Whether you're concerned about breastfeeding successfully or just a bit embarrassed in intimate situations, you should know there is help for inverted nipples. In most cases, a simple, nearly painless procedure can bring nipples out of hiding.
Inverted nipples sink inward toward the breast instead of pointing outward. There are varying levels of severity, starting with those that "come out" (or become "everted"), with stimulation or cold temperatures. These are nipples some people call "shy nipples." In the most severe cases, nipples are firmly inverted and never project outward. Women with shy nipples are often successful in breastfeeding, while women whose nipples are difficult or impossible to evert tend to struggle to breastfeed successfully.
Breastfeeding itself can cause nipple inversion if significant scar tissue builds up over time. However, in most cases inverted nipples are present at birth. Many women have inverted nipples on both breasts, occasionally only one nipple is inverted.
To correct inverted nipples, a physician will snip tissue or small fiber strands that pull the nipple inward. Care must be taken to leave all milk ducts intact. The surgeon will then place sutures to close the small wounds and help ensure nipples remain in the everted position after healing. Most often the simple procedure can be done under local anesthesia or local anesthesia with intravenous sedation. Healing takes several days and scars are typically not noticeable at all.
If you're interested in finding out more, be sure to consult a surgeon with plenty of experience in nipple surgery. Correcting inverted nipples is not the riskiest of procedures, but if not performed with skill and experience, nipples can return to the inverted position. As always, do your research!