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HEALTH

Women better off without bras: French study

Women should forget everything they've been told about bras. According to a new French study, published on Wednesday, wearing a bra does nothing to reduce back pain, and the chest supports actually cause increased breast sagging.

Women better off without bras: French study
Women pose during a promotional shoot for a new brand by Wonderbra in Madrid in 2007. Photo: Bru Garcia/AFP

The results of a mammoth 15-year study led by professor Jean-Denis Rouillon, from the University of Besançon in eastern France, are finally in and it looks like conventional wisdom about bras and back pain has been way off the mark.

According to Rouillon, a sports science expert, the lesson to be learned from the preliminary results of his marathon experiment is that “bras are a false necessity”.

“Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra,” Professor Rouillon told France Info radio on Wednesday.

Using a slide rule and caliper, Rouillon spent years carefully measuring changes in the orientation of breasts belonging to hundreds of women, at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (University Hospital) in Besançon.

All the women involved in the study were aged between 18 and 35, although the professor was keen to stress that the group were not a representative of the global population of females.

After regularly measuring women who were not wearing bras the scientists concluded that “on average their nipples lifted on average seven millimetres in one year in relation to the shoulders.”

Dr Jean Denis ROUILLON

Jean-Denis Rouillon (Photo courtesy of Osteopaths de France)

See also: Women around the world react to controversial bra study.

Capucine, a 28-year-old woman who participated in the professor's in-depth study, hasn’t worn a bra for two years, and swears by the results.

“There are multiple benefits: I breathe more easily, I carry myself better, and I have less back pain,” Capucine told France Info.

Despite the groundbreaking results of his study Rouillon advised certain women not to immediately throw away all their bras in the bin.

“It would be of no benefit to a 45-year-old mother to stop wearing a bra,” he warned.

See also: France lifts 200-year-old trouser ban on women

Speaking to The Local, Rouillon sought to emphasise the provisional nature of his data.

“These are preliminary results,” Dr. Rouillon said. “The small sample of 320 young women is not representative of the entire population – that would require something like 300,000 subjects.”

However, Dr. Rouillon did confirm that the initial data indicated that when young women stopped wearing a bra, there was no disimprovement in the orientation of their breasts, and in fact, there was widespread improvement.

“Of course, this is not the only factor to consider when deciding whether or not wear a bra – for example, many women simply find them very comfortable, especially in winter,” Rouillon acknowledged.

Ultimately, however, he feels his work is not complete, since the findings are not definitive.

“We will simply have to recruit a larger sample of the female population, and conduct further research,” Rouillon added.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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