Breast changes and discomfort

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

15 February 2016

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.VogelTalks Menopause, I’m going to be talking about breasts and the impact both the physical and emotional changes can have on you during the menopause. Now before I start, the most important thing here is, if you noticed any breast changes at all out of the norm, no matter how insignificant they may seem, please, please, please get this checked out by your doctor first. Thank you.

Now what causes breast changes in the menopause?

For a lot of women, especially leading up to the menopause and during the menopause, they can experience symptoms such as tender breasts, sore breasts, lumpy breasts, really, really sensitive nipples. This is actually a very, very common symptom. The main reason it’s caused by is your fluctuating hormones. Now as I explained before, when your hormones start to fall in the menopause, sometimes they don’t fall gracefully and in harmony with each other. They can actually go up and down a little bit like a yo-yo and very often it’s that fluctuation that actually affects the breast tissue and causes all these particular symptoms.

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Other causes

Now, there are other causes as well. There’s going to be the usual culprits. We know that a lot of caffeine, high salt in your diet can also be a big issue as well. Dehydration…now your breast tissue, they’re a little bit like a sponge and when you get dehydrated, the body goes, “I don’t have enough water. I need to hang on to every single drop that I’ve got.” And unfortunately one of the places the body will actually hang on to water is your breast tissue. So especially if you find that your breasts are getting larger, they’re getting very hard, that can be a sign of water retention and then you actually need to look at your water intake as well.

So for these particular physical issues, the things you can do to help would be phytoestrogen supplements, so that would be something like our Menopause Support. This will help to very gently raise and balance your oestrogen levels and take away that kind of yo-yo effect

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Look at your diet. If you’re drinking a lot of coffee, a lot of fizzy juices, then try and cut those down. Up the water, as usual. Remember, at least a litre and a half a day, if you can. Also just watch your salt intake as well.

Emotional effects

Now in the menopause, breast tissue size and shape can change dramatically. That can have a huge impact on us emotionally as well. Our breasts are part of who we are as a woman, part of our femininity, and also our sexuality. And when the breasts start to change, this can have a huge impact on our confidence. It can have a big impact on sexual relationships as well. You know, women will contact me and say, “I just don’t want to let my husband see me anymore because I feel less of a woman. I’m losing my figure.” So it can have a huge impact on our daily life from the emotional point of view as well.

Breast care

So what can you do here for this particular bit? There are two things you need to look at. One is, right, how many of you…put your hands up…have had your breast measured properly in a store within the last year? I bet it’s not a lot of you. Wearing the wrong size bra can do several things. If you wear underwire bras, that can actually start to cut into the breast tissue, which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

Saggy, unsupporting bras can actually irritate the nipples as well. So getting yourself measured regularly is really, really important. Now I went for the first time a couple of years ago and I was absolutely horrified because I was way, way out. I was absolutely mortified. So now I actually go once a year and you do find that even within the space of a year, your bra size and especially the cup size can change. So do get that seen to.

What a new bra will actually do for you as well…and I have discovered an awful lot of women will hang on to their bras for years and years and years. And I bet you’ve all got one in the back of your drawer that you’ve had for a long time. Maybe it had lovely memories associated with it or maybe it was just one of your favorite bras. So getting new bras regularly is very, very important.

Also, if you get a properly fitted bra, it’s going to give you a much better shape. It’s going to lift you up and it’s going to make you look slimmer as well. The other factor, which I did explain in the joint blog, is that shoulder ache can actually be caused by ill-fitting bras. If you’re not supported properly, the muscles here can get really weak. They can start to pull down and that can actually affect your shoulders as well. So getting a new bra can make a huge amount of difference for lots and lots of symptoms as well.

2 simple chest exercises

The other thing that you can do that might help a little bit is doing some chest exercises. Now I have a little routine in the bathroom while I’m actually waiting for the shower to heat up and it’s really simple. So I’ll just show you just now. You just get your hand…this is best done without a bra on, if you can do it, or just in your nightie…you just clasp your hands here and gently push towards the elbows.

Don’t do it too vigorously, otherwise you’ll find you get really sore to start with across here. But just do that gently 20 times, then turn around and do 20 times that way. Then get your hands together, elbows up, and press. Do that slowly and then raise your hands up and do that 20 times as well. Takes a minute or two and that will actually help to keep the breast muscles here nice and tight and in good shape.

Until next week...

Now I’m going to give you a couple of tasks for this week and I bet you know what they’re going to be. I want you all to go out and get measured properly and maybe treat yourself to a nice, new bra. See just how different you actually look. And try these exercises as well. Now I hope you’ve enjoyed this and it’s given you some pointers. And I look forward to next week’s A.Vogel Talks Menopause where I’m going to be talking about bladder health.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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