Breasts, boobs, ta tas, mammaries, the girls, call them what you will, but they are pretty amazing.
They have the power to attract the opposite sex, feed our children, and help us make sweaters look pretty damn good.
But for the prominent position on our chest and in our lives, there's a lot of mystery surrounding our breasts.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I spoke with Lissa Rankin, M.D., author of the new book What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist if She Was Your Best Friend. And in the same candid and informative tone of her book, she provided this list of 7 Things You Might Not Know About Your Boobs:
1. Extra nipples happen. Sometimes, things go awry in fetal development and you wind up with an extra nipple or two, which we call supernumerary nipples. Rarely, women will have multiple nipples on both sides, along the "milk line." These nipples may be mistaken for moles until a woman gets pregnant or starts nursing, when all of a sudden, the nipple grows and may lactate. If you have a supernumerary nipple, you are not a mutant. Instead, you might consider yourself "breastfully" blessed.
2. The ins and the outs. Many women have inverted nipples, which is perfectly normal if that's the way they've always been. But if yours change and one suddenly becomes inverted, see a doctor, as this could be a sign of breast cancer.
3. Beware bloody nipple discharge. If you ever see blood coming from your nipples, you need to see a doctor. While it may often signal a benign breast condition, such as an intraductal papilloma, it always needs to be investigated to rule out breast cancer.
4. Blame gravity for the sag. The bigger the breasts, the deeper the droop. When we are young, our breasts consist of dense glandular tissues, but as we age, fat replaces the glands, making boobs more likely to sag. Those who have given birth experience saggy breasts more often because breasts increase in size during pregnancy and from nursing. Then, when milk-producing mechanisms shut off, breast tissue shrinks, and what remains may resemble empty bags.
5. A bra is no defense. Despite what your mother may have told you, a supportive bra will only keep your boobs from drooping until you take it off. Breasts consist of glands, connective tissue, fat, and ligaments; there's no muscle to tone by wearing a bra. The degree of breast sagging each woman experiences depends more on genes, weight, hormones, breast size, and skin elasticity. In fact, some studies suggest wearing bras could increase breast sagging.
6. Bigger isn't always better when it comes to breastfeeding. Even if you're flat as a pancake, you should be completely capable of being the milk goddess your baby needs. All female breasts are equipped to be full-service milk-making machines. The only difference between large breasts and small breasts is fat. Regardless of size, each breast contains 15 to 20+ milk-producing mammary lobes, which should produce as much milk as your baby needs. In fact, lactation consultants say that small-breasted women may have an advantage, since babies may find it easier to latch onto a smaller breast.
7. Breasts can be a pain. It's normal for breasts to get sore at certain times in your cycle, often just before your period, when you're more likely to retain water and your breasts may swell. While breast pain can be uncomfortable, it's almost never a sign of serious breast disease. However, if your breast hurts -- and it's red, dimpled, or you find a lump -- this could signal infection or cancer. While bilateral breast pain rarely signals either, unilateral pain, especially in the presence of other findings, needs to be checked.
What perplexes you about your boobs?
Image via Yeray Hernandez/Flickr