‘Saggy’ Breasts Are a Normal Thing To Have—Here’s What To Know

As you age, it's normal for your breasts to sag and droop.

Throughout our lifetimes, our bodies undergo a lot of changes. One change in particular that you may have questions about is sagging breasts. 

Drooping of the breast tissue is scientifically referred to as "breast ptosis." Multiple factors increase the risk of sagging breasts. Still, sagging breasts is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens with age. However, there may still be a lot of shame and insecurity around the issue, even in an era of increased body positivity.

Here's what to know about causes, potential treatments, and some myths associated with breast sagging.

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What Causes Sagging Breasts?

Sagging breasts can be caused by a combination of the following:

  • The breakdown of the mammary glands
  • A decrease in the elasticity of the skin
  • Weakened breast ligaments, called Cooper's ligament
  • Gravity

Various factors can affect those causes, including age, the size of your breasts, and smoking.

Age

As you age, your breasts will likely change. Aging can influence breast tissue's volume, density, and overall structure.

After menopause—when your period stops, often after age 45—your body makes less estrogen than before. Decreased estrogen causes your breasts to lose fat, tissue, and mammary glands.

The breast tissue shrinks, making the breasts appear smaller and less full. As estrogen decreases, the connective tissue that supports the breasts becomes less elastic, which causes the breasts to sag.

Size of Your Breasts

"Stretching of the Cooper's ligament is seen more commonly in women with bigger breasts due to the gravitational pull," Anita Johnson, MD, a breast surgical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, told Health

Both the size of your breasts and the area of the ligaments that suspend them affects the gravitational pull. Generally, people with small breasts don't experience significant sagging.

Smoking

Like the structural changes in aging, environmental factors like cigarette smoke can break down the elastin in the skin. 

Smoking increases exposure to harmful substances called free radicals, including reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Free radicals damage your cells, increasing your risk of chronic diseases. Also, free radicals promote premature aging, like fine lines and wrinkles, which may impact the skin on your breasts.

Myths About Sagging Breasts

There are many myths about what causes sagging breasts, including breastfeeding, exercising, and wearing a bra.

Breastfeeding

"Breastfeeding causing breast sagging is one of the most commonly circulated myths out there," Jennifer Lincoln, MD, OB-GYN and author of "Let's Talk About Down There," told Health.  

Misconceptions have led people to opt not to breastfeed to not alter the shape of their breasts. In fact, research has found that after educational interventions about what actually causes breasts to sag, women felt more confident about breastfeeding.

So, while pregnancy can cause breast changes, no studies show a link between breastfeeding and sagging. In other words, whether you breastfeed or not, the stretching of the Cooper's ligament that occurs during pregnancy is what actually causes sagging and drooping.

Exercising

Numerous posts on the internet tell people how to prevent sagging with certain exercises. However, those exercises only affect the muscles in the chest, not the connective tissue and ligaments in your breasts.

Likewise, research has found that exercising, like walking and running, doesn't cause your breasts to sag or droop at a higher rate than normal. Still, it's good to wear a sports bra while exercising. Not supporting your breasts during high-intensity workouts may cause the skin of your breasts to strain.

So, you can still exercise for good health, but wearing a sports bra does more for breast health than the actual exercise itself.

Wearing a Bra

Whether you wear a bra doesn't cause or prevent your breasts from sagging, added Dr. Johnson.

Still, many people don't wear the correct size bra. Research has found that ill-fitting bras can lead to the following:

  • Increased pressure on your shoulders from tight bra straps
  • Pain in your neck or back from a lack of adequate support
  • Weakness in your arms
  • Limited arm movement

So, although your bra won't do much for breast sagging, ensure you wear the right size.

Can You Prevent Sagging Breasts?

A whole industry capitalizes on breast insecurity by selling lotions, creams, and special bras that supposedly help people prevent sagging. Though, only a few genuinely corrective options exist. For example, you can correct sagging with a breast lift, a common procedure.

Still, sagging breasts aren't associated with significant health problems, so they don't require treatment. However, some people with sagging breasts may experience breast-related pain, usually due to their breast size rather than the sagging.

"There is nothing to prevent sagging breasts. But one can opt for surgery, especially if they have debilitating back and shoulder pain due to bigger breasts," explained Dr. Johnson.

People can opt for breast reduction surgery if they wish to reduce the size of their breasts. Or breast lift surgery, also known as mastopexy, is available to change the breast shape but not the volume. Some people also receive breast implants while undergoing breast lift surgery.

There are risks with every surgery. Aesthetic surgeries have a low incidence of significant complications (less than 1%). Still, many minor complications can occur, including asymmetry, deformity, and recurrence of sagging. 

All sagging breasts are just as beautiful as perky ones, added Dr. Lincoln. However, if a person feels treatment would improve their quality of life, should they experience back or shoulder pain from the size of their breasts, that's a valid option.

A Quick Review

Sagging breasts are a natural, normal part of life. Over time, the effects of gravity, decreased estrogen, and the stretching of ligaments can cause your breasts to sag. If you want to change the look of your breasts, you may consider undergoing surgery. Otherwise, sagging breasts don't affect your health and are a natural part of life.

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