Boobs and Hormones

In the last year, I’ve bought a lot of bras. Some have worked, some haven’t, but I want to review them all here for you. There is, however, a problem.

The main reason I haven’t been posting here often is that I moved across the country and transferred colleges and am in a demanding atmosphere (which I love! I am very pleased with my decision.)  But there is another reason, and it has to do with my boobs. They keep growing. And growing. Even when I lost weight everywhere else, they kept growing. In the past year-ish I have gone from a 34G to a 34GG, and now I am hovering on the edge of a 34H. My smaller 34GGs (like the Fantasie Savannah and the Panache Andorra) don’t fit me right now. I am absolutely gutted to have some lovely bras that became too small right after I bought them. I certainly didn’t want to take review photos that showed me in too-small bras!

The ever-growing boobs were a matter of distress, then came another problem: suddenly I started gaining weight in weird places. Basically, I gained fat in my back, butt, hips, and lower tummy.  Over the course of 3 months I actually gained an entire pants size! This was super-frustrating because a few years ago, I dropped from a size 18 pants to a size 14, and I stayed relatively stable since then, so I had very few clothes that would fit me in a 16.  As a person living with hypothyroid disease, I am very aware of how hormones intersect with weight gain, especially with where the weight comes on. For example, one of the ways I was finally diagnosed with thyroid disease (though I have had it all my life, off and on) was that suddenly a few years back I gained 70 pounds in 6 months and it was in specific places: my abdomen, my face, and my feet. It was absolutely abnormal for me to gain that much weight so quickly, but also, it was absolutely abnormal for it to be in those plac

So, this recent weight gain was alarming.  It wasn’t a normal place/way for me to gain weight. There are some factors involved, like the fact that when I get busy or overtired I often forget to take my thyroid meds, or to take my second daily dose. But there were other hormones at play.

I started taking hormonal birth control pills for the first time in early 2011. I did this to combat the dysmenhorrea I have suffered from since I was 17. It has gotten worse and worse, to the point where I am considering hysterectomy, so HBC was a last resort. I started out taking the pill continuously, avoiding menstruation entirely. Last winter, I started giving myself placebo breaks, though, hoping it would slow the growth of my boobs (the pill I take is known for causing breast growth, which I did not know when I began taking it.) It seemed to at first, but then they kept going. And, during the placebo breaks, my “periods” were still pretty painful (the first couple of times I had a break, 3-4 months apart, my “periods” were very light and easy, but when I began having regular breaks, my bleeding time was very painful.)

My first two weeks on HBC, I gained a lot of weight. I thought “fuck this, I’m quitting this pill after this month!” however, I immediately lost all that weight in the next two weeks, so I thought I might be one of those lucky people who doesn’t gain weight on HBC. And I was, until recently. This spring, I had to face that it might be my HBC causing the weight gain. So, I discontinued the pill after my last pack.

I’ve officially been off the pill for two weeks (I stopped taking it three weeks ago, but the first week was the “placebo week” so technically, I was still on the pill.)  Already, I have lost some of the size I gained: I am able to fit into a pair of new pants that was too small when they arrived last week. I’m sad to say that I have not been much better about taking my thyroid meds lately- I’m in the throes of exams. So, it looks like the HBC is indeed to blame.

I am praying that going off of HBC shrinks my boobs. They are truly enormous, y’all. I am only 5’3″, I have a very small frame, and these boobs are heavy. I want to fit back into my favorite bras again, and I want to be able to know which bras will fit me in the future.

If dropping HBC fixes the weight gain and also shrinks my boobs, then I will know that I need to avoid it. And that will lead to another problem: what to do about my periods.  Hysterectomy is back on the table. Of course I would like to avoid one if possible, but I am running out of options.

Before I close, I want to explain here why specifically the weight gain was alarming. Alarm at weight gain might seem to conflict with the Health At Every Size philosophy that I support. I was alarmed by my weight gain for two reasons: one, I know my body, and because of my chronic health problems, I am very attentive to sudden changes within it. Sudden weight gain concerned me that I was dealing with a hormone problem. Two, because of my rapid weight/size gain due to hypothyroid, I learned that my body has an upper size limit in terms of comfort and health. That upper limit is around a size 14.  Once I start climbing above that size, I start to have a lot of other problems. Essentially, I am a short woman with a very small frame, and there’s a limit to how much flesh that frame can safely and comfortably carry.

