What Are Cooper's Ligaments?

The Supporting Structures of The Breast

EncyclopediaBritannicaUIGGettyBreastLigaments.jpg
Anatomy of the breast including the suspensory ligaments, also known as Cooper's ligaments. Encyclopedia Britannica/UIG/Getty Images

Ligaments are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that keep joints together, connect bones and cartilage, or hold certain parts of the body in place. The Cooper's ligaments, also called the suspensory ligaments of Cooper, are located in the breast. Since the breast does not have any muscles located within it -the chest muscles are located under and behind the breast- the cooper's ligaments provide the breast with support, and help the breast to maintain it's shape.

Over time, ligaments can stretch out and lose their shape. The Cooper's ligaments in your breast can begin to droop and stretch out during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to the increase in size and weight of your breasts. To prevent the stretching of your Cooper's ligaments and try to preserve the shape of your breasts, you can wear a properly fitted, supportive bra while you are pregnant and breastfeed to support the extra weight of your fuller, heavier breasts. You can even wear a comfortable, supportive bra throughout the night for extra support. However, you should avoid underwire bras or bras that are too tight. They could put pressure on your breast tissue which can lead to breast issues such as plugged milk ducts and mastitis.

Other factors play an important role in the ability of the Cooper's ligaments to maintain their shape, as well. Weight gain, smoking, genetics, the number of pregnancies you have, and your age can all influence and contribute to the stretching out of your breast ligaments and eventual sagging of your breasts.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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