Some women notice after menopause that their breasts are not as full as they used to be or that their bras seem a bit looser. This is because estrogen levels are changing, says Lila Schmidt, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist in private practice in San Diego. However, Dr. Schmidt says, not too many women would be that concerned about it.
Change in your breasts
That is not what you want to hear or recognize, but the changes are inevitable. Yes, your breasts do change with menopause, just as they change with any fluctuation of hormone levels, starting with their development in puberty.
During your late 40s, you will start to notice some changes as you approach menopause—the period known as perimenopause. Your periods will be less frequent, and as the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin begin to fluctuate, your breasts may feel tender and more lumpy.
However, the breast discomfort during the perimenopausal years is usually cyclical—more around the time of your period and decreasing a few days into your period. Feelings of fullness may also occur. Finally, at menopause—defined as the absence of periods for one year—your hormone levels continue their drop, resulting in breast tissue that is less dense and fattier.
You may also notice physical changes in your breasts. Estrogen keeps the connective tissue of your breasts hydrated and elastic. In the hormone’s absence, the breasts shrink because the ducts and mammary glands shrink, and the breasts become less firm and lose their shape. You may notice particular sagging of the breasts as you get older.
Is it a problem?
Breast specialist and surgeon Ian Laidlaw, of Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey, says drooping breasts can have a serious psychological impact on a woman.
He says, “A large part of a woman’s femininity is her breasts. Sagging is a predictable change, yet it can have a profound impact. The feelings women get when they can’t control the changes in their breasts can include inferiority, distorted body image, unattractiveness and worthlessness.”
The condition even has its own medical name — ptosis — and droopiness can be graded by doctors on a three-stage scale.
On the first stage on the condition evaluation, for young woman, the nipple is usually above the line where the base of the breast meets the chest — or the inframammary fold.
By stage two, the nipple is around one to three inches below that point. And, at stage three, the breast hangs more than 3 cm below, with the nipple often pointing down to the floor. Over a lifetime, a woman with heavy breasts may see her nipples drop by as much as ten or 11cms if they descend to her waistline.
Breasts are made of a mixture of mammary glands and fat. Through this run hundreds of pieces of tissue which connect the bulk of the breast to the skin — and keep the breast suspended. How stable your breasts condition stay depends partly on the genes, which govern how much fat, glands and connective tissue they contain. Generally, the more connective tissue and glands you have, the firmer and more buoyant your breasts are likely to be.
Size will also dictate how firm they stay. The heavier they are, the more strain on the skin and supporting ligaments, which, like elastic bands, stretch permanently under persistent pressure.
How to Prevent?
Estrogen is the main hormone influencing on how your breasts look. This female sex hormone, which first makes the breasts grow — and stimulates the development of a tree-like network of milk ducts leading to the nipple. Every month, as part of the menstrual cycle, rising levels of estrogen prepare a woman’s body for possible pregnancy. One side effect is that it stimulates the breast tissue by making it expand and retain water. After menopause, when estrogen levels begin to fall permanently, milk ducts and glands ‘go into retirement’ and shrink — making the breasts feel emptier. The tissue, which makes breasts firm, also shrivels and gets replaced by fat, which is heavier and less able to withstand gravity.
Thus, the only way to prevent the breasts sagging phenomena is to deal with the estrogen deficiency. After menopause, the “green ways” of the hormones balancing will not be as efficient as on the earlier life stages. The Hormone replacement therapy, the same as estrogen-containing meds may not be a approach of choice, so the prevention approach should be consider on more realistic grounds – on how to minimize the negative effect.
Here are several practical approaches, you should consider:
1. Keeping the weigh stable.
There are two places where fat can be found in the breast. Seventy percent of breast fat is mixed with the glands to form the main bulk of the bosom. The rest of the fat is located in a layer of padding just under the skin. This particular component tends to fluctuate in thickness as you gain and lose weight.
If this layer thickens dramatically — and then thins out again due to dieting — it will permanently stretch the supporting skin, leading to a droopier chest.
2. Quit smoking and avoid excessive sun exposure.
Like anywhere else on the body, the skin on the breast includes a network of collagen fibers, which make it firm, and elastin to make it flexible. Over time, these fibers break down. The rate at which skin cells renew themselves also slows, as we get older. Just as on the face, it is important never to expose the breasts to too much sun because ultraviolet exposure will break down collagen and elastin.
And, in the same way that smoking leads to wrinkles, it leads to the deterioration of breast skin.
