What are Cooper's Ligaments?

The Structures That Support and Shape the Breasts

Conceptual image of female breast anatomy.
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Ligaments are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that keep joints together, connect bones and cartilage, or hold certain parts of the body in place. The Cooper's ligaments, also called the suspensory ligaments of Cooper, are located in the breast. They provide support to the breasts and help them to maintain their shape. The Cooper's ligaments go from under the skin of the breast through and around the breast tissue and attach to the dense tissue that surrounds the chest muscles.

How Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Can Affect the Cooper's Ligaments

Over time, ligaments can stretch out and lose their shape. The Cooper's ligaments in your breast can begin to stretch out and droop during pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding. Many people believe that breastfeeding is to blame, but even if you don't breastfeed, the increase in the size and weight of your breasts during pregnancy can still strain and stretch the breast ligaments.

Other ways pregnancy and breastfeeding affect the Cooper's ligaments are:

  • The number of times you become pregnant. Since the breasts grow with each pregnancy, there is more opportunity for stretching and loosing of the ligaments.
  • The amount of weight you gain during pregnancy. Excessive weight gain can affect the structural integrity of the Cooper's ligaments. Try to stay within the recommended healthy weight gain guidelines provided by your doctor.
  • The development of breast engorgement. When the breasts are overfull with breast milk, they can become very large and heavy.

Can You Stop the Cooper's Ligaments from Stretching?

You can't prevent your Cooper's ligaments from stretching out, but you can try to slow down the natural process and preserve the shape of your breasts for as long as you can. Here are some tips.

  • It may help to wear a well-fitting, supportive bra while you're pregnant and breastfeeding. A good bra can help fight against gravity and support the ligaments as they work to hold up the extra weight of your fuller, heavier breasts.
  • Your bra will only provide support while you wear it, you can continue to wear a comfortable bra during the night.
  • Wear a supportive bra when you exercise, especially if your breasts are on the larger side.

While you want to support the breasts, you don't want it to be too restrictive. So, you should not bind your breasts or choose underwire bras or bras that are too tight. Too much pressure on your breast tissue can lead to other breast issues such a plugged milk ducts and mastitis.

Cooper's Ligaments and Breast Sagging

When the Cooper's ligaments stretch, it can lead to a sagging appearance of the breasts. It's sometimes called Cooper's droopers.

Since pregnancy and breastfeeding bring about physical and hormonal changes in the breasts, they contribute to the stretching of the Cooper's ligaments. However, even if you never become pregnant or have a baby, the Cooper's ligaments can stretch out, and the shape of your breasts will eventually change. That's because other factors also play a role in the ability of the Cooper's ligaments to maintain their shape. These include:

All these things can all influence and contribute to the stretching out of your breast ligaments and eventual sagging of your breasts.

Can You Fix or Repair Cooper's Ligaments?

The Cooper's ligaments in the breasts cannot be repaired or replaced. Once the ligaments begin to stretch out and your breasts start to droop, there is nothing you can do to reverse it. Even surgically, the Cooper's ligament cannot be fixed or changed to make the breasts firm once again. However, there are surgical procedures that can reconstruct the shape of your breasts. If you are unhappy with your breasts due to sagging, you can talk to your doctor or a plastic surgeon. After pregnancy and breastfeeding, some women choose to have a breast lift, breast implants, or a combination of both to bring your breasts back to a more pleasing shape and size.

 

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