Let's talk about nipples!
When thinking of nipples, the image of everted (outtie) nipples might be the first image that comes to mind, but not all nipples point out! In fact, inverted nipples, or nipples that point inward, are much more common than you'd think.
Here are some things you might not know about inverted nipples:
Inverted nipples are often genetic and it can involve one or both nipples. Inverted nipples are most often genetic and appear this way due to a thickened, short, or underdeveloped lactiferous duct. The lactiferous ducts connect the breast gland to the nipple and allow for the passage of milk. When these ducts are shortened, they have a tethering effect on the nipple causing it to retract towards the breast.
As many as 10-20% of women have some degree of inverted nipples. A 1997 study about breastfeeding women found that nearly 10% of participants had inverted nipples.
- Unless the inverted nipples occur suddenly, which could be a sign of breast cancer, they are in no way a health problem. If you've always had inverted nipples, you're likely just fine.
Doctors grade inverted nipples according to three levels:
Grade I inverted nipples can "pop out" when exposed to cold or during arousal, or be manually popped out.
Grade II nipples can be pulled out, but not as easily as grade I and the nipple retracts quickly.
Grade III nipples are severely inverted and it is very difficult to pull them out manually.
- A nipple piercing can sometimes offer temporary improvement. Some people get nipple piercings in order to draw their inverted nipple out. Nipple piercing with a dumbbell or bar can be useful in elevating the nipple and stretching the ducts, which in some cases may provide some degree of improvement. However, once the piercing is removed, the nipple could retract again. A nipple piercing as a solution to an inverted nipple would most likely work best on women who have more mild inversion.
- There are surgical options to fix inverted nipples. The most common treatment divides the ducts that cause the nipple to pull inwards. However, this treatment makes it impossible to breastfeed, so be certain that that's something you're okay with before undergoing this procedure. And since this cosmetic surgery is usually not covered by insurance, the price will vary anywhere between hundreds or thousands of euros.
-Breastfeeding might be harder for you if you have inverted nipples. The milk ducts work normally in women with inverted nipples, however, getting the baby to latch onto flat or inverted nipples can sometimes be tricky. Seeing a lactation consultant to learn which techniques can help your baby latch better with your body. And sometimes inverted nipples even become everted through pregnancy!