25 thoughts on “Boobs and Hormones

  1. Wow, those are a lot of factors at work. I really hope that you find a great solution – one that maximizes your health and your comfort level at a certain size. Please keep us posted on how you are feeling. It helps to talk about things, I find. Be well.

  2. Do you work out at all. I’m not saying working out to lose weight but just working out in general. Believe it or not it can make a difference. Upping your protein intake can really help as well. Stronger muscles makes it easier to carry around the extra weight of your boobs.

    • I do engage in a lot of movement. I walk about a mile, sometimes more, a day, 4 days a week. I did ballet exercises until I moved (I don’t have a sports bra that fits now, thanks to the boob growth) and I have a very athletic, aerobic sex life.

      I would like to get into some weight training specifically to strengthen my shoulders and back, I just don’t have time right now. It is my plan for summer.

      I am mostly vegetarian, but I am not a carb-centered vegetarian. I eat mostly produce, ut also eggs, cheese, fish. I have been eating less protein lately than I would prefer, again due to time/energy constraints.

      I am actually really into traditional foodways and sustainable nutrition 🙂

      • Actually you don’t need to do all that. If you have 12-15min a day and can do something. I just buy regular sports bras and put them on over my regular bras to work and and it works fine and it’s a bit cheaper.

        I just personally found it easier to work out when I had extra protein from protein shakes. But you don’t need it. I saw a difference in week of working out.

        • I don’t like to work out in my regular bras. They aren’t built for it, but also I get sweaty and I would rather not subject them to that.

          I don’t know what “all that” is that I don’t have to do! (unless you mean get a sports bra.) I do actually have to do all this walking, and I think it’s very good for me. I don’t think my upper back and shoulders are as strong as I would like.

          I agree that working out is better in general with added protein. When I work out I eat some good protein within two hours afterward, it prevents muscle aches.

          • Well up until recently there were no sports bras in K cups. So I had to make due. just wear a regular sports bra in a large or xlarge and put it on top of my normal everyday bra. It holds just a well Full Bust sports bra. regular sports bras cost 10-20 bucks at most. Just get the tightest one that still fits and will not move.

            Sorry I though I gave a link to something I’m trying. It’s free. the only thing you need is an interval timer and you can put on your computer or on your phone.

  3. Knowing your body and responding to changes to maintain your health is very much a Health At Every Size(r) approach 🙂

    • Hey, thanks for your supportive comment! I agree completely, but I know some people don’t know my background and would think that my concern was due simply to being fatter. In my view weight gain is the symptom, not the problem.

  4. I think its the thyroid problem thats causing the weight gain. The pill causes women to retain water not cause actual breast growth. Out of interest what HBC pill was it? Id say the breast growth is due to thyroid disfuction and perhaps genetics? I have a thyroid prob also and gain weight in face feet and stomach, I thought I was the only one lol. And some women seem to increase their bust throughout the years

    • The pill I was taking is Loestrin. It is known for causing breast growth. I have heard from women who grew 1-2 cup sizes while taking it, and then lost them when they stopped.

      I am sure my thyroid is in play, but breast growth is not a symptom of thyroid disease. And the weight gain is very weird and not like my thyroid weight gain. I suspect there may be something up with my adrenal glands.

      Face and abdomen fat are major symptoms of hypothyroid. So are enlarged feet and foot injuries or problems like plantar fasciitis.

      • Hey there again, I have to disagree about the hbc causing breast growth. Any enlargement in the breasts is due to fluid retention not growth of breast tissue. That’s why most women’s breasts shrink back after they stop taking it. If it caused breast growth, women who have been on it for years would have breasts the size of a house lol. If the breasts don’t shrink back it’s because of other factors. I’m not sure why your breasts have overly grown but I’m sure it’s not the pill.

