Nipples are small projections of the skin which are surrounded by an area of pigmented skin known as the areola.
The primary, physical reason we have nipples is to breast feed. However, being surrounded by nerve endings and blood vessels they are also a place of pleasure, which we’re sure you’re all aware of!
Erect or inverted
When stimulated by touch, friction, temperature, or through sexual arousal, blood flowing through the vessels often causes the nipples to become erect and more sensitive. Nipples that are tucked into the breast are called inverted nipples.
If your nipple has been inverted for as long as you can remember, it’s probably nothing to worry about; it’s just the way you are. However, if your nipple suddenly becomes inverted, it could be a sign of something more serious so get it checked out.
For women who don’t have the natural tweaked effect of erected nipples, yet would like them, there are a few tricks you could try.
You could place an ice cube wrapped in a flannel on your areola, a breast pump or try stroking the areola with warm hands to bring the nipple out. Alternatively you could wear breast shields. If this doesn’t work, it is possible to have a small operation.
This may however cause difficulty if you want to breastfeed in the future and is costly, so discuss this further with a health professional.
Hairs around the nipple are quite common and nothing to be concerned by. However, if you’d rather be hair free, you can pull them out with tweezers, but this can cause irritation, alternatively you could cut them off close to the skin.
Nipple discharge is fairly common and it is usually harmless. In fact, most women can squeeze some discharge out of their nipples, though we don’t advise that you try!
Discharge may be whitish, yellow-green or almost black.
Nipple discharge can however be a symptom of breast cancer, particularly if it’s bloodstained, so it is advised to visit your doctor if you experience any discharge.
Many women choose to pierce their nipples because they like the way it looks.
Nipple piercings are also said to provide constant stimulation, and of course they will give your partner something extra to play with during sex! However, it can be a painful piercing to have, and like any open wound, there is risk of infection so be careful!
If you have any concerns about your nipples then contact a health professional to put your mind at ease – but the likelihood is that they’ll be perfectly normal, so enjoy them!
(Interestingly it’s considered that the Milky Way is so named, because the ancient Greeks thought it was made from drops of milk from the breasts of the Greek goddess Hera.)