So remember how I said that I keep reading that “there are few medical reasons” why a woman couldn’t breastfeed, but never saw any references for what those might be? Well, here’s one: hypoplasia.
Hypoplasia is a term most often used by plastic surgeons to describe breasts that haven’t developed fully. Sometimes described as “empty sacs,” hypoplastic breasts don’t look full and round. And the tissue that doesn’t develop during puberty may have trouble producing enough milk later.
I don’t think that hypoplasia and Mullerian anomalies are partners in crime, but hypoplasia can be caused by estrogen-mimicking chemicals like BPA and parabens in fragrances, shampoos, and other girly things. Good reasons to avoid them.
So I don’t know for sure that I have hypoplasia. Most obgyns don’t talk about it because it is truly more aesthetic than medical in its implications – that is, until you start breastfeeding. In fact, in one report I read it’s mainly women with hypoplasia who sign up for breast augmentation, feeling something was “off” about their breasts. If I asked a plastic surgeon I’d probably get an answer. Until then, this is all self-diagnosed – but with the photos available on the internet I’m pretty darn sure I’ve got this.
The main symptoms, if they can be called that, are:
Widely spaced breasts, over 1.5 inches apart (check)
Breast asymmetry, with one breast larger than the other (check)
Stretch marks on the breast (check)
Tubular breast shape (um, check?)
Really big areola
Absence of breast changes in pregnancy or post-partum (kind of)
Big breasts and little breasts alike can be hypoplastic. It’s the shape and placement that matters most. Finally, an explanation for why I always felt like a grown woman with a 12-year-old’s chest. Let me put it this way – I was always jealous of the way my friends could fill out shirts. A good push-up bra often gave me little cleavage, cleavage that usually went up, not together, making my boobs look like lumps of fat and not desirable objects. In fact, in order to get the kind of cleavage where my boobs would meet in the middle, I’d have to really force them together to the point of pain, and still I’d get nothing more than a line.
Don’t get me started on the lopsidedness. It’s only gotten worse with the pregnancies, and it would make me laugh more if it wasn’t so sad-looking.
“But you’re breastfeeding now, so why does this matter to me?” I’ll tell you why this matters. Consistent with the theme of this blog, know your body, your medical history, and get a thorough evaluation especially if you have trouble TTC. Some women with hypoplasia can successfully breastfeed, but not as easily as “normal” women. They need more support: physical, emotional, and moral. Their lactation consultant will want to be more aggressive about feelings, or be open to discuss supplementation if needed. And she will need to forgive herself for something she cannot change or control.