health

"I will never regret it": 7 women share what it's really like to have a breast reduction.

“I remember lifting my blanket and my chest looked flat. I was so excited. I don’t think you can quite understand the emotional and psychological impact unless you’ve lived it yourself.”

When we asked women to explain exactly what it’s like to make the decision to have, and then actually have, a breast reduction, the overwhelming response was one of relief.

One likened it to having bricks lifted off your chest. Another said, before undergoing breast reduction surgery at 17, she felt like she was looking at a 35-year-old woman’s body, after breastfeeding, when she saw her reflection in the mirror.

While breast reductions and breast lifts may have been taboo a decade ago, more and more women are using the surgical procedure – which The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Inc (ASPS) defines as reducing the size of overly large breasts – to take control of their own bodies.

In the 2017-2018 financial years, 11,886 individual breast reduction claims were made, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows. That number has increased by 1,289 from 2016-2017, and is more than 2000 greater than it was five years ago.

Women of all ages are getting breast reductions – the stats show the procedure is most common among women aged 45-54, followed closely by 35-44 and 15-24.

While we’re here and talking about our breast health, here’s a recap of some of the many shapes and sizes breasts come in – perky, saggy, uneven and everything in between. Post continues after video.

Video by MWN

For the women we spoke to having a breast reduction, they felt they had always been defined by their breasts. Their breasts entered rooms before they did, wouldn’t fit into the clothes they wanted to wear, attracted attention they didn’t ask for, and, in some cases, caused severe neck, shoulder and back pain.

They were also often the target of envy, something 24-year-old Alexia could never understand. Who would want to carry the physical and emotional burden of large breasts, literally, on their chest?

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“I’ve always identified myself as being the girl with the big boobs, they were always envied and I never knew why… It took me a while to ask myself ‘why should I suffer any longer purely because others like them/want them?'” she said.

“My boobs had been part of my identity for so long, but I finally realised there was a lot more to me than my physical appearance and I should let people see who I truly am.”

Breast reduction surgery is a major surgery. Even with Medicare, it’s expensive. The procedure, which removes removes excess breast fat, glandular tissue and skin in an effort to reduce the physical discomfort and emotional load of overly large breasts, may require a hospital stay and weeks of recovery.

Reading the stats and fact sheets is one thing, but what is it really like to have breast reduction surgery? What are the things women grapple with when making the decision, what are their fears and worries? And did they feel judged or conflicted about having a health procedure that still falls under the umbrella of ‘plastic surgery’, and the stigma that comes with that?

To find out, we asked seven women to share their experience of having a breast reduction. From an 18-year-old who just wanted to wear a backless dress at her formal, to a woman in her fifties who spent a lifetime being known for her boobs, these are their candid and honest stories.

Mackenzie, 18.

mackenzie-before-breast-reduction
Mackenzie before her breast reduction surgery. Image: Supplied.
mackenzie-breast-reduction
"Young women should never feel ashamed for wanting a breast reduction, it isn’t a sexual thing and it's made my life so much richer." Image: Supplied.
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I was 17 when I went for my consultation and subsequent surgery. My story started when I was 12 years old and had an E cup bust, which further grew to a H cup. I decided to have the surgery because I wanted to. I didn’t feel like my breasts, which were very saggy and heavy, looked like a 17-year-old's. What I saw when I looked in the mirror was a 35-year-old's body post-kids, and that really affected me.

The surgeon explained that no matter how much weight I lost, my breasts would always look heavy and saggy. It made it hard for me to buy young women’s clothes, and exercise. My mum was the one who suggested getting a breast reduction to me. She saw that my breasts at their natural size didn’t suit me or my lifestyle, and knew it was something I needed.

Everyone who I told loved that I was doing something for myself and didn’t see it as a vanity thing, but as self-improvement. My surgery was amazing, I loved my surgeon and couldn’t have felt better about my choice. Post-op, I had no pain and I felt amazing, which is credited to me being young, fit and healthy.

I love my new shape and the surgery has my life so much better - I was able to wear a backless dress to my formal! I’ve never looked back as my new body has given me so much confidence. I feel younger and lighter, I have no regrets and am just so grateful to my family for supporting me through this journey. Young women should never feel ashamed for wanting a breast reduction, it isn’t a sexual thing and it's made my life so much richer.

Amy, 33.

I am 12 weeks post-op on a BR/BL (breast reduction/breast lift). As an adolescent, I developed quite large, pendulous breasts. Being away at boarding school didn’t help as I played a lot of sport and didn’t have anyone to remind me to wear a proper sports bra (ideally two!) so this compounded the ptosis (droop) and the strain on my neck.

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Throughout my twenties, I thought about a reduction but I really, truly wanted to get to a place where I could accept my body as it was. My mother had a breast reduction in her late teens and was firmly against me undergoing the procedure - she actually cried when I told her I was going through with it.

I was very lucky to have two friends who had undergone plastic surgery for different concerns, they were very supportive and understanding. Unfortunately, most other people I told scoffed at me and told me I was being vain. I don’t think you can quite understand the emotional and psychological impact of the situation unless you’ve lived it yourself.

