what I can google up the FDA doesn't actually say that it will work very well, or that the results are permanent. All they're really saying is that it does do something and it won't harm you -- except, maybe, in the wallet.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:09 PM on May 21, 2006

I suspect this is not the case, but is it possible to take a non-birth-control version of the hormone that is the cause of the breast swelling? I imagine that this is not possible due to whatever your medical condition is, or just not technically possible - if the dose is high enough to cause the breast swelling, it is going to be a birth control pill.

That said, my theory on this is, if there was a chemical/exercise program/suction device (!) that could replace a boob job, there would be ads for it plastered all over every women's magazine in creation. It's like male pattern baldness, impotence, and acne - the market for a miracle cure would be SO lucrative that we would all already know about it.

I think you should probably consider your good fortune in that it is not an issue for your husband and embrace the positives of your smaller breasts, like the one konolia mentioned.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 PM on May 21, 2006

You wouldn't even have to buy new padded bras - you could get those little silicone gel things that you insert into your regular bra. I remember Julia Roberts saying those were one of the things they used to make her look like she had cleavage for her role as Erin Brockovich.
posted by peep at 8:57 PM on May 21, 2006

Could you stand to gain any weight? The first 5 lbs I gain or lose always come from my chest.
posted by xo at 9:10 PM on May 21, 2006

IANAD, and on the Internet, you can get all kinds of herbal advice, if you ask politely. I do have a couple of thoughts regarding your circumstances, however.

1) Some women I've known have suggested that the hops in beer were really helpful. Maybe they were making excuses for drinking a 6 pack a day, or not, but as I recall, they had a point. Heavily hopped beers are strongly flavored, and if you don't like the taste of beer, or the alcohol, or the calories, maybe you could just try dried hops.

2) I suspect that if your husband sees more of your smaller boobs, and gets more access to them than he normally does, you may find he doesn't miss, at all, what you percieve as not being there any longer. Really. Sight + access excuses all "imperfections."

Trust me. I'm a random Internet dude, and I've no reason to lie. For more men than women are ever going to give credit, size doesn't matter. Access does.

I'm hip that this suggestion won't help with wardrobe problems, but on the other hand, you're not going to have the kinds of wardrobe issues in 30 years your mega-breasted sisters by other mothers are going to have.
posted by paulsc at 9:18 PM on May 21, 2006

Fenugreek may help if you're not likely to be pregnant any time soon. I have noticed a marked tightness in my bras when I take it (in some cultures, it's taken to improve weight gain, which may be a positive or a negative for you--I'd go off it if I noticed any serious weight gain, but the only place I've gained any weight on it is in my breasts). It's a big maybe, and whether you want to mess with herbals is also dependent on the medical condition that caused you to stop taking the pills (and what, if any, medications you're on for that). But it's pretty cheap from Swanson Vitamins if you want to try.
posted by Cricket at 10:31 PM on May 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

If herbal treatments work at all, it's likely they work because they, too, contain hormonal analogues. Before doing anything like that, you should definitely talk to your doctor.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2006

Italian superstition/sayings back up paulsc -- when I was there, there was always much elbow-in-the-ribs-ing among my Italian male friends when a woman ordered beer, because "beer makes your tits grow." This was said *every* *single* *time* a woman ordered a beer.

Another thought, though one I wouldn't recommend myself, would be actively seeking out meat and milk with growth hormones added, which, really, at this point, is all of them that don't advertise as "BGH-free." I specifically avoid them because they've been linked with precocious sexual development (larger breasts and early menarche) among American girls.
posted by occhiblu at 11:16 PM on May 21, 2006

I second the caution on herbs; many of them contain compounds that activate estrogen receptors the way that estrogens do. Therefore, they are estrogen analogues, and possibly contraindicated for you for the same reasons that the birth control pill was.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:16 PM on May 21, 2006

Have you tried on a WonderBra?
posted by Carol Anne at 5:44 AM on May 22, 2006

Hops and fenugreek are some of the ingredients in herbal supplements that claim to have an effect in increasing breast size. Google "phytoestrogens". Here's some medical advice, related to cancer, but still applies:

Drugs or chemicals that cause growth of breast tissue are generally not recommended for breast cancer survivors. Phytoestrogen supplements have been shown to cause growth of breast tissue in animals and healthy women.

... Care should be taken in the use of phytoestrogen supplements that may contain phytoestrogens at levels far higher than in food. Since phytoestrogens can have estrogen-like effects in humans, use of these supplements for a long time could increase breast cancer risk.

Moderate consumption of foods high in phytoestrogens is unlikely to have any adverse effects and these foods are generally healthful.

posted by funambulist at 5:59 AM on May 22, 2006

I second gaining about five pounds, if you're comfortable with that. Everyone's different, of course, but quite accidentally gaining ten pounds tipped me into the next cup size, to my surprise.
posted by desuetude at 6:09 AM on May 22, 2006

Why don't you want to buy padded bras? They're comfortable, and there are plenty on the market that look realistic. They fix the clothing problem, and it sounds like you don't have a problem when you take the clothing off. Go try some on, at least, and see what you think.
posted by equipoise at 8:40 AM on May 22, 2006

Papaya is supposed to help, according to Chinese tradition. And on the bra front, Triumph makes a good line of padded bras for smaller cup sizes, or you can buy a gel or water bra. Also, for your clothes, if they're tailored you can possibly take them in to fit better, which would be much cheaper than a new wardrobe!
posted by orangskye at 4:02 PM on May 22, 2006

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