Health And Wellness

From Perky To Saggy Boobs: How Your Breasts Change With Age

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smiling woman lying on her side

I have a confession to make. I've never been happy with the way my boobs look. Ever.

OK, so maybe a woman over the age of puberty being displeased with some aspect of her body isn't exactly news, but stick with me here ...

My breasts have gone through drastic changes as I've made my way through the aging process.

One day I was your typical flat-chested middle school pre-teen, then in high school, my perky breasts finally arrived (even if they but barely filled a B cup).

Now in my 40s, I'm shocked to look in the mirror and see saggy boobs staring back at me. (Yes, I know they don't have eyes, but you have to admit they do kind of look that way.)

The only time I was ever in love with how my breasts looked was during my pregnancies. Overnight, my boobs grew to gargantuan proportions, the skin stretched to rein them in. Of course, the rest of my body filled in right along with them, and for a few glorious months at a time, my breasts were absolutely perfect in my eyes.

And here's the irony of all ironies. As my female friends and I age, the discrepancies between us on the cleavage playing field seem to be leveling out.

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When I took my bra off in front my husband pre-motherhood, I was terribly self-conscious and worried that he would take one look at my small boobs and run for the fields — or for a woman with bigger, better breasts.

When I take my bra off now, I know my spouse has likely seen at least a few other women's bare breasts change with age and/or babies. I know mine really aren't all that bad as far as his current comparative memories go, so it's all good and fair!

Listen, change is a part of life, and no part of the body understands this reality more than a woman's breasts.

We're flat, then we're not. We're full and perky, then we're big and saggy.

We know men love them no matter their shape and size, because regardless of gender, there's no denying women's breasts are fascinating to pretty much everyone.

Our breasts share our journey through life. They embody not only what it means to be a woman, but what it also means to learn self-acceptance.

As we age, our breast tissue changes due to factors like diet, stage of life, hormones and genetics, with the most dramatic changes occur during momentous times such a pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause.

So if you're wondering how your perky boobs got so saggy (or when they will), here are 6 facts about how women's breast tissue changes with age.

1. Your breasts become less dense.

The density of.a woman's breasts is likely to change throughout her lifetime, with younger, thinner women typically having higher density and older, heavier women typically have less.

In addition to age and weight, other factors that affect breast density include genetics and family history, breastfeeding, menopause, and other hormonal shifts, such as those caused by birth control pills or hormone therapy.

According to the folks at Susan G. Komen, density has little to do with how firm a woman's breasts feel. In fact, the only way to determine the measure of density in a woman's breasts is through a mammogram.

It's important to know the density factor of your breasts as you age because, while the reasons for this are unclear, "women with high breast density have about a four to five times higher risk of breast cancer than women with low breast density."

2. Your breasts develop all kinds of lumps and bumps.

Most often, having some lumps or bumps in your breasts is normal. In fact, both teens and older women may notice lumps and bumps in various areas of their breasts.

The issue could be fibrocystic breast tissue, a normal condition found in somewhere around half of all women of menstruating age. Fibrocystic breast may be tender to the touch, particularly around the time of your menstrual cycle.

Lumpy breasts could also be caused by breast calcifications, which means a build up of calcium in the breast tissue. This is also common, particularly after menopause.

Another common cause of lumpiness is breast cysts, usually round or oval shaped fluid-filled sacs that are most common between the ages of 35-50, but that can arise at any time.

Fibrocystic breast tissue, calcifications and breast cysts are all typically benign, but it's important to check with a medical professional if you experience any of the following:

  • New lumps that don't go away after your period begins, or changes to previously existing one
  • Nipple discharge
  • Continuous or worsening pain
  • Unexplained bruising, redness or other skin changes
  • A nipple that becomes inverted or otherwise abnormal

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3. Your breasts get saggy.

Sometimes referred to as sagging, I prefer to think of this the way I think of fruit ripening on a vine. As we age, our skin becomes less elastic and gravity causes it to stretch.

Whereas many people think breastfeeding and wearing unsupportive daytime bras are to blame for older women's droopy breasts, research shows these are only myths.

Saggy breasts are more likely caused by stretching of the connective tissue known as Cooper's ligaments over time, yo-yo dieting, a high BMI, high impact exercise without a supportive sports bra, your breast tissue to fat ratio, smoking, and plain old genetics.

4. Your breasts get softer.

It's common for women of a certain age to say their breasts feel empty, or at least not as perky as they once were.

When a woman enters perimenopause or menopause, her lower estrogen levels cause a process called Involution, during which the milk-producing glands known as lobules shut down and breast tissue is replaced by fat. This transition creates softer breasts which appear less full.

On the positive side, researchers from the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center found that women who go through complete involution have a 50% lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Although softer breasts are more common among older women, younger women may also experience their breasts softening at times due to hormonal changes. Weight gain can also cause softness due to extra fat being stored in a similar fashion.

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5. Your breasts shape-shift.

Environmental factors, lifestyle, and activity can all change the shape of your breasts over time.

Exercises targeting your chest muscles can provide a little boost to the area overall, but there will still likely be a notable difference between the way a woman's breasts looked in her teen years as compared to they way they look in middle age.

Over time, women may also develop stretch marks, wrinkles, and a widened space between their breasts.

6. Your breasts get bigger — or smaller.

As breasts age they may change not only change shape, but also size.

A woman's breasts don't fully develop until she reaches her mid-20s. When she becomes pregnant, her breasts typically increase in size, and after giving birth, whether or not she breastfeeds, her breasts may never return back to their pre-pregnancy size.

Since some women gain weight over time as their metabolism slows, their breasts may get bigger as they age.

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