Your breasts can communicate a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Use these signs to learn what your breasts are telling you — and see your medical care provider if you suspect something is up.
1. It could mean you’re gaining weight. After puberty, your breasts grow when the rest of you gets bigger. Weight gain could happen for any number of reasons: You could be eating more, moving less, skimping on sleep, or super-stressed. While a couple pounds here and there are usually NBD, an excessive increase in body fat can up your risk of developing various cancers, according to The National Cancer Institute.
2. It could mean you’re getting your period, you just started a new birth control, or you’re pregnant. Hormonal changes can trigger a breast tissue growth spurt, explains Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., an ob-gyn and clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine. As long as both breasts are doing the same thing, it’s probably no reason for concern.
3. It could mean you’re losing weight. Because your breasts are made up of fatty tissues, breast bulk can be the first thing to go when your weight loss efforts start to work. If you’re effortlessly shedding pounds and cup sizes, and you can’t figure out why, see a health care pro to rule out the scary stuff, like an over active thyroid or a chronic disease.
4. It could mean your cycle is starting. What goes up (your cup size) must come down — so if your breasts swell leading up to the first day of your period, they’ll shrink once your period starts and your hormones relax.
5. It’s probably NBD. No one’s breasts are perfectly symmetrical — and different-shaped breasts are fine and normal, Dr. Minkin says.
6. Or, it could be a sign of breast cancer. When one breast changes shape significantly, it could signal an abnormality linked to breast cancer, says Dr. Minkin. Don’t freak — just see your doctor right away for a formal exam.
7. You might be allergic to something — like the underwire in your bra, which may be made of nickel, which is a common irritant. Or it could be soap residue or an itchy sweater. Many women have a breast cancer phobia and freak at the slightest sign of irritation. “Just remember that hydrocortisone cream doesn’t cure breast cancer,” says Dr. Minkin. Treat your rash with a topical hydrocortisone cream. If it goes away within a few days, you’re good to go. (Otherwise, you know what to do: See your doctor.)
8. It could mean you have inframammary intertrigo. It’s a fancy way of saying the crease between the bottom of your breast and the skin beneath it is rubbing and causing inflammation — a common occurrence in the summer. An antibiotic or steroid cream, OTC cortisone, or Neosporin can reduce inflammation while the right-size bra can keep your breasts off your chest to separate the skin in the first place.
9. It might mean you need to wash your bra. Wearing and re-wearing the same bra or sports bra may seem like a good way to extend its life. But IRL, it can foster bacterial and fungal infections — especially if you tend to sweat beneath your breasts.
10. It could mean you’ve gained and lost weight. Any time your weight yo-yos, the breasts expand and contract, which can result in stretch marks on the breasts, says Barry Weintraub, M.D., a New York City-based cosmetic plastic surgeon and a national spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgery. This is true particularly after pregnancy and in women who are born with skin that’s not so stretch.
Sex—and smooching and snuggling and everything else on the spectrum—is great for your relationship and happiness, but intimate time with your sweetie is also terrific for your physical health. Not only does that “loving feeling” get your heart rate up, it can burn some serious calories, too! Check out the calorie-burning profile of each romantic activity below (based on the body weight of a 150-lb woman) along with tips from experts on rampling things up to maximize the amount of calories burned.
Kissing: 68 calories per hour
Remember how, when you were first dating, you’d start locking lips and 30 minutes later you’d come up for air? See if you can get into that groove again, say experts. Not only is smooching a great way to show affection and improve your bond as a couple, it can also help you burn fat. “If the kissing is vigorous and involves some petting, it could be even closer to 90 calories burned in an hour,” says Jaiya Kinzbach, a Los Angeles–based sexologist and the author of Red Hot Touch. Try her technique for turning kissing into an honest-to-goodness workout session: “Kiss in unusual positions,” she recommends. “Have the guy on his back and do ‘plank pose’ or a push-up on top of him, coming down to kiss him and then pushing back up. Push-ups burn 171 calories in 30 minutes.”
