Pregnancy and breastfeeding can change the shape, size, and look of your breasts — so if you have breast implants and you’re pregnant (or you’re thinking about becoming pregnant), it’s only natural to have questions.
Here’s a look at some frequently asked questions — and more importantly, their answers.
The implants themselves will be fine — even as breast tissue grows and changes with rising progesterone and estrogen levels during pregnancy.
“Breast implants are designed to be resilient and resistant to deflating, ruptures, and leakages,” explains Dr. Samuel Lin, plastic surgeon and an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. “The pressure caused by growing breast tissue is very unlikely to cause implants to rupture and change shape.”
However, the changes in your breast tissue, coupled with natural weight gain during pregnancy, can sometimes weaken breast tissue because your breasts expand, then contract. This can make them change shape or sag for some people — though not everyone — which might change the look of your breasts even with implants.
“In general, it is best to be fully healed after surgery before getting pregnant,” explains Dr. Constance Chen, plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction specialist. “That said, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to become fully healed after surgery and it takes 9 months from conception to delivery, so it’s unlikely for surgery to interfere with pregnancy unless you have surgery during pregnancy.”
Still, if you wait 3 to 6 months after the surgery to get pregnant, explains Lin, it “allows your breasts to better withstand the changes associated with pregnancy.”
If you do get pregnant soon after your surgery, let your surgeon and your obstetrician know so they can monitor you and minimize any risks of complications.
The short answer: yes — with a few exceptions.
“During breast augmentation surgery, breast implants are placed in a space either under your breast tissue or under your chest muscles in a way that doesn’t interfere with mammary duct function,” explains Lin. “Therefore, your body should be able to produce breast milk postpartum and you should be able to breastfeed the same way as you would without implants.”
However, it depends on how the surgery was performed.
If an incision is made across your areolae (i.e. the darker part of your breasts) or nipples during surgery, some of your milk ducts might be cut, which could impact milk production.
If your implants are right under your glandular tissue (and on top of your chest muscle), it might also impact how much milk you’re able to produce, though not always.
It also depends on why you got your breast augmentation surgery. You might not have the glandular tissue needed to make milk — implant or no implant if your breasts:
- never developed
- were tuberous in shape
- spaced far apart
Also, says Lin, some people “lose some sensation to parts of their breasts or nipples from their breast augmentation procedure and this may lead to some difficulties with nursing.”
This happens when your nerves around your nipple get damaged during the surgery, meaning you’re less able to feel your baby suckling at your breast. But these nerves are important to breastfeeding because they cause the release of your hormones prolactin (which triggers milk production) and oxytocin (which triggers letdown).
It’s safe to breastfeed though — if you can do it.
Maybe, but it won’t be because of your breast implants.
“Due to natural hormonal changes, your breasts grow and change during pregnancy and in the months following pregnancy,” explains Lin. “During breast enlargement, you skin surface area also grows [and] sagging can occur as a result of excess skin that remains after the immediate postpartum period is over and breasts reduce closer to pre-pregnancy size.”
In addition, skin and breast tissue can become less firm following pregnancy.
However, despite these changes, Lin explains, “minimal to no changes should occur to the breast implant.”
Instead, it appears that the following factors all play a role in how your breasts will change — or sag — postpartum:
- pregnancy weight gain
- length of breastfeeding
- the number of pregnancies
“There are several procedures, such as breast lift surgery, that can restore the youthful appearance of your breasts,” says Lin.
That’s true whether you’ve been pregnant or not. In fact, “about 20 percent of females have their implants replaced about once every 10 years,” Lin says, because breast implant size, shape, and position can change over time.
Replacing your implants with the same or different sizes can restore the look of your breasts before your pregnancy.
You can also pair the replacement of your implants with a breast lift (mastopexy) to center your breast tissue on the implant and reduce the appearance of sagging.
You can also get a breast reduction.
“If you’d like implant revision surgery, your plastic surgeon will work with you to achieve the results you desire,” Lin says.
Ultimately, that’s up to you. Unless you’re actively trying to get pregnant right now (in which case you probably do want to wait), you can get implants whenever you want.
“The decision about whether to get implants and when to get [them] is a personal decision,” says Lin. “Everyone has different health histories, goals, and priorities in life that may help determine the best time for them to get breast implants.”
If you want them before having children, that’s OK.
“It’s possible to get breast implants before having children and have healthy pregnancies,” Lin continues. “It’s also possible to get breast implants with a breast lift after having children with great results.”
Breast implants always pose some risks, regardless of whether you’re pregnant and breastfeeding.
Sometimes, it isn’t easy to know if implants rupture right away because they can leak slowly.
Another side effect is capsular contracture, which is the formation of scar tissue inside your breast that causes your implant to:
- change shape
- become painful or more visible
Rare complications also include chest pain and shortness of breath.
There’s also the risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare blood cell cancer that’s been associated with textured silicone implants, especially in people who have had them for a long time.
Pregnancy shouldn’t affect your implants, though it’s normal for your breasts to change during and after your pregnancy, which can lead you to be less happy with your breasts postpartum.
Most people are also able to safely and successfully breastfeed with implants.
If you’re unhappy with your implants after pregnancy, or if you have concerns about breastfeeding, talk with a doctor — they’ll be able to offer you guidance.