When it comes to self-care, we often think of candle-lit baths, multi-step skincare routines and healthy eating. Taking care of our breasts is often overlooked — especially when you’re young — but before they begin their descent downwards, or you end up with a chronic case of backache, it’s important to look out for your boobs, and check in regularly for health purposes.

What constitutes “big boobs” is subjective, but in terms of bra fitting and exercise specifically, things get more, shall we say, complicated for women who are a size D-cup and up. Here is some guidance on caring for fuller busts.

Support your set

Brava is an Australian bra and swimwear retailer specialising in sizes D-cup and up. Maxine Windram launched the business with her mum, Lin, 16 years ago. They have seen and heard a lot from customers with fuller busts over the years.

Maxine says finding a correctly fitting bra can be complicated and emphasises the importance of being properly fit by
a professional. “It’s a bit of a minefield when it comes to working out what your size is,” says Maxine. She says for every
10 women who first enter Brava, nine of them are wearing an incorrect bra size.

A benefit of being properly fitted by a professional is their familiarity with different bra manufacturers and discrepancies in sizing conventions.

“You can have an E-cup in Australia, which would be an F-cup in Europe, which would be a triple D-cup in the US,” she says.

“So it’s really important to have a fitter who knows products very well.” Maxine says part of the fitter’s job is considering a person’s body and shape to determine which brands, bra styles and sizes will work well.

“You can’t possibly know that without having that experience. That’s one of the reasons why so many women are in the wrong size bra, because they’re just putting on what they think is probably okay. But quite often they feel like there’s something wrong, they just don’t know how to fix it.”

“If you’re not wearing the correct sized bra, it can lead to shoulder, neck and back pain.” Maxine adds that women who are uncomfortable in their bras may hunch as they don’t feel good about their shape, which can also contribute to poor posture and pain.

Work it out

Let’s face it, bigger boobs can be a real hindrance to exercise, especially if it’s high impact. Whether it’s the unwelcome bouncing of breasts or the pain it can bring on, not having a proper sports bra can lead to inactivity.

For larger breasts, it’s best to avoid the generic “large” or “extra-large” bras or crop tops available at sports stores. They do not offer the support or structure required. The aim is to feel properly secure and supported. “A lot of women don’t wear sports bras, but they’re important for a few reasons,” says Maxine. “There are a lot of technical elements that go into a sports bra. The fabric in them has less stretch. There’s also the moisture-wicking abilities of the fabrics. And sports bras are always a full cup.”

There are two types of sports bras — compression bras, which push your boobs against your chest and capsulation bras, which separate and cup each breast individually.

The potential pain of not being supported during exercise is one thing, but Maxine adds, “you also have Cooper’s ligaments in your breasts that will stretch with a lot of movement, which can lead to breast sag”.

Breast care means whole-body care

Dr Tessa King is a specialist women’s health GP at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, a not-for-profit organisation providing health information, education and services for women, girls and gender-diverse people around Australia. She says breast health is holistic, especially when it comes to breast cancer.

“In terms of prevention of breast cancer, the things that have been shown in large medical studies to make a difference include physical activity, a good diet, reducing alcohol consumption and having adequate folate,” says Dr King.

Dr King echoes Windram’s point about the impact large breasts can have on other parts of the body. “For women with fuller busts, back and shoulder pain can certainly be an issue.” In these cases, Dr King recommends seeing a physio to learn how to strengthen back muscles with exercises that may be helpful in pain management.

Self and professional breast checks

Dr King suggests doing monthly self-breast checks from age 18 onwards. “Generally, we say check your breasts approximately once a month, at the same time each month in relation to your menstrual cycle. Make sure that you’re familiar with their look and feel to help you detect any lumps.” Often, in bigger-boobed women, lumps are less visible and may be harder to detect, which makes it even more important to stick to monthly self checks.

If you do find anything suspicious, visit your GP for an examination. They may refer you for breast imaging or to a specialist. It’s also important to be aware of any family history of breast or ovarian cancer and in such cases, do a risk assessment with your GP. This may also involve getting a breast screen done early.

The government recommends two-yearly mammograms from age 50 to 74, however, mammograms are available from age 40 for the general population, and sometimes younger in particular circumstances, such as when someone has a family history of breast cancer.

There are a couple of different imaging machines used for mammography; 2D machines and 3D machines that are capable of providing more detail. Women with dense breast tissue may want to consider requesting a 3D screening for a more thorough investigation.

As busy as life may get, try to give your breasts the love they deserve.

Caterina Hrysomallis is an Australian-based journalist, editor and content producer. She specialises in the areas of culture, health, travel and design.