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How do pregnancy and breastfeeding change the breasts?

Mommy makeover Charlotte NC

Here at North Charlotte Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, many of our clients are women who have experienced unwanted changes in their bodies after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Many mothers have concerns about the appearance of their breasts, such as sagging, changes in volume, and a “deflated” appearance to the breasts. Although nearly all mothers agree that their children were worth it, many women also want to reclaim their bodies once they’re finished having kids.

What happens to the breasts during pregnancy and lactation? Why do these life events cause permanent changes in the breasts? What can be done to help restore them to their former glory?

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the glandular tissue in your breast grows much larger, under the influence of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This growth includes the glands and ducts that make and carry breast milk. Although some amount of glandular tissue is present the breasts of all women, it normally exists in a compact state, until the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause it to grow and develop. The growth of the glandular tissue causes the breasts to grow larger. In addition, many women also gain some extra fat tissue in the breasts, which can make them even bigger.

The skin over the breasts, along with the underlying connective tissue, stretches to accommodate their new larger size. In some cases, stretch marks may appear on the skin of the breasts (just like they often do on other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, that are also experiencing rapid changes at this time).

Breastfeeding

Not every woman will choose to or be able to breastfeed her infant after pregnancy. However, those who do breastfeed usually notice that the breast size remains increased during this time, and the breasts sometimes feel very heavy and swollen with milk.

Although many women worry that breastfeeding will ruin their breasts, the truth is that the changes to the breasts are actually caused by pregnancy, rather than by breastfeeding itself. In fact, studies have shown that women who breastfeed don’t have a higher risk of breast ptosis (sagging), compared to women who have given birth but who don’t breastfeed their babies. If you’re considering breastfeeding your baby, and you’re worried about the effects on your breasts, rest assured that breastfeeding won’t cause additional sagging!

What happens afterward?

Once a woman has completed pregnancy (and, if she chooses, breastfeeding), and the breasts no longer receive the stimulation of the hormones of pregnancy or of a breastfeeding infant, the glandular tissue will shrink again, going back to its old compact size. However, the skin and other tissues overlying the breast very often don’t shrink completely back to their old size. This can leave the breast with a “deflated” appearance.

The Cooper’s ligaments, which are the internal ligaments that support the breast, are also stretched by the increased volume during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These tissues don’t generally bounce back later, because they have very little elasticity. Stretching of the ligaments can also contribute to sagging of the breasts.

Changes in the fatty tissue of the breasts, relative to how much fatty tissue was there before, can also occur once pregnancy and breastfeeding are completed. Some women experience a decrease in the volume of the breasts, while others experience an increase. Even for those who find themselves with a greater volume of breast tissue, however, the breasts may still appear deflated, because of the stretching of the skin and other tissues. In fact, they may actually appear smaller than they were before, even though the volume has actually increased. This is because breast projection, or how far the breast sticks out from the body, has the greatest impact on how big the breast looks. A breast that sags and lays closer to the body will appear to be smaller, even if it’s actually larger.

Creams, supplements, exercises, and other non-surgical “treatments” for sagging or deflated breasts don’t actually work. Additionally, if a woman has lost breast volume as a result of pregnancy and breastfeeding, such treatments will not restore the lost volume and bring the breasts back to their old size.

Mommy makeover

Fortunately, however, there is a solution to the problem of breast changes for mothers. It can be addressed through cosmetic surgery. Exactly what procedures are needed depends on the woman’s particular situation. For some women, a breast augmentation can replace the lost breast volume, and the skin may have enough elasticity to bounce back and create a good cosmetic result. Some only need a breast lift to restore a more youthful and perky appearance of the breasts and remove excess skin that’s causing sagging, but they already have enough volume.

For many women, having both a breast augmentation and a breast lift will produce the best result. This both restores lost volume and brings back the perky shape of the breasts. The two procedures can be done at the same time, minimizing recovery time while also allowing the surgeon to create the most precise result.

If you’ve recently completed pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, and you’re dissatisfied with the changes in your body, you might want to consider visiting a cosmetic surgeon to learn more about your options. Keep in mind that the body may continue to change for a period of time after you’ve finished with pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, so you should give things at least a couple of months to settle down before you come for your consultation.

It’s common after pregnancy for women to be dissatisfied not only with their breasts, but also with their tummies. There’s often a lot of loose skin and separated abdominal muscles, which are generally also very difficult or impossible to address with workouts and a healthy lifestyle. A procedure known as a “mommy makeover” can address all of the common issues that women face after they become mothers, and the procedure is personalized for each woman to include exactly what she needs to address the issues that are most concerning to her.

Dr. Eric MilesIf you’re in or near Charlotte, please contact our office to schedule an appointment to talk with Dr. Erik Miles about mommy makeover Charlotte, Lake Norman, and the surrounding area.

Dr. Erik J. Miles
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