What It's Really Like to Have a Breast Reduction
Reasons for seeking a surgical remedy for larger breasts vary from person to person. Some choose to undergo a breast reduction because they are disatisfied with the size and shape, while others tend to experience health problems, such as back pain and headaches. We spoke to three female patients who decided to undergo breast reduction surgery for different reasons and learned what each of their surgical journeys was really like.
Genni - Palm Springs, CA
Genni was 16 when she first started to feel self-conscious about the size of her breasts; she would compare herself to her friends and classmates and started to feel unhappy about how she looked. She said, “Initially I loved having bigger boobs than my friends, they were all jealous of how quickly mine came in and of how grown up they made me look. But as they grew bigger they started to be the first thing anyone would notice about me, and they made clothes shopping a nightmare and just generally made me feel down about how I looked. I’d considered surgery in my late teens, but I backed out at the time. I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision and ended up going ahead when I was 26.”
AEDIT: What were your main concerns before having the procedure?
Genni: Aside from the usual anesthesia-related concerns, I was anxious that I’d pick the wrong final size for my breasts. I had always thought I wanted to be a C cup, but after discussing my options with my surgeon, I decided to go for a D cup. I then spent weeks going back and forth in my mind about whether or not that would still be too big for me, but I also didn’t want to go too small! I ended up following my surgeon’s advice, he told me about the importance of them being proportionate to my body, and I think I made the right decision.
AEDIT: How was the procedure itself for you?
Genni: I went to the clinic early on the day of my surgery. The nurses ran a few tests, and I saw my surgeon, who came to discuss the procedure again and to check about the size I wanted, then he drew markings on me to be used during the surgery. When it was time for the procedure an anesthetist fixed me up to an IV and after about three minutes or so I was out. When I woke up, I was quite out of it! But I wasn’t in any pain and came around pretty quickly. I went home about three hours after the surgery.
AEDIT: How did your recovery compare to what you’d expected?
Genni: For me, it was far more emotional than I’d thought it would be. I had been pretty focused on preparing myself physically, but I hadn’t really addressed how I would cope with the procedure emotionally. There was a period when I didn’t feel like my new boobs were mine, they felt very foreign on my body. It turned out I just needed to give myself time to heal and to process the changes, and it all came together after a couple of months.
Louise - Phoenix, AZ
Having spent most of her adult life suffering from chronic back pain and headaches, Louise underwent breast reduction surgery last year in the hope of reducing her pain: “I was so tired of being in pain from my large chest. People always talk about being unhappy about the size of their boobs, but I was more bothered by the weight. I knew I needed to do something about it and I wanted to improve how they looked too, so surgery made the most sense for my circumstances.”
AEDIT: Could you talk us through your initial consultation?
Louise: When I first met my surgeon I wanted to discuss less invasive options, I’d read about liposuction being used to remove fat from breast tissue as I was concerned about the scarring and recovery time associated with having a breast reduction. After discussing the results I wanted (less weight and a nicer shape) my surgeon recommended I go ahead with a more traditional breast reduction. He reassured me that the scarring would be tidy and that she would make sure it wouldn’t be visible when I wear a bra or bikini top. We discussed my ideal size and I decided on a D cup, which would already be a good reduction from the G cup I was starting out with.
AEDIT: What did you do to prepare for the procedure?
Louise: I arranged my procedure so that my kids would be on summer break, I booked their two weeks at camp to coincide for when I would be recovering so I wouldn’t have to take care of them myself while I was feeling fragile. I bought myself some button-down tops so that I wouldn’t hurt myself when getting changed. Possibly an unusual one, but I also took the opportunity to upgrade my air conditioning system, I really didn’t want to be feeling hot if I was in pain, so I made sure all of that was sorted before the surgery! In terms of cleaning, I asked my housekeeper to drop by for some extra hours so that I wouldn’t have to worry about doing any chores or laundry. It turned out that the pain was manageable and I could probably have done more than I did, but I was pleased that I’d taken care of it all just in case.
AEDIT: How was your recovery from surgery?
Louise: It went much smoother than I’d expected. I looked at photos of scarring and recovery progress photos online before the procedure and expected the swelling to be very painful. The first two days were very uncomfortable, but I kept up with the medication given to me by the clinic and was able to sleep most of the time, so it wasn’t so bad. After that, the area mainly felt quite tight, and I got tired more easily than usual. I just made the most of my self-imposed break and caught up on movies! After a week I had my bandages taken off, the swelling looked pretty gross to be honest, but I had expected that from what I’d researched. I did have a flash of doubt at that point, but the nurse reassured me and told me things would settle down in time. After about two months the results started to show properly and ever since I’ve been so happy with what my surgeon achieved, the procedure has completely changed my life.
Zoe - Rochester, NY
As a keen runner, Zoe started to look into having breast reduction surgery when her natural breast size was preventing her from achieving her fitness goals and made running uncomfortable. The former high school athlete wanted to have her surgery as soon as possible so that she could pursue her activities competitively while at college: “If I hadn’t been so involved in sports I might have waited a bit longer before having the surgery. I knew that I needed to get it done to be able to continue enjoying sports like I did before my boobs reached the size they were before surgery.”
AEDIT: How was your consultation with your surgeon?
Zoe: It went really well. I was nervous, but I had done my research about which physician to consult near me. I took my mom with me because I wanted someone there in case I forgot to ask an important question or didn’t pick up on every detail. It was a bit overwhelming but all in all a good experience. I had a lot of questions about recovery and how long it would take me to get back to sports, it wasn’t as long as I’d expected either so I was pleased about that! I asked about how much pain I could expect to be in if there were any steps I could take to speed up my recovery and my mom had some questions about the effects of surgery if I wanted to breastfeed when I’m older. I felt really comfortable with my surgeon, and in the clinic itself, that was super important to me.
AEDIT: Do you have any advice for future breast reduction patients?
Zoe: I wish someone had told me just how much easier life would be after the surgery. It may sound dumb to other people, but everything from choosing clothes to running up stairs is just easy now, I never have to think ‘will I be able to do that?' - It’s refreshing!
AEDIT: If you could go back in time, would you still go ahead with the procedure?
Zoe: I can’t say this strongly enough, but absolutely! It has changed my life in so many ways I hadn’t thought it would. My biggest post-surgery victory is that I can work out wearing only one sports bra now, which any big boobed girl will tell you is amazing. I went from an F to a C cup, I’m petite and my natural boobs were completely out of proportion. I feel more confident, I am able to do any of the activities I want to, I don’t feel self-conscious when I’m on the beach or wearing sundresses. It’s been awesome.