From Perky To Sagging – What's going on with my breasts?

They are so uncomfortable … Can't wait to take my bra off!

Let me be clear from the outset …. there is nothing you can do to return your twins to the way they were in your 20s or 30s...or even early 40s. Even breast lift surgery results are not permanent, because the breast skin and ligaments will stretch again eventually.

Sagging breasts is a natural, inevitable process that happens to all women at some point, except to women with fairly small breasts.

It is ironic that many women with small breasts dreamed of having bigger breasts when they were younger...some may have even undergone breast augmentation procedures. But their small breasts serve them well in menopause and beyond. Some women who enjoyed being well endowed when they were younger, complain that during menopause their boobs are so heavy that they have to hold them up when they walk around!

The purpose of this post is to help you to better understand what has happened to your boobs …. and why you now have sagging breasts. This may help you to free up attention that may be fixed on your twins and what has happened to them.

What your breasts consist of:

Breasts do not have muscle. They are made of

  • fat – The amount and distribution of fat determines the overall size and shape of breasts. When women are younger, their breasts have less fat and are mostly comprised of milk-producing glands
  • milk-producing glands – They expand and shrink in response to the hormone changes that accompany different stages of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. They are mostly concentrated in the top outer portion of each breast, which is why this area can get tender and achy in the pre-menstrual phase. During pregnancy and before menstruation, the glands in the breast expand and become more sensitive.

After pregnancy and menopause, these glands shrink and the breast becomes mostly fat tissue in composition

  • connective tissue – Breasts are supported by ligaments (a type of connective tissue) …. and skin.

The connective tissue provides flexibility to the breasts. It allows the breasts to expand and then contract during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Over time the skin and ligaments that support the breasts become stretched out, resulting in sagging breasts

 The causes of sagging breasts:

A 2007 study found that there are 4 causes of sagging breasts

  1. Pregnancies – The number of pregnancies is a factor in breast sagging. During pregnancy a woman’s breasts get bigger in readiness to provide milk for the newborn baby. The biggest change is in the actual composition of the breast tissue. The milk ducts in the breast grow and branch out, almost completely replacing areas which were previously occupied by fatty tissue. The breast skin expands. After weaning, the breasts the breast size reduces but the extra skin remains. Contrary to popular opinion, breast feeding does not contribute to sagging breasts
  2. Yo-yoing weight – Yo-yoing weight causes breast sagging. Breasts are very sensitive to weight changes. When you gain weight, fat tends to go to your breasts first. They’re also one of the first places most women lose weight from when they diet. The thinner and heavier you get, the thinner and heavier your boobs will be, and the more droopy they will be. If you keep stretching and shrinking something, it will wear out, like a sweater.
  3. Cigarette smoking – Cigarette smoking causes breast sagging. It breaks down a protein in the skin called elastin, which gives youthful skin its elastic appearance and supports the breast
  4. Aging - In your 20s and 30s, your breasts were their perkiest. Estrogen kept the skin and connective tissues of your breasts firm and strong. As the years went by, the factors above contributed to a stretching of your breast skin and a deterioration of your connective tissue. The fat content of your breast increased. This made your breasts less firm. During your 40s, breast shape continued to change. Your estrogen levels, which kept your breasts perkier in your 20s, are declining. More fat is deposited in your breasts. These factors contribute to the continuing sagging of your boobs.

Most women reach menopause (no period for 12 consecutive months) in their 50s. Menopause signals the end of a woman’s reproductive years. With that comes a shutting down of the milk producing function of the breasts. The breasts not only become fattier, but they will shrink because women no longer need the milk-producing glands for breastfeeding.

You are left with breast skin that has been stretched over the years. When the tissues inside breast shrink, and the skin surrounding it doesn’t, the breast looks “empty” and saggy.

This post is reproduced with the permission of Menopause Matters.

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