We're aware that our breasts will sag as we get older, but we didn't know that they'd deflate completely. But that's what apparently happens, as detailed in a funny piece on Salon written by internist R. Jan Gurley. Dr. Gurley explains that, although there is a medically-recognized timeline of the five stages of breast development called the "Tanner scale" (named for pediatrician Dr. James Mourilyan Tanner), anything charting the shrinkage of breast tissue has been, for the most part, completely ignored by the medical community. Says Gurley:
I mean, why is the growth of breasts named after a man? And what the heck happened to the stages of breast regression? My friends and I want to talk about all the stuff happening to our own bodies as we cruise toward menopause, but we don't have anything like the Tanner stages to use as code. I'm guessing guys have been more interested in describing breast expansion than regression.
Eager to take the matter of breasts into her own hands, Dr. Gurley came up with her own phases of breast regression, which she named, naturally, after herself.
Gurley Stage I: Cup Wrinkle
Also known, among those with more support, as air cups, this stage sneaks up on women in their late 30s and describes when the breast no longer fills out the cup (as though the bra was stretched out, or you've lost a bit of weight).
Gurley Stage II: Loss Recognition
When a woman consciously realizes that her breasts are shrinking; usually occurs during the early to late 40s, coinciding with the onset of random chin hair. [Random chin hair? I started getting those in my early 20s! -Ed.]
Gurley Stage III: The Folds
The stage in which the breasts shrink to the point where there is only a fold of skin lying on the chest. Sets in around the late 40s, early 50s, occurring in the two years prior to the loss of all periods, during the perimenopausal stage.
Gurley Stage IV: The Pressed Flower
Post-menopause. The opposite of the first stage of breast development (the "bud") in which the breasts resemble a pressed flower.
Honey, I Shrunk My Breasts! [Salon]