        • Lots of women report breast growth on HBC. It is in fact a standard side effect. Your assertion that “If it caused breast growth, women who have been on it for years would have breasts the size of a house” is silly, because it assume that the breasts would be continually growing. Most women who report breast growth on HBC report a growth of a few cup sizes. My experience is consistent with that.

          You also seem to think that breasts will not shrink in size after growth in breast tissue, but this is clearly not true. Many women who breastfeed their children find that after breastfeeding, their breasts are smaller than they were before pregnancy (and some find that their breasts stay permanently enlarged.) Women’s breasts also often shrink during menopause because of lower estrogen levels.

          Since HBC is known and commonly reported to cause breast growth in many users, there really isn’t anything to disagree about 🙂

  5. I forgot to mention I also suffered from extremely painful periods, it was awful. After I had my second child I no longer suffer pain, if I do, its rarely and not as bad. I went on HBC and that helped only slightly. it started with Micro something, sorry I forgot the name. I had other complications with birth control so I gave it a miss. My friend had severe period pain, probably worse than mine and she went on HBC, it helped for a while then back to severe pain. She had a huge cyst and it went away with the help of HBC. Love to hear an update on your situation.

    • The Loestrin was helpful for awhile and truly, I thought I had found my salvation. I was originally prescribed to take it nonstop, no placebo breaks, so I could just skip having periods. That was really, really great. YThe first few times I took a placebo break (about three and 6 months in) the withdrawal bleeds were light and painless.

      I started taking placebo breaks regularly in December and since then the withdrawal bleeds have become more and more painful.

      Incidentally, I tried the Nuvaring, which uses a different type of hormone, years ago for menstrual suppression and it didn’t alleviate my period pain AT ALL, and it also really messed with my moods.

  6. But why would the growth stop after a few cups sizes if you are continuously taking the hormones that are supposedly causing the growth, how would your body know to stop growing if your still taking them? So my comment wasn’t so silly. Women retain water in their breasts, the pill causes water retention and when the pill or the reason for water retention is stopped so will the retention and the breasts will deflate back down. Women who say their boobs got larger on the pill also said they lost the “growth” when they stopped the pill. They no longer retained that water in the boobs proving its not growth but water retention.

    Im not denying breasts can get bigger on the pill, all Im saying its not growth, its retention of water.

    Of course breasts can shrink after growth, I never said that. I said IF the breasts dont shrink back after taking the pill their breasts probably grew from other reasons such as weight gain. Weightloss, post pregancy, post breastfeeding, menopause etc can cause shrinkage, I know that.

    Women report an enlargement of the breasts when on the pill due to water retention in the breasts, its not actual growth. Growth is caused by weight gain and puberty and some womens breasts grow throughout their lives due to genetics.

    • Although when one takes hormones, they are continually taken, they also continually cycle out of your body. So you achieve a consistent level of those hormones, one that is higher than it was before you took them. Your levels don’t just keep getting higher and higher; they rise to the level dictated by the pill and then they (ideally) stay there. It is not a matter of ever-increasing hormone levels, but of a consistent, increased level of hormones. That is why many women find that their breasts grow a few cup sizes during HBC (or during pregnancy): they have higher amounts of the hormones that cause breast growth (I don’t know if you are aware, but the mechanism of the birth control pill is to mimic pregnancy and thus prevent ovulation.) When transgendered women take feminizing hormones, their breasts grow as their hormone levels change, but they don’t keep growing forever, either: they grow to the size dictated by the hormones and their genes.

      I think you mentioned also taking thyroid hormone, correct? When you take thyroid hormone, the goal is to achieve a consistent level of thyroid hormones in the body, not an ever-rising amount in the body. So when you take thyroid hormones, they keep cycling out of the body as well; if they didn’t, you would become HYPERthyroid after a few weeks on hormones.

      Here is what you said: “Any enlargement in the breasts is due to fluid retention not growth of breast tissue. That’s why most women’s breasts shrink back after they stop taking it.” You implied that women’s breasts only shrink after fluid retention, not after growth of breast tissue.

      Actually most women’s breasts are continually changing, throughout their lives.

