When I had my tissue expanders removed and replaced with implants, 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, I was told that at about four weeks after replacing the tissue expanders with implants, I needed to wear a well-fitted underwire bra 24/7.
Apparently, the implants need boundaries. They might otherwise migrate, and I could end up with a side-Foobies (implant drifts sideways toward the underarm) or a uni-foobie (the muscle between your breasts detaches from your chest). Both scenarios are 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 will not be able to completely give up bras.
I’ve spoken with some women whose plastic surgeons have told them they can do whatever they want regarding 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 will have silicone implants which are relatively soft and move a bit, but they don’t fully conform to the bra. For example, I was told the underwires no longer lay flat on the center of your chest the way they used to because the implants have a high profile. Also, depending on the bra, you may have a slight gap on the side near your 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.
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. Therefore, 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 molded 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 was told a sports bra does not provide enough support on its own. Instead, you need to wear a 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 your body.
You should experiment with various bra styles to see which one fits you implants the best.