By Dr. Ted
No crystal ball can predict how much and how soon your breasts will lose their shape and firmness, but you can blame the following factors for the droop (medically known as ptosis).
When you are pregnant, the developing placenta stimulates the release of hormones, causing your milk glands – and your breasts – to grow and swell. This rapid growth can also cause the skin to stretch. When the milk is gone, your breasts might return to their original size or get bigger, smaller, or droopier.
Although the number of pregnancies and your pre-pregnancy breast size are factors in post-pregnancy sagging, breastfeeding itself is not.
Significant weight gain and loss – yo-yo dieting – can also affect your breasts. When you lose weight, it not only reduces the size of your waist and thighs, but it might also reduce the size of your breasts – sometimes dramatically. If the skin and ligaments don’t retract when some of the fat disappears, you could be left with saggy or empty-looking breasts.
As women age and their hormone levels drop, the lobules (the part of the breast where milk is produced) shrink, and breast volume is lost. In addition, the body’s elastin fibers, which keep the skin from drooping, and collagen fibers, which give tissue strength and flexibility, decrease. Smoking can speed up this process. That’s because the carcinogens in the smoke cause those elastin fibers to break down in the body.
Breasts can start drooping at any age depending on your genes and the elasticity of your skin. That’s why it’s not uncommon for teens to have droopy breasts. Some girls say that they were “born with saggy breasts” or that they “just developed this way.” The rate of droop is largely determined by genetics, although pregnancy and weight changes factor in. And while a bra will keep your breasts from sagging while you are wearing it, there is little evidence that wearing a bra delays or prevents breast droopiness.
Gravity gets a bad rap. The pull of gravity on your breasts – or your face – isn’t a significant factor in droopiness. It’s more like the skin isn’t as strong as it once was, and it begins to fall down – like a pair of sweatpants that has lost its elastic.
If you are thinking about having surgery to perk up your breasts, you’ll need to know your true starting size. Losing 10 percent or more of your body weight could make your breasts smaller, so you should wait until you have reached your dietary goal before you have breast augmentation surgery. To know your post-pregnancy breast size, it’s best to wait at least six months after you have stopped breastfeeding or, if you are not breastfeeding, six months after childbirth. At that point, you’ll be able to see if you want more breast volume or if you are a candidate for a lift.
Next time: Learn how to take the “pencil test” to see if you are a candidate for a lift.