3. Exercise (with disclaimer).
There are both good and bad news when it comes to exercise. The right regime can keep your breasts pert by improving blood supply. While there is no muscle in the breast itself, it is possible to build up the underlying pectorals for a lifting effect. But, some activities — particularly running — can take their toll. When you run without proper support, the breasts bounce in a figure of eight, causing wear and tear on the supporting ligaments. The larger your cup size, the greater the force on the breasts and the more they need to be restrained to avoid damage to connective tissue and ligaments. So, what can help? Supportive sports bra helps to minimize the boobs bouncing up-and-down effect, while running or doing other high impact aerobic exercises.
It is said that the right exercises can keep your breasts perky, however, since breasts are made up of fat, not muscle—technically there’s nothing to tighten or tone. But chest exercises can help improve the appearance of your pectoral area by strengthening surrounding ligaments, which in turn may make them appear more lively, stated Anne Taylor, MD, a clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at Ohio State University.
The easiest and most popular exercise to add firmness to breasts is to do push-ups, which strengthen the pectoral muscles beneath the breasts. Overall, it will help to shape up the breast and reduce the excess fat deposits around the chest. Lifting weights can also strengthen pectoral muscles, including curls, chest presses, dumbbell flies and many other variations you can try that make you feel your chest muscles working.
4. Go braless.
Many women mistakenly believe that breasts cannot anatomically support themselves and that wearing a brassiere will prevent their breasts from sagging later in life. Researchers, bra manufacturers, and health professionals cannot find any evidence to support the idea that wearing a bra for any amount of time slows breast ptosis. Furthermore, two small studies provided certain indication that wearing a bra may have an overall negative effect on sagging breasts. In a Japanese study, 11 women were measured wearing a standardized fitted bra for three months. They found that breasts became larger and lower, with the underbust measurement decreasing and the overbust increasing, while the lowest point of the breast moved downwards and outwards.
5. Proper Posture.
Poor posture is one of the most overlooked causes of sagging breasts. By lowering your shoulders and hunching forward, you are not giving any structural support to your breasts, and they hang freely, completely at the mercy of gravitational forces. Poor posture can also exacerbate any back pain or muscle soreness you have from large breasts, which happen to be the type of breasts that show signs of sagging the most dramatically.
6. Practice Yoga.
The benefits of yoga for the entire body have been widely studied, and it is primarily a mechanism of toning the body and increasing flexibility. Some of that toning can occur within the breast, depending on which positions you commonly practice. Different yoga styles focus on different parts of the body, so those that focus on the upper body, shoulders, pectorals, or upper arms are best for adding firmness to breasts. Some of the best positions for strengthening the chest muscles are the Triangle Pose, the Cobra Pose, and the Standing Forward Bend. Certain yoga positions also battle the effects of gravity, which is a major component of sagging breasts. Try headstands, back-bends, and the Inverted Leg Stretch to reverse some of the negative effects of gravity on your breasts.
Massage your breasts at least 2-3 times per week with olive oil. It will help add firmness to the skin as well as improve the skin tone and texture. It will also tone your chest and increase the elasticity of the skin. Massage draws blood to the surface of the skin, and increased blood flow stimulates muscle growth, cell repair, and other beneficial activities that will reduce the appearance and severity of sagging breasts.
8. Ice Massage.
Ice can help tone the skin in and around the breast region. All you need to do is rub a few ice cubes over your breasts in wide circular motions. Alternatively, you can also wrap some crushed ice in a soft cloth and use the same to massage your breasts. Massage for no more than 1 minute as too much exposure to ice can cause numbness. Opt for this massage at regular intervals throughout the day to firm your breast muscles and skin.
9. Breast Masks.
Like facial masks, breast masks can help firm the skin in and around the breast region. You can use these breast masks at least once in a week for desirable results. Example of the mask you can use:
Vitamin E Oil & Egg Breast Mask
* Make a paste consisting of:
1 Tbsp Plain Yogurt
1 Tbsp Vitamin E Oil
Apply this paste over your breast and rub it in nicely.
Leave on for about half an hour.
Rinse it off with cold water.
10. Get Implants.
Getting breast implants through cosmetic surgery can be one of the possible methods to permanently get rid of your sagging breast tissues. This procedure involves the implantation of props under the slack breast tissues of even under the pectoral muscles. The implants not only uplifts the breast to the heart’s content but also helps to achieve a fuller and increased breast size and statistics.
Similar to every other case breast lifting surgeries are to be used as a last resort, when all the natural and full safe methods do not work for you. The surgery procedure tightens the skin across the breast and nipples through the elimination of the stretched out loose skin and uplifting the breasts in the process.
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