A range of factors may lead to saggy breasts, such as age, body mass index (BMI), and pregnancy. Some researchers associate a history of smoking with saggy breasts, though other studies do not confirm these findings.
Breasts come in many different shapes and sizes, and they can change over time. Changes to a person’s breasts are not typically dangerous, but they can cause decreases in self-confidence and affect quality of life.
Breast reconstruction surgery can improve the appearance of saggy breasts, or breast ptosis. However, other noninvasive measures may also be helpful.
Keep reading to learn more about the causes of saggy breasts and some steps a person can take to change the appearance of saggy breasts if they wish to.
The cause of breast ptosis is unclear. However, research has provided some clues as to contributing factors.
A study that appears in the Annals of Plastic Surgery surveyed 132 women who attended a clinic for breast reconstruction surgery due to breast ptosis.
The researchers note some factors associated with breast ptosis among these women. These factors were:
- significant weight loss, of around 50 pounds (22.6 kilograms) or more
- a higher BMI
- a larger bra cup size
- number of pregnancies
- a history of smoking
Other factors that people think may contribute to breast ptosis include:
- a history of breastfeeding
- weight gain during pregnancy
- a lack of regular upper body exercise
However, the researchers who conducted the above study did not find any significant associations between these factors and breast ptosis.
Another study investigated some possible contributing factors for breast ptosis. In this instance, researchers surveyed 125 women who presented to a clinic for a breast reconstruction consultation due to having saggy breasts.
The researchers conclude that contributing factors for saggy breasts include:
- breast tissue weight
- number of pregnancies
The most important factor for breast ptosis, according to this study, was larger breast tissue. In contrast with the previous study, the researchers did not find that smoking was an important factor.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons believe that the following factors may contribute to breast ptosis due to a loss of skin elasticity:
- weight fluctuations
People have several options to improve the appearance of saggy breasts, if they wish to do so.
Although surgery is the most common method for improving the appearance of breasts, other noninvasive strategies may also be effective.
The following sections will outline some of these options.
Plastic surgeons will use the Regnault classification, or another classification system, to stage the level of ptosis, or sagging, of the breast. These classifications use the position of the nipple to measure the extent of ptosis.
Depending on the staging or classification, surgeons may recommend different management strategies. For improving the appearance of saggy breasts, they may recommend:
- a breast lift
- breast augmentation
- simultaneous breast lift and augmentation
People with a previous augmentation may require different interventions than those with natural breasts.
The goal of a breast lift, or mastopexy, is to raise the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening the breast tissue to reshape and support the improved breast contour.
Breast lifts do not change the size of the breast tissue, so those with large breasts may require a reduction surgery.
To reduce breast ptosis, some surgeons may suggest breast augmentation. Depending on the classification of ptosis, a person may require both an augmentation and a breast lift.
Some doctors suggest that augmentation may not work if the nipple is 2 centimeters or more above the inframammary crease. The inframammary crease is the place where the base of the breast and the chest meet. If the nipple is past this point, the surgeon may need to couple augmentation with a lift.
Some people may request or require a mastectomy.
A mastectomy involves removing breast tissue. A surgeon may remove the whole breast or only some of the breast tissue. Surgeons do not typically recommend a mastectomy for people with significant ptosis due to the risk of nipple problems.
For example, during a mastectomy, the nipple can become displaced on the chest or lose blood flow, and the tissue can die.
A person can talk to their doctor to help them make the best decision.
Some people suggest that noninvasive measures such as targeted exercises can help lift saggy breasts. Exercises that focus on the chest include pushups, chest presses, and the plank. However, doctors find it challenging to recommend such exercises, as researchers have not investigated them for this purpose in clinical studies.
Wearing a supportive bra may also help improve the appearance of saggy breasts, but there is no evidence to suggest that a bra can prevent or reverse breast ptosis.
Carrying excess weight can be a cause of breast ptosis. Therefore, losing weight by adopting a healthful diet may help improve the appearance of the breasts. Muscle training and aerobic exercise can also help people manage their weight.
Saggy breasts, or breast ptosis, may occur with age, but some additional factors can also have an effect.
Excess weight is one contributing factor for breast ptosis. Adopting a healthful diet and an active lifestyle can help people manage their weight and lower their likelihood of developing saggy breasts.
Women who have had multiple pregnancies may also be likely to experience breast ptosis.
Noninvasive strategies to improve the appearance of saggy breasts may be effective, but researchers have not rigorously studied these methods.