A question that I frequently get from young patients looking for a breast augmentation procedure is related to breast implants and breastfeeding. While I usually recommend my patients to postpone the surgery for breast augmentation until their family is complete, ulterior pregnancies can occur and patients worry about the consequences. This is why in this article we will discuss if it is safe for breastfeeding while having breast implants.
Breastfeeding and breast implants
When you want to breastfeed your baby (and especially if you are a mother for the first time), you might have a lot of questions about this. But when you also have breast implants, your questions might multiply exponentially. Some patients ask even from the preoperative consultation if breastfeeding is possible or recommended, and this is a very good thing. Next, we will discuss different aspects of breast implant surgery and its relation to breastfeeding.
1. The ability to breastfeed after breast implant surgery
In a vast majority of cases, patients undergoing a breast augmentation with implants can breastfeed after the intervention; however, there are different scenarios. The placement of the implant (sub-glandular or sub-muscular) is of no importance when it comes to breastfeeding, but the surgical approach and the incision’s position can make a difference.
When an inframammary or a trans-axillary incision is made to insert the implant, the milk duct network is preserved and not injured during the surgery. This means that there is no risk for the patient not to be able to breastfeed because of breast augmentation.
Things can be a bit different when it comes to the peri-areolar approach. This incision goes around the circumference of the areola. It is a more delicate approach when it comes to keeping the milk ducts intact, and an experienced and cautious plastic surgeon might avoid sectioning of the ducts, but it is never a guarantee. When this incision is performed, the patient might notice difficulties in breastfeeding or an impossibility to breastfeed, especially if the pregnancy occurred shortly after the procedure and the nipple and areola complex haven’t fully regained their initial sensitivity.
Many patients who have breast implants get them after a breast lift. This means that the surgical approach is different and breast lift techniques were used as well. During a breast lift or a breast reduction, the areola and nipple complex might have been moved upwards, and a small area of the mammary gland can be severed or removed (during breast reduction). The techniques used here and the severity of the breast ptosis are important factors to determine whether breastfeeding will be possible or not after the procedure.
These are just some cases and the reason why it is important to discuss all aspects and details of the procedure with your plastic surgeon before scheduling your intervention. If you have a moderate or severe breast ptosis and it is important for you to be able to breastfeed, your plastic surgeon might advise you to have your family complete before considering this type of intervention.
2. Is it safe to breastfeed while having implants?
The breast implants we use in the United States are FDA-approved. This means there are no health risks related to inserting them in your body. If they are of no risk for you, there is also no risk for the baby. Several tests have been conducted and the results have shown that having breast implants doesn’t make pregnancy or breastfeeding unsafe for the baby.
Some patients are concerned about the occurrence of a leak or a rupture in their implants during breastfeeding and whether this will affect the baby. In extraordinary conditions, the implants can leak or rupture. When this happens if the patient has saline solution implants, the body will absorb the liquid and is completely safe. The result is a deflated breast and a visible aesthetic imperfection; however, with no negative impact on the baby or breastfeeding.
A silicone implant is more difficult to notice if it ruptured and leaking. But even if this would be the case, the highly cohesive gel that is inside the silicone shell will just concentrate on the edges of the implant and not migrate in the body. This means that once again, there is no risk for the mother or the baby, aside from an aesthetic flaw.
Breastfeeding while having breast implants is completely safe for you and the baby, and we have numerous studies to provide proof for this. However, a pregnancy and breastfeeding can have a negative impact on the result of the breast augmentation and can even alter the aesthetic outcome to a degree, and additional surgery might be required.
The changes in the aesthetic results depend on the susceptibility of each individual (e.g. skin quality), the importance of the initial mammary gland, the implanted volume, but also weight variations and breastfeeding methods. In theory, if you have a little mammary gland, few variations in weight and considerably big implants, there will be few changes in the results of the breast augmentation. If you have a lot of mammary gland, a small volume of implants, large variations in weight and breast volume during breastfeeding, ptosis after breastfeeding can occur.
Patients who desire to bear more children in the future are advised to postpone a breast augmentation procedure with implants until their family is complete. But the reasons behind this recommendation are not related to the safety of pregnancy and breastfeeding with implants, but to the necessity of preserving the aesthetic results after the procedure for as long as possible.
As studies have shown, it is safe to have a pregnancy and breastfeed while having breast implants as they won’t affect you or the baby in any way. The ability to breastfeed can be influenced by the surgical approach chosen for the breast augmentation.
In the rare cases that a complication occurs such as an implant rupture or leaking, it is recommended to wait until you are finished with breastfeeding before surgically correcting the issue.
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