The entire body undergoes a whole slew of changes during pregnancy, from feet growing a size or two to hair getting thicker. The breasts change, too, thanks to hormonal fluctuations and the body readying itself for breastfeeding. But what if you've already changed your breasts without having a baby? What happens to breast implants during pregnancy?
The American Pregnancy Association noted that breast changes during pregnancy occur as hormones change, causing enlargement, tenderness, darkened veins, and more. Not every woman will experience all of these things, but both women with implants and those without will notice some changes.
“You’re going to notice some increase in weight and density as a result of the hormonal changes happening,” said Danielle Jones, MD, an OB-GYN at Baylor Scott & White Health in College Station, Texas, during an interview with Romper. “It’s not uncommon for women to notice they’re lactating during pregnancy and especially before delivery. A lot of women notice an increase in breast size due to growth of the milk ducts to allow for milk production.”
Plastic surgeons agree that the implants themselves remain stable during pregnancy, and it’s the breast itself that’s actually changing. Ankit R. Desai, FACS, MD, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at North Florida Surgeons and faculty member at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Florida, explains this during an interview with Romper.
“Implants themselves don’t change,” says Desai. “What changes is the breast itself. You won’t see much in the sense of implants moving or shifting position, but the overlying breast tissue over the top will get larger. Most discomfort that can occur is due to the engorgement that occurs with milk production. The implants, most of the time, are not contributing to any pressure-related phenomenon.”
Desai adds that the amount of physical change to the breasts during pregnancy depends largely on a woman’s breast size prior to augmentation. Women with larger cup sizes prior to getting implants may see more drooping of the breasts after pregnancy, but this varies between women.
“The amount of breast change is directly proportionate to their pre-augmentation breast size,” he says. “Someone with an A-cup breast will have fewer changes because she has fewer glands and less tissue to stretch than someone with a C-cup breast. The more breast tissue they have, the more they can engorge with milk, and when the milk goes away, you can have loss of volume in the total breast. Ptosis is basically some drooping of the breast, and it may droop over the top of the implant.”
But after the baby’s birth, Mom’s body and breasts will begin returning to normal. “It depends on whether or not someone is breastfeeding, because physiologic changes within the breast will stay as long as you’re feeding the baby. Otherwise, you would anticipate you’ll get to your postpartum look within six to 12 weeks. For women nursing, it would probably be after the baby weans,” says Jones.
Once a woman has delivered her baby or ceased breastfeeding, she may be considering corrective procedures if she is no longer happy with the appearance of her breasts and implants. Surgeons like Marc Anthony Serret, MD, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Baylor Scott & White Health, suggest giving the body time to rest and return to normal before making these decisions.
“Sometimes a woman’s breast will regress back to the way it was, and other women’s may not. Typically, final changes relative to contouring, or scarring changes, usually occur after six to 12 months, so waiting would make sense to allow the body time for those changes to occur before rushing to have revision you perhaps wouldn’t have needed,” Serret explains in an interview with Romper.
Revisions may not be necessary for everyone, and the appearance of breast implants after pregnancy will differ for every woman. Serret adds that studies have found breastfeeding won’t contribute to sagging for women with implants.
“The thing influencing the final outcome of whether revisions are needed are just hormonal changes and how the breast decides to change over time. That is woman-specific. Revisions may be needed for certain women depending on the need for tightening of skin or repositioning. When women breastfeed, typically that doesn’t influence the need for a lift. Comparison studies have found that breastfeeding is still a valuable and safe thing to do for women with implants, and that will not affect cosmetic changes,” he said.
Should women considering breast augmentation who want to have children in the future consider a certain type of implant over others? Can silicone or saline implants reduce the need for revision surgeries following pregnancy? “I don’t think we’ve seen any one type make a difference,” says Desai. “They may want to avoid incisions around the nipple and areolar complex to preserve the ability to breastfeed.”
While Jones’ patients with implants have not complained of any discomfort during pregnancy, she says they share a common concern about lactation. “One of the more common worries women have is if there will be difficulty with breastfeeding. Sometimes women do [have difficulty], but more often than not, women who want to breastfeed are able to do so even if they’ve had breast implants,” she explains.
Medical research and the majority of physicians agree that breastfeeding with implants is safe. However, breast pump manufacturer Medela’s website cites research which found that women with implants may be more susceptible to developing mastitis, an inflammation of the breast tissue, which sometimes comes with an infection.
“It’s important to still continue the support of breastfeeding, and I don’t think breastfeeding influences the degree of sagging. It’s still a safe and rewarding thing to continue if a woman is interested in doing that,” says Serret, adding that women considering implants should work with a qualified surgeon. “Board certification is always an important element when dealing with a plastic surgeon. Do your homework and make sure you’re working with someone well-versed in taking care of many kinds of patients who can help navigate that for you.”