Undressing: 80+ calories total
You probably don’t put much thought into undressing when you’re getting intimate with your husband, but an Italian researcher looked into the matter and found that the mere act of taking one’s clothes off burns about 8 to 10 calories. Even more fascinating, the researcher reportedly found that a man attempting to remove a bra with his mouth burns as many as 80 calories. While that may not be applicable to you, here’s what is: By upping the energy you put into undressing, you can burn some extra calories. Don’t just strip down in seconds, says Kinzbach; instead, “draw it out and make it part of your foreplay, while getting a great a workout going.” Or undress to tease him, adds Gilda Carle, PhD, a psychotherapist and relationship expert. “Find your favorite silk scarf, and do a seductive dance with it,” she says.
Massaging: 80+ calories per hour
Who doesn’t like a good rubdown from their partner? But if you’re the giver, you get an additional benefit other than making your guy happy: burned calories. As it turns out, giving a good massage can get your heart rate up and kick your body into calorie-burning mode. But the way to ramp things up even more isn’t to speed things up. Instead, consider going slower, recommends Kinzbach. “This may seem counter intuitive to burning calories,” she says, “but going slower and deeper is not only more sensual, it works different muscles. I also recommend getting a massage table—it’s better on your body, and standing to give a massage burns more calories.”
Having Sex: 144+ calories per half-hour
You knew sex was a workout, but who knew that a half-hour romp in the hay with your guy could burn off the chocolate you nibbled on after dinner? The key for high-calorie-burning sex is making it hot and making it last, say experts. You can also add a little moaning and sighing, says Kinzbach, which can help you burn an extra 18 to 30 calories. And try a position change for a better workout. “If you are on top, try moving your hips like a belly dancer; this feels great and will give you a workout,” she adds. “Also try a position where you squat on top of him and then bounce up and down. This is a great workout for your thighs and butt, and it can burn up to 207 calories in 30 minutes.” Perhaps the best way to maximize calorie-burning during sex is to make sure you orgasm. Experts estimate that women who orgasm during sex burn more calories during love-making than those who don’t.
Giving Oral Sex: 100 calories per half-hour
Here’s a stat you don’t hear every day: Being on the giving end of oral sex may be just as effective as a quick stint on the elliptical machine. But if you want to take your calorie-burning to the next level, Kinzbach recommends this calorie-blasting technique: push-ups (yes, in the act!). “Also you can do a little yoga, suggests Kinzbach. “Try plank position into downward facing dog, and back into plank where you can lower down and do some oral stimulation.” Tack on 71 extra calories blasted when you do push-ups, and 35 additional calories by mixing in some yoga.
Using Your Hands: 100 calories per hour
Of course, the old-fashioned hand job is a calorie burner, but you can zap an additional 50 calories per half-hour by taking things up a notch. “Get lots of stuff going at once,” suggests Kinzbach. “Try really slow sensual strokes, and position yourself so that you can use your body as well.” Rocking your body against his and varying the pressure and frequency can help, too, she adds.
Romantic Dancing: 103 calories per half-hour
A little dirty dancing—even with your clothes on—can be a workout for you and your husband. Couples who take dance lessons (and practice in the privacy of their homes) can attest to this. Bonus: “It has been shown in scientific studies that right after an aerobic exercise, women become aroused and lubricated more easily,” says Barbara Bartlik, MD, a New York–based psychiatrist and sex therapist. Slow dancing is fine, but you have to rev things up—and add in a few surprises—to get a real workout. “Add kissing, nibbling the neck and touch,” suggests Kinzbach. And increase the pace, too!
Making Out: 238 calories per half-hour
A sizzling clothes-on make-out session with the man you love may be the most intense caloric blaster yet. Why? Anticipation, says Dr. Carle, can get your heart rate going. “It gives way to heavy breathing, which gives way to a great calorie burn,” she explains. But you can still maximize the workout by making it hotter and sweatier! “The hotter the room—think Bikram (a.k.a. “hot”) yoga—and the sweatier the make-out session, the more calories you burn,” adds Kinzbach. Also, try rolling around on the bed or changing your scenery. “Make it playful and erotic and you have a great combination for a pleasurable workout.”