Flat or inverted nipples are both an aesthetic problem and physiological, especially in the case of women who want to breastfeed their baby but there are a few methods that can help stimulate the nipple so that it pops out again.
What are inverted or flat nipples?
Breast inversion is when the nipple no longer protrudes from the breast and is held within the breast tissue. Some nipples will ‘pop out’ following stimulation or changes in the weather. Others may be permanently inverted. There is also an inverted nipple know as a flat nipple, which lies against the areola instead of sticking out.
Nonsurgical treatment of inverted or flat nipples
There are two common treatments prescribed to women with flat or inverted nipples but both have their own risks, especially for pregnant women.
1) Hoffman exercises: this consists of gently holding the nipples for a few seconds and stretching them out with circular motions. However, the risk of this is the production of oxytocin, which can lead to premature labour in pregnancy. It can also create colostrum, which can lead to cases of mastitis during pregnancy and infections in the breast.
2) Breast shells: these are hollow, light plastic disks worn inside the bra and come in different shapes to stretch and correct the nipples, or to prepare for breastfeeding. They can cause the same problems as Hoffman exercises.
Surgical treatment for inverted or flat nipples
One effective solution is surgery on the inverted nipples. The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic and, depending on the age of the patient, it is able to preserve the lactiferous ducts to enable breast feeding in the future.
Risks of surgical treatment on inverted or flat nipples:
- alteration to the sensitivity of the nipple
- problems with scarring
- pain or discomfort
- modifications in colouring
- changes in symmetry of the two nipples
Thread lift for inverted or flat nipples
An innovative technique is a thread lift of the nipples, which does not leave a scar since it is done without surgery and local anaesthetic. This is a treatment that only presents benefits and few of the risks mentioned above. One to three tensioning threads are applied through the puncture of a needle and they pull out the flat nipple. There is little chance of infection and scarring is avoided.