Breast ptosis (pronounced toe-sis) is the medical term for this sagging of the breasts. The most frustrating thing about it is, there is nothing you can do on your own to reverse it. There is no exercise that will restore the youthful position of your breasts. Because of this, breast ptosis can have a detrimental effect on your self-esteem.
As a woman’s breasts develop, a network of ligaments works to hold the breasts up. And when we’re young, our skin is much more elastic. However, as we age, three things happen—our skin begins to lose its elasticity, the ligaments become stretched from years of performing their function, and the breasts begin to lose some of their volume.
While you’re pregnant, your breasts will likely enlarge, both due to an accumulation of fat and in preparation for breastfeeding. Once you’ve given birth, and you begin to lose that gained weight, you can lose some of the volume in your breasts, causing them to sag.
It’s important to note that breastfeeding itself does not cause breast ptosis. The breasts filling with milk to feed a baby is a temporary condition, and the primary function of the breasts. Ptosis after pregnancy is more to do with the breasts having been stretched by gaining fat, and then the loss of that fat tissue after childbirth.
When you gain weight, you never gain it in just one place. While you may see more fat in one location, such as the abdomen, thighs or buttocks, you do gain weight all over your body, including your breasts. This weight gain can stretch the skin, so when you lose weight, and lose that fat volume from your breasts, they’ve lost some of the skin’s elasticity, and can sag.
As you might imagine, women with larger breasts will experience more breast ptosis than those with smaller breasts. The reasons are similar to those of aging and weight gain. The more volume in the breasts, the more the skin is stretched, and the more volume there is to lose over time.
Just as your hair color, eye color, and height are influenced by your genes, the same is true for the way you age. If the women in your family tend to experience a high degree of breast ptosis as they age, it’s likely the same will be true for you.
If the threat of emphysema, lung cancer and other ailments hasn’t been enough to encourage you to quit smoking, maybe this will. One of the negative effects smoking has on the body is that it breaks down elastin, one of the proteins that gives your skin its elasticity. Women who smoke tend to experience not only more breast ptosis than those who don’t, but it also happens sooner than it would if you didn’t smoke.
Aside from all those other factors, there’s one big force of nature working against us—gravity. The same force that keeps us grounded to the earth influences the way your body looks over time. It pulls down your skin, your muscles, every part of your body, including your breasts.
One or more of these conditions will cause your breasts to sag. There’s no escaping aging, genetics, or gravity. Add possible weight gain/loss, pregnancy or smoking to the mix, and the process will only be sped up and exacerbated.
How to Rate and Correct
Degree of Ptosis
Before you can undergo a breast lift, your surgeon will need to measure and rate your degree of ptosis—exactly how much your breasts are sagging—in order to determine how to best correct it, and provide you with the best results.
When you come in for your pre-surgical consultation, your doctor will examine your breasts to rate the degree of ptosis. The rating is based on the position of the nipple in relation to the inframammary fold—where the bottom of your breast meets your chest—and is assigned as follows:
- 1st Degree or Grade One (mild sagging): – The nipple sits at the level of the inframammary fold.
- 2nd Degree or Grade Two (moderate sagging): – The nipple sits just below the inframammary fold, but above the bulk (glandular and adipose tissue) of the lower part of the breast.
- 3rd Degree or Grade Three (severe sagging): – The nipple sits below the inframammary fold and the bulk of the breast, and points downward.
Some women experience pseudoptosis. This is technically not true ptosis, as the nipple sits at the level of the inframammary fold. However, there is still a droop in the breasts due to the bulk of the breast hanging below the inframammary fold. Usually, breast augmentation can correct this.