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21 March 2018

Why is a 4-way stretchable cup better than a moulded cup in a post-op bra?

We often get the question why a post-op bra made in 4-way stretch material is preferred over a post-op bra with moulded cups.
The thought behind the question is that if a moulded cup is pre-formed to fit a newly operated breast, surely this must feel much better and more comfortable as well as provide better care than a cup that is tight-fitting and compressive?
The answer is no – for several reasons.

Post-surgical swelling is addressed

To get the best surgical result, reduce infection risk and promote the healing process, the right level of compression is required – not too much, not too little. Post-surgical bras with 4-way stretch will provide adequate support and compression to reduce post-surgical swelling and minimize blood and fluid accumulation. The reason is that a material with 4-way stretchability will expand and contract with the breast. If the surgical site is swollen, the bra will expand accordingly, and when the swelling subsides, the material will contract, ensuring that the cup fits the size of the breast optimally through the entire recovery period.

This leaves the compression level intact, which is not the case with a moulded cup, where the material is thinner and more transparent due to the stretching and heating required to create a pre-form. When stretched and heated, the texture of the material in the cup is damaged. Expansion and contraction capability is reduced, meaning that  the material does not adapt to the post-surgical swelling and de-swelling process the way a 4-way stretch material does.

​Post-surgical comfort important for the recovery period

The expansion and contraction capability of 4-way stretch material is also of particular importance for the wellbeing and comfort of the patient, because it provides superior support of the breasts through the entire recovery period. Optimal support is important for a comfortable recovery, as it reduces pain, discomfort and assists mobility. And if the bra fits and feels comfortable to wear, it will most likely be used longer and according to recommendation.

With moulded cups the supportive and flexible function of the material in the cups is lost due to the moulding process.

Difference in breast sizes and shapes taken into account

During the post-op period with swelling and de-swelling and consequently much change in breast size, the 4-way stretch material enables the same bra to fit multiple cup sizes. This means that in many cases only one bra is required. Moulded cups being pre-formed and thus numb (non-expansive) will only provide one given cup size and no flexibility.

Furthermore, the 4-way stretchability is particularly important in cases where only one breast has been operated. In case of a single breast operation, the more-sizes coverage is a great advantage, as the bra will still provide support and compression on the operated breast, as well as offer support and space to the healthy breast. Using a bra with moulded cups, the cups will not be able to provide adequate compression on the surgical site through the entire recovery period, which increases infection risk and has a negative impact on the healing process in general.

Finally, due to the generic pre-form of the moulded cups they will only fit certain breast anatomies, as the material is unable to adapt to the specific breast contour, whereas 4-way stretch cups are ideal for all breast types and shapes, since the flexible material will always conform fully to the breast concerned.

Here's the proof: Visible difference in the material performance

When looking at the same material in a microscope before and after moulding, the deformation in material becomes very clear.


The loops lie tight to each other in both directions, horizontally and vertically. This leaves flexibility and stretchability intact.


The loops are separated in both directions, horizontally and vertically. Material has been pre-stretched and hence the texture is damaged and stretchability reduced.


Conclusion is that when a fabric is moulded, it becomes deformed and loses its ability to conform to the body shape.


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