The Causes and Prevention of Sagging Breasts

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The medical term for sagging breasts is ptosis. Breast changes such as ptosis happen naturally with age. But, many other factors can lead to breasts that droop. Here's what you need to know about the causes, prevention, and treatment of sagging breasts.

The Age When Breasts Start to Droop

There isn't a specific age when you can expect your breasts to begin to sag. A woman in her twenties can have droopy breasts, while a woman in her forties can still have perky breasts. Since many things contribute to sagginess, women experience it at different times. Of course, age does eventually become a factor for all women. If you manage to escape drooping in your thirties and forties, you will most likely begin to notice the loss of elasticity and fullness in your breasts as you go through the hormonal changes of menopause.

Causes of Breast Sagging

Ligaments in your breasts, called Cooper's ligaments, lift and support your breasts. Over time, these ligaments can stretch out and cause the breasts to sag. Loose skin or the loss of skin's elasticity can also lead to droopy, deflated boobs.

Many things can influence when these changes will happen or the degree of drooping that you will experience. Here are some of the causes of saggy breasts.

  • Gravity: Gravity is working against you every day. While it pulls your breasts down, it strains and stretches your breast's ligaments.
  • The size and shape of your breasts: Smaller breasts with a rounder bottom tend to hold their shape better than larger or narrow breasts. Larger breasts are also more likely to succumb to gravity before smaller breasts.
  • Your weight: Women with a higher body mass index (BMI) tend to have larger breasts than women with a lower a BMI.
  • Weight loss or gain: Gaining or losing a good deal of weight, especially quickly, can change the shape of your breasts and stretch or shrink the skin surrounding them.
  • Smoking: Smoking causes the skin to lose elasticity, so smokers are more likely to develop saggy breasts.
  • Your genetics: Heredity and the genes you get from your family play a part in the size and shape or your breasts, the strength of your Cooper's ligaments, and your body weight.
  • How many times you've been pregnant: The more children you have, the more stretched out your breasts will become.
  • Exercise without support: Exercise that involves a lot of breast movement can put extra strain on the breast ligaments. If the breasts - especially large breasts - do not have proper support, it can lead to stretching of the ligaments and sagging of the breasts.
  • Your age: Age eventually catches up to everyone. Unfortunately, sagging is a just a normal part of the aging process, especially after menopause when hormone changes can affect the structure and volume of the breast tissue.

How to Prevent Saggy Breasts

Since there are so many factors that contribute to sagging, you can't completely prevent it. However, there are some things you can do to try to keep your breasts from sinking downward for as long as you can.

  • Practice good posture. When you slouch and have poor posture, you're giving gravity more opportunity to pull at your breasts. But, standing or sitting in a good position with your back straight and your shoulders back, can help support the breasts and even give you a natural lift.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Eat a well-balanced diet, get a little exercise, and try not to gain or lose weight too quickly.
  • Drink plenty of water. Keep your skin healthy and hydrated to try to preserve its elasticity.
  • Don't smoke. Quit or don't start smoking. It's not healthy for you or your breasts.

Can A Bra Prevent Sagging?

There isn't any research that says a bra can prevent sagging. However, many women believe that wearing a comfortable, supportive bra can help to hold up the breasts and possibly keep the ligaments from stretching out especially if you exercise or if you have large breasts.

On the other hand, some women believe that bras cause sagging and that if you do not wear a bra, the ligaments in your breast will become stronger. One French study found that going without a bra did not cause sagging and could even improve breast firmness. It's important to note that the author of this study did recognize that it was small and did not represent women of all ages and breast types. He states that women who are older, overweight, or have had children should not necessarily give up on wearing a bra.

Are There Exercises to Prevent or Improve Sagging?

The breasts are not made up of muscles, but there are muscles in the chest behind the breasts. Now, there are no exercises that can make droopy breasts perky again. But, you can build up and tone the pectoral muscles and your upper body to enhance the look of your chest and improve your overall health. Exercises for the chest muscles include push-ups, chest presses, and butterfly curls.

Sagging After Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Although breastfeeding tends to take a good deal of blame for saggy breasts, it's not breastfeeding alone that causes the breasts to droop. Sagging is actually the result of pregnancy and other influences.

Breasts go through many changes during pregnancy and grow larger to prepare for breastfeeding. Then, after your baby is born, breast milk fills your breasts, stretching the skin even more. Once you wean your child and the breast milk dries up, your breasts may appear smaller, less full, and even saggy. Of course, these breast changes can happen even if you decide not to breastfeed

After pregnancy and breastfeeding, the breasts may return to the way they were before, remain larger, or become smaller. If the breast tissue shrinks down, but the skin stays stretched, the breasts will look saggy.

Here are some tips to try to minimize the effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding on your breasts.

  • Wear a supportive nursing bra during the day and at night while you're pregnant and breastfeeding. A nursing bra provides support to the ligaments in your breasts as they grow and become heavy with breast milk.
  • Stay within the guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy. The more weight you gain during pregnancy, and while you're breastfeeding, the larger and more stretched out your breasts may become. Then, later when you want to lose the weight, the stretched out skin is more likely to sag. 
  • Use a safe moisturizer on your breasts. Healthy, moisturized skin may bounce back better than dry skin. Just be sure to choose a product that's safe for breastfeeding mothers, or ask your doctor for a recommendation. 
  • Try to lose your pregnancy weight slowly. When you lose weight quickly, it doesn't give your skin the chance to shrink down along with the weight loss. The skin can hang down and look saggy. It's healthier to lose weight slowly. Plus, slower weight loss gives your skin the time to tighten up as your body shrinks in size. 

Breast Involution After Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Involution is the return of the breasts to the way they were before pregnancy and breastfeeding. About six months after you stop breastfeeding, your breasts should appear similar to their former size and shape although they might be a little smaller or larger than they were before.

After weaning, some women experience a greater degree of involution than others. Sometimes the breast tissue that produces breast milk shrinks all the way down, but the skin around the breast remains the same. In this case, the breasts may lose their shape and appear deflated.

Severe breast involution may be a cosmetic concern, but it's not a medical problem. When you decide to have another baby, your breast tissue will once again grow and make breast milk. If you do not become pregnant again, your breasts may become fuller and return to their previous shape. Although, it could take a few years.

Sagging Breasts and Plastic Surgery

If you are unhappy with the loss of perkiness in your breasts as you age or after pregnancy and breastfeeding, you may consider plastic surgery. Breast augmentation or a breast lift are two procedures that can restore the shape and size of your breasts. But, keep in mind that if you are still in your childbearing years and would like to have a child or more children, breast surgery can interfere with breastfeeding in the future. Discussing this topic with your plastic surgeon is important.

A Word From Verywell

In a world where women are empowered, strong, intelligent, and leaders in every field, beauty is something that many still struggle with. All women are beautiful, but each woman's definition of beauty can shape her self-image and self-esteem. Everyone wants to look and feel good, but when the mirror shows a body that is different from the idea of beauty seen on TV or in magazines, it can be hard.

It's not always easy to accept the changes in your body and your breasts over time. But, try to remember that what you see on TV or in magazines does not represent most natural women. They are unrealistic images. And, between photoshop and touch-ups, they are often not even real. It would be great if you can find peace in the body that gave you your child, or if you don't have a child, the body that got you to the point in your life you are now. But, if you're truly unhappy, you can talk to your doctor. It's OK to do what you need to do to feel good about yourself. That way you can focus on being the healthiest and happiest that you can be.

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