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One survey revealed that 80 percent of women are unhappy with their breasts in some way. Size — "too big" or "too small" — and asymmetry are the most common aesthetic complaints women will have about their breasts, but the nipple and the tissue that immediately surrounds it, the areola, also play a very significant role in the overall appearance of the breasts.  

What Are The Areolae?

In medical terminology, any circular area of skin that differs from the surrounding tissue can be referred to as an areola — take the inflamed area surrounding a mosquito bite, for instance. The word "areola" is typically used to refer to the skin around the nipples, however. 

Women's areolae aren't "just there", they indeed play several important roles. The areolae support the nipples and contain multiple glands that serve to keep the nipple area hydrated in lactating mothers. These glands can often be seen as "small bumps" on the areola's surface, especially during pregnancy. In addition to supporting the nipples, your areolae also play a very practical role — have you ever noticed how a newborn, when placed on its mother's abdomen, will gradually crawl up, start investigating the area around the mother's breasts, and simply latch on to nurse? Newborn eyesight is truly very limited, and the areola acts as a "bright beacon" that shows the newborn the way to the milk. 

How Big Should The Areolae Be?

The short answer is that, just as no one breast is the same (no, not even within the same woman), no two areolae are the same either. We can generally safely say that the areolae of adult women are larger than those of men as well as those of pre-pubescent girls. While the average diameter of an areola in a sexually mature woman is 1.5 inches, men have an average areola size of 1.1 inches. This isn't an exact science, because most areolae aren't strictly circular but in fact slightly elliptical. 

And the color? Well, areolae are almost always darker than a person's surrounding skin. They range from very pale pink to nearly completely black, depending on the person's skin color. 

Women's areolae also typically become slightly (or in some cases significantly) bigger when they are pregnant or breastfeeding, and they may never return to their previous size after the breastfeeding period has come to an end. 

Is There Anything Wrong With Your Areolae?

As a midwife, I am all too aware that areolae and breasts in general are as individual as the women they come with! Enough women are concerned about the size of their areolae that a surgical intervention, called periareolar reduction, exists to reduce their size. This is often a good option for women who are also undergoing breast reduction surgery or breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy. Should you not have undergone or be about to undergo either, I suggest that, if you feel self-conscious about your areolae, you have no reason to. All breasts are beautiful in their very own way, and yours are uniquely yours. If your partner doesn't like your breasts exactly the way they are, they are the one with a problem, not you.

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