What are Cooper's Ligaments?

The Structures That Support and Shape the Breasts

Conceptual image of female breast anatomy.
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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. They provide support to the breasts and help them to maintain their shape. The Cooper's ligaments go from under the skin of the breast through and around the breast tissue and attach to the dense tissue that surrounds the chest muscles.

How Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Can Affect the Cooper's Ligaments

Over time, ligaments can stretch out and lose their shape. The Cooper's ligaments in your breast can begin to stretch out and droop during pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding. Many people believe that breastfeeding is to blame, but even if you don't breastfeed, the increase in the size and weight of your breasts during pregnancy can still strain and stretch the breast ligaments. Plus, the number of times you become pregnant can also affect the structural integrity of the Cooper's ligaments. Since the breasts grow with each pregnancy, there's more opportunity for stretching and loosening of the ligaments to occur.

Can You Stop the Cooper's Ligaments from Stretching?

You can't prevent your Cooper's ligaments from stretching out, but you can try to slow down the natural process and preserve the shape of your breasts for as long as you can.

It may help to wear a well-fitting, supportive bra while you're pregnant and breastfeeding. A good bra can help fight against gravity and support the ligaments as they work to hold up the extra weight of your fuller, heavier breasts. You can even wear a comfortable, supportive bra throughout the night for continued support.

But, you should not bind your breasts or choose underwire bras or bras that are too tight. Too much pressure on your breast tissue can lead to other breast issues such a plugged milk ducts and mastitis.

Cooper's Ligaments and Breast Sagging

Even if you have never been pregnant or had a baby, the Cooper's ligaments can stretch out, and the shape of your breasts will eventually change. That's because other factors also play a role in the ability of the Cooper's ligaments to maintain their shape. Weight gain, smoking, genetics, a higher body mass index (BMI), and your age can all influence and contribute to the stretching out of your breast ligaments and eventual sagging of your breasts.

Can You Fix or Repair Cooper's Ligaments?

The Cooper's ligaments in the breasts cannot be repaired or replaced. There is nothing you can do to reverse the stretching after the fact. Even surgically, the Cooper's ligament cannot be fixed or changed to make the breasts firm once again. However, there are surgical procedures that can reconstruct the shape of your breasts. If you are unhappy with your breasts due to sagging, you can find out more information about how a breast lift, breast implants, or a combination of both can bring your breasts back to a more pleasing shape and size.

 

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 Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Rinker B, Veneracion M, Walsh CP. Breast ptosis: causes and cure. Annals of plastic surgery. 2010 May 1;64(5):579-84.

Rinker B, Veneracion M, Walsh CP. The effect of breastfeeding on breast aesthetics. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 2008 Oct 31;28(5):534-7.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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