7 Things You Can and Can't Do About Natural Breast Changes

Breast changes can be caused by age, dieting, hormonal changes, and gravity.

Throughout your life, your breasts will change. They may grow larger during pregnancy and breastfeeding to accommodate the needs of bodies and babies. They will adjust to weight and menstrual changes. Throughout these changes, the skin and muscles in the breasts stretch and loosen, changing the look and feel of the breasts.

Then there's the natural process of aging. With age, breasts lose fat, tissue, and mammary glands. After menopause breasts may become softer and less dense as the ovaries produce decreasing amounts of estrogen. Without estrogen, the gland tissue shrinks, making the breasts smaller and less full. The connective tissue that supports the breasts becomes less elastic, so the breasts sag.

With all of these life changes, it's normal to experience sagging in your breasts. After all, aging and gravity are completely natural things. Science even has a name for the drooping of the breasts: "breast ptosis".

Even without natural changes such as drooping, breasts will start off in different shapes and sizes. Some breasts are rounder, higher, asymmetrical, wider, and smaller. Some are more pendulous naturally.

Breasts are amazing organs. The drooping or sagging you might notice are signs that your breasts have accommodated all of those changes in your body. Still, if you would like your breasts to look a little fuller or lifted, these habits may help minimize the effect of drooping breasts.

Working Out

Your breasts sit on top of the pectoral muscle, which is essential for arm strength and function, according to Brian O'Hea, MD, chief of breast surgery at Stony Brook Medicine in New York. 

"But even when women work out a lot and have very strong pectoral muscles, that doesn't change the structure of the breasts themselves—which are made of glandular or fatty tissue, not muscle," explained Dr. O'Hea.

That being said, strengthening the pectoral muscles—along with the back, shoulders, and core muscles—may help reduce the appearance of sag by improving overall tone and posture. Regular exercise can also help women maintain a consistent weight, preventing changes in breast shape associated with extreme weight gain and loss.

Eating Well

There's no hard evidence linking diet to breast sag, said Dr. O'Hea. But some health experts believe that eating many antioxidant-rich foods (like fruits and vegetables) can keep skin supple and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and sag from head to toe. That's because antioxidants prevent cell damage caused by free radicals (harmful substances that can stress your skin cells).

Studies have also suggested that staying hydrated may help preserve skin's natural elasticity.

Avoid extreme or crash diets, too, which—on top of slowing down metabolism—can lead to disproportionate levels of weight loss. 

"If you lose a lot of weight, the skin often doesn't retract even though the fat underneath goes away," explained Alyssa R. Golas, MD, clinical assistant professor at the Hansjorg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York. "When we're talking about a woman's breasts, that can lead to deflation."

Wearing a Well-Fitted Bra

You'd think that wearing a bra would protect the ligaments in the breasts, which would help retain perkiness. But studies have shown that more than 70% of women wear the wrong bra size, which may damage their breasts, potentially contributing to strain and sagging.

Your bra's lower band should fit snug and stay level around your ribs, and cups should fully enclose your breasts with no bulging or gaping at the tops or sides. Plus, any underwire should follow your breasts' natural crease, and shoulder straps should fit comfortably without digging into the skin of the shoulders.

Sure, wearing a supportive and well-fitting bra will keep your breasts propped up while you're wearing it, explained Dr. Golas. And there's a lot to be said for the comfort and improved appearance it can provide. But there's no evidence it will protect you from eventual age and gravity-related droop.

Your Sleep Position

Snoozing on your back might help reduce signs of aging, Dee Anna Glaser, MD, professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told Health. Because your chest fully supports the weight of your breasts, sleeping on your back may help your breasts retain their perkiness.

However, there are no actual studies/data to support this idea. Moreover, getting good sleep in general likely does more good for your body and health than the theoretical negative effect of sleeping in a particular position.

Spending Time in the Sun

Remember those free radicals that antioxidants help prevent? Well, one significant source of those harmful substances? Ultraviolet (UV) rays. 

The sun's harmful rays can affect the skin's stretchy layers of elastin fibers. And the more sun exposure you rack up, the more free radical damage you might have, causing your breasts to droop.

Avoiding Smoking

On top of all the other harmful effects of cigarette smoke, it's also a breast sag offender. 

Research has suggested that smoking is a significant risk factor for sagging breasts, among other risk factors—including a history of weight loss, larger bra cup size, and the number of pregnancies. Smoking can also cause the collagen in your skin to break down, promoting droop.

Having Breast Lift Surgery

If you're unhappy with your natural breast changes, there is one remedy that some healthcare providers suggest can turn back time: breast lift surgery (also called mastopexy). During a breast lift, plastic surgeons remove excess skin and tighten the surrounding tissue. The plastic surgeon performing the procedure will also move the nipples up.

"The procedure is similar to a breast reduction, but instead of taking out the fatty breast tissue, we're just taking out the extra skin and keeping the same amount of volume," said Dr. Golas. "We make the envelope that's holding it all together smaller, so there's less sagging." 

Dr. Golas also explained that plastic surgeons could put implants in along with the mastopexy to give breasts the fullest look and feel for women who are significantly deflated.

However, the recovery process may be lengthy. Swelling can last as long as several months, and scarring will fade after one year but never disappear completely. Be sure to consider the cost, risks, and recovery time before making a decision.

Loving Your Breasts As They Are

Of course, you can always just accept and love your breasts the way they are, sagging or not. Remember that sagging breasts aren't associated with any significant health problems. Drooping or sagging breasts may just be your natural shape or a sign of natural life events that your body may have been through such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight changes and menstruation.

Loving your sagging breasts is another way to love your body as is, without the judgment and unrealistic expectations society sets for women's bodies.

Summary

It is a natural part of the aging process for breasts' shape and size to change over a lifetime. The ligaments and tissue will stretch, and breasts will lose elasticity and droop.

Although medically unnecessary, if you want to try to reduce the sagging of your breasts for cosmetic reasons, there are some lifestyle changes you can try such as exercising, cutting out cigarettes, enriching your diet with antioxidants, and wearing a well-fitted bra, among other techniques.

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