      There is actually a great deal of literature available on the pill and its side effects. Breast growth is often one of those side effects (just as it is with pregnancy.) Though fluid retention is another side effect of HBC, estrogen and progesterone can also cause the growth of breast tissue, just as they do when a woman is pregnant. I am not sure why you want to argue with this, but your opinion, though it is one you are clearly very attached to, is contradicted by fifty years of medical research and corresponding literature.

  7. Hey there! I love your blog. I was just wondering if you had looked into the Mirena IUD as an alternative to oral HBC? I, too, have dysmenorrhea, and my body is very sensitive to hormones as well, so I had issues with every form of oral contraceptives I tried. The Mirena has very, very low levels of a synthetic form of progesterone, and from what I’ve read, I understand that it works in a very localized manner; the progesterone pretty much stays in the uterus and has far less likelihood of causing a systemic hormone imbalance. I’ve had mine for almost a year now. I rarely get periods anymore, and when I do, they’re light with very little cramping and easy to deal with. Of course, the Mirena isn’t for everyone, and it may not be the right choice for you, but I do hope you’ll look into it if you haven’t already. I wish you the best of luck in figuring out what works for you!

    • Hey thanks for commenting! I actually originally wanted an IUD but the GYN who I went to see turned out to be a crazy anti-choice person who refused to give me an IUD on moral grounds. I am not kidding.

      Since then I’ve learned that the Mirena uses the same progesterone as the Nuvaring, and that makes me wary, because the Nuvaring made me ragey. It was supposed to stay local, too, but it did mess with my moods.

      Thanks so much for commenting, though, I will keep the Mirena under consideration and talk to my doctor about it 🙂 And congratulations on finding something that helps you, I know how life-changing that can be!

      • Have you ever used the Nuvaring? I ask because it uses the same hormone as the Mirena and that particular combination made me a very angry person. That’s why I fear the Mirena.

        Also, what do you use during your period? Like, pads, tampons, a cup? I use a cup and I am told that a cup cannot be used with an IUD because it will pull it out :/

        • The reason I chose Mirena is because the overall systemic dose is only 10% of other hormonal birth controls. I believe that the Nuvaring still has a relatively high systemic dose (the source I found said 50%). My family has a history of bad emotional reactions to other birth controls, but the Mirena worked well for most of them. Given the low systemic dose, I think it’s worth considering the Mirena. So far, my only side effects have been breast growth/change and a tiny bit of a breakout on my face.

          As far as period is concerned, I used to have extremely heavy periods (enough that I’d go through both a maxi-pad and an ultra-absorbent tampon in a few hours). I had considered using a cup before I got the Mirena, but the Mirena frequently causes light or non-existent periods. I’ve only had it for a month and a half, but my first period was very, very light. I may be able to just use liners (or nothing, if it stops my period).

          Per thyroid meds: I’ve never heard of sublingual thyroid medication, but if there’s HBC in your system, it’s probably affecting the absorption to some degree. It’s worth bringing up with your doctor.

          And I totally understand what you mean when you say that there is an upper limit to how much weight you can comfortably carry. I hope you figure things out soon!

    • Really? I didn’t think it would matter in my case because I take my thyroid medication sublingually. That is definitely something to look into. Most authorities say not to take it at the same time as any medication.

  8. I feel for you. I actually am one of those women who breasts have never stopped growing. I gain a cup size about every two years. Fortunately I’ve got gobs of upper body strength. One thing I’ve found that can really help (in case there’s little-to-no shrinkage) and is easy to do in tiny space/time is wall push ups. I know they don’t look like much, but you can do them in a lot less space than a traditional push-up, and you can increase the angle to adjust the level of the exercise. If this seems like not enough, you can also vary it with wall-clap push-ups or one handed ones. I prefer to do these rather than regular push-ups because they don’t take up much space and, perhaps more importantly, my dog does not come in and think I’m playing with her because I’m down on the ground. Wish I could help more, and I hope your boobs shrink back. (Just know that if they do, I reserve the right to hate you just a little for it. Not *real* hate, just the way I hated my sister a little when she found out that when she exercised, she was the only person in our family who could actually lose weight *in* her boobs. Now she’s a DD, thinks she’s practically flat, and crows about being able to buy bras wherever. So, you know, that kind of envious hate.)

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