When I gave birth, people warned me that my body would change. But when I decided to breastfeed my baby, nobody told me that each breast would change differently. My chest already went through so much change during pregnancy; now you're telling me that feeding my child will send them in two different directions? Thus began my introduction to breast asymmetry.
My lovely lady lumps developed a difference in size and shape, and don't even get me started on my nipples. During breastfeeding, it's normal for one breast to supply more milk than the other. In my case, my right was doing most of the work, which left me with the commonly coined "superboob" many moms develop in the process. However, I had this preconceived notion that they would magically shrink, balance, and plump back into my pre-baby breasts.
A year passed — and here I was, with my once identical twins, now fraternal. I found myself looking for bras that would give the illusion they were even, going as far as leaving the pad only on the left in order to match the right. Then on a 90-degree summer day, all I wanted to do is leave the house braless, and I thought, "Can we please normalize asymmetrical boobs?"
When I spoke to other women, it turned out that even those without children could identify with having uneven breasts — so why do we feel so awful about it? I decided to get a professional's take on asymmetry in women, and guess what? It's actually the norm.
What is breast asymmetry?
"Breast asymmetry is a common, natural occurrence for most people with breasts, regardless of pregnancy, and poses no risk to their health. Most women have some degree of asymmetry, which includes overall position, different cup sizes, nipple position, or shape," Moriah N. Edmundson, DO, explained.
What causes breast asymmetry?
Though pregnancy is a common precursor for asymmetry, it seems our chest is shapeshifting monthly. "Since breast tissue extends into the armpit, the contours of your bust line may change as the tissue expands and retracts with milk during breastfeeding. Some women notice changes in breast fullness, shape, or sensitivity with every menstrual cycle," Edmunson says.
I don't know about you, but no educational videos played in health class mentioned my breasts changing size, at a different rate, on a constant basis. All I knew was that puberty happened, and I'd eventually need a bra.
Contrary to popular relief, Edmunson states, "Weight gain, gravity, and age have more of an effect on breast size than breastfeeding." Phew — I thought nature was playing a sick trick on moms for a second there.
Should I worry about asymmetry in my breasts?
Breast asymmetry typically isn't a cause for concern. But if you feel like it's suddenly more pronounced or your breast density has changed on one side and not the other, it's a good idea to call your doctor just to get it checked out.
Otherwise, you and your lopsided boobs are probably perfectly fine. However, if they start to affect your mental health, then — again — it's time to seek expert guidance. "Asymmetrical breasts or undesired breast shape or size can impact self-esteem, overall body image, and emotional well-being, making a woman more prone to potential issues such as eating disorders or social anxiety," Edmunson explains.
While I didn't experience a typical eating disorder, I did have a correlation between my breast shape and size and my diet, as I was vegan during pregnancy and my first year postpartum. When I was plant-based, I dropped all of the baby weight quickly, and so my breasts reduced to mostly even. I was still insecure over them, though, because, let's face it, they looked like deflated balloons. However, when I went back to a traditional diet and gained weight, the asymmetry was much more apparent, and I found myself experiencing the same insecurities, now from the other end of the spectrum. Points out Edmunson, "Breasts, unfortunately, play too large a role in society's perception of women, and having uneven breasts can lead to issues surrounding body perception and self-confidence."
Lilly Schott, RNC, MSN, IBCLC, and a health coach for Ovia, shares a similar sentiment: "Some people will accept the difference, while others are greatly impacted. There are many reports of people in their early teens or after pregnancy who have improved mental health after seeking support (sometimes surgical)."
What can be done about breast asymmetry?
So, is there a way to take preventative measures? As a first-time mom, I did not realize asymmetry could impact me in the way that it did, so it certainly wasn't a topic I brought up on my own during doctor's appointments.
"Significant or severe asymmetry should be discussed prenatally by an OB provider, as it is easily noticeable on the exam and can impact infant feeding (for example, an undeveloped breast may not contain enough milk-making tissue). It should be discussed early on in pregnancy when it is identified. Lactation consultants are also trained to examine breasts for potential red flags like significant asymmetry that may impact infant feeding. This would happen postpartum," Schott recommends.
She also used the phrase, "Breasts are sisters, not twins," and I need that printed on a T-shirt, like yesterday.
Schott said it best when she expressed, "Your feelings are valid! Even if what you are uncomfortable with isn't noticeable or significant to other people, it is your body, and it's normal to notice a difference."
It's important to know that it's OK if you don't accept the asymmetry right away, and sometimes there's some necessary grief to move through, especially if you are postpartum. However, there is always support available, whether that's in the form of therapy or cosmetic surgery.
Whatever you choose, just know you aren't alone, and anyone who doesn't admire your lopsided ladies can, quite frankly, kick rocks.