It’s an unfortunate fact of life that as women age, their breasts go south, north, east and west as well. Sagging or drooping of boobs is a natural, inevitable process that happens to all women at some point, except to women with fairly small breasts.
The most notable sagging happens with the process called breast involution (see below), but breasts can start drooping a little at any age, because they do NOT have muscles in them. They have ligaments and connective tissue.
When the gravity pulls the breasts down, those ligaments and the skin can stretch, and so the breast then droops. This depends on the elasticity of your skin and of your ligaments, as determined by your genes and diet, and also on normal aging processes. Obviously large breasts will sag easier since the gravity is pulling them down more. When breasts bounce during active sports, such as tennis, those ligaments can also be stretched or even torn. A good sports bra can minimize that effect, and is recommendable.
While speaking to a 22 year-old, she mentioned how strange it was growing up, she said:
As I was developing, I remember thinking it was strange that my areolas were larger than my friends, and later, that my breasts were also much saggier. It caused me a lot of stress as a teenager: I wanted to be able to go braless like my girlfriends; I felt like I had missed out on the perky breasts every woman experiences (which I now know is so not true). I am coming to a point now of acceptance of my body. I may not have perfect breasts, but what does that really mean, or matter? I would rather focus on the fact that I am fortunate to not have breast cancer… to appreciate my health.”
Breast involution is a process where the milk-making system inside the breast shrinks because it is not needed anymore. This happens either after weaning, or right after pregnancy if the woman does not breastfeed at all, or during menopause. When the tissues inside the breast shrink, and the skin surrounding it doesn’t, the breast can look “empty” and saggy. After weaning, a woman’s body usually deposits fat back to the breast (this process takes months), so that breasts will gain their pre-pregnancy size, but sagging usually remains.
Another common cause for sagging is when a woman loses weight. When you lose weight, some of that fat disappears from your breasts. Typically the skin and the ligaments inside the breasts do not retract accordingly, resulting in an ’empty’ looking breast that then sags. (You could try prevent this by eating foods that provide extra good nutrition for your skin.)
Worries about sagging breasts is one of the most popular questions sent to this website. So if you feel your breasts droop, you are most certainly not alone!
Note: A scientific study that studied the effects of breastfeeding upon sagging, found that breastfeeding per se did not have an affect upon the sagging. However, pregnancy DID, because of the great physical changes that happen in the breasts during pregnancy. According to the study, the following were risk factors for an increased degree of breast sagging: body mass index (BMI), the number of pregnancies, a larger pre-pregnancy bra size, smoking history, and age.
Can you prevent sagging?
Sagging cannot be totally prevented. It is an inevitable process because it is the gravity at work. However, there are a few things that you can try.
- Wearing sports bras during active sports helps prevent sagging, because when breasts bounce a lot during sports, that can stretch and harm the Cooper’s ligaments inside breasts.
- If at all possible, do NOT wear bras all the time. I know most people think that bras prevent sagging, but this is not totally true! For most of us, bra wearing can actually increase sagging!
This sounds strange, perhaps, but it is based on scientific studies. For example, professor Jean-Denis Rouillon from Besancon, France, has published a study (2013) that shows that wearing bras may increase sagging. The 15-year study involved 330 volunteers between the ages 18 and 35. Researchers measured their breasts using a slide ruler and a caliper and recorded any changes throughout the study period. Women who did not wear bras had a 7 millimeter lift as measured from their nipples each year. Their breasts were also firmer, and their stretch marks faded. There was also no evidence that the bras helped get rid of back pain.
The idea is that when you wear bras, the muscle tissue that supports the breasts may not develop as well. Also, the Cooper’s ligaments inside breasts can atrophy and shrivel away from not being used. “Use it, or lose it” seems to be at work! The gentle bouncing of breasts when you walk and move can help those ligaments stay in top shape. Perhaps breasts weren’t meant to be kept totally “jiggless” and motionless! Just remember to wear sports bras during any active sports where the breasts would bounce a lot.
Now, women with heavy breasts may find that regular bra wearing can delay or diminish sagging, because their breasts are just so heavy. However, the jury is still out even on this, as there are not enough studies for us to know definitely.
- One other thing you can try (I’m not guaranteeing any results) is to help the elasticity of your skin and ligaments nutritionally, which could then help prevent or even reduce the drooping. For example, vitamin C is very important for the collagen synthesis within skin. There are also many other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can help the skin and ligaments to be in top health.
And please remember that it is the changes during pregnancy, notbreastfeeding, that increases sagging. Don’t think you will escape droopy breasts just by skipping breastfeeding.