Finally, at the age of 33, I was in a financial position to do something about it. I saw two highly recommended plastic surgeons who were thorough, patient and understanding. The procedure was straightforward, my recovery was textbook. However, psychologically it took a huge toll on me. No one tells you about the emotional roller coaster you go through during recovery! I found a lovely support group on Facebook that helped enormously, as did my lovely surgeon and his office team who were responsive and reassuring throughout the recovery.

Whilst I have no regrets, I’m still not 100 per cent happy with my breasts. I suspect I need to do some work on my self-love and self-acceptance, as surgery fixed my physical woes but not my mental ones, though it has helped having lovely breasts at the end.

Lauren, 60.

I was a late bloomer as a teen, but then my breasts grew in my 20s. I was a size 6-8 with DD breasts, and I hated them as I get fed up with the attention, and how they impacted me physically as I'm a runner. I always planned on having a breast reduction, so I did at 40 after having two kids - it was purely for my own sense of self and comfort.

I begged my surgeon to be a B cup, but he told me he would only do a D cup. I was happy with the result, but my breasts grew back in perimenopause, so I went back for a second surgery at 52. My partner and my girlfriends were supportive, but most men I knew thought getting a breast reduction was a weird thing to do (go figure).

I went to the same plastic surgeon twice, and I was in the hospital for two days and had two weeks off. I didn't have any issues post-op - I didn't experience any loss of sensation and the scars have faded. I was happy with except for the fact he didn't listen to what I really wanted. I wish I had been listened to by the surgeon, especially the second time around as I made it clear my family are all big-breasted, even after menopause.

My breasts have grown back to a DD cup, but at the time, I was happy to have less male attention and not to have men talk to my chest. I felt better about wearing certain clothes and some people told me I looked much thinner, which I loved hearing at 40.

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I don't regret having the surgeries, but I'm now working with what I've got at 60 - I've realised the benefits weren't so important as I thought they were when I was younger.

Alexia, 24.

What does this picture show you? Those spots are scars from rubbing and rashes my G cups used to cause me. The white area under my bust is how much space they used to take up when I wore a bikini. Those hairs above my navel show the world my Greek heritage is nothing to be ashamed of. The covered stitches from surgery will soon join my spots in telling the story of how my body overcame and triumphed its obstacles ???????? Scars whether they’re from surgery, stretched skin, babies, injuries, or birthmarks, they tell a story and you should be proud - not ashamed - to let your story be told. Your scars make you more unique and more beautiful in this world, because it’s a world full of people trying to look like each other. Be you, it’s easy ❤️???? . . . . . . . . #southaustralianbusiness #adelaidefashion #adelaidemodel #plussizefashion #curvyfashion #curvywomen #curves #curvymodel #curvemodel #psmodel #adelaidemua #808threads #bopo #bodyposi #bodypositivity #finessemodelsaustralia #plussizegirls #plussizemodel #loveanybody #scarstoyourbeautiful #breastreduction #breastreductionjourney

A post shared by Body Positive Alexia (@alexia.eleni) on

FEELING LIKE A MILLION BUCKS ???????????????? I went for a walk yesterday in a singlet that had a built-in band bra, with no bra underneath!!! It was the weirdest but most thrilling feeling exercising without the need for 2 heavy duty bras that would strain my neck & shoulders - something I’ve never ever done before - I could get used to this feeling ???????? full discretion I was so tired after the walk but I’m trying to get in 30 mins a day to keep my fitness somewhat existent! . . . . . . . . #southaustralianbusiness #adelaidefashion #adelaidemodel #plussizefashion #curvyfashion #curvywomen #curves #curvymodel #curvemodel #psmodel #adelaidemua #808threads #bopo #bodyposi #bodypositivity #finessemodelsaustralia #plussizegirls #plussizemodel #loveanybody #scarstoyourbeautiful #breastreduction #breastreductionjourney

A post shared by Body Positive Alexia (@alexia.eleni) on

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I was in two minds about undergoing breast reduction surgery for a few years as I've always identified myself as being the girl with the big boobs, they were always envied and I never knew why, they were terrible to deal with. I would constantly suffer migraines and sore neck/shoulders/back throughout my day-to-day life, along with rashes and shoulder dents, especially when it came to playing soccer and exercising. It took me a while to ask myself "why should I suffer any longer purely because others like them/want them?".

I knew I would be in constant pain forever and I couldn't handle not being able to do the things I loved like sport or running, or even wearing a pretty dress from my [inclusive dress hire business 808 Threads] collection. I grew to a DD when I was in year 9 (2009) at school and they gradually over the last 10 years got to my pre-op size which was a 14G. I had managed to lose about 6kgs a few weeks before my first consultation due to a lifestyle change — I've been plant based for five months now — and wanted to see if weight was a factor, but alas my boobs never went down and my surgeon confirmed they wouldn't go down no matter how much weight I lost.

My boobs had been part of my identity for so long, but once I spoke to the surgeon I felt so sure and so ready for the new chapter in my life. I finally realised that there was a lot more to me than my physical appearance and that I should let people see who I truly am, without the extra weight on top. Once I decided to get the surgery, my whole support system of family and friends, including my long-term boyfriend, were over the moon for me! I couldn't have asked for a better reaction, not only did they applaud me for making the decision in my own time and terms, but they were excited to see how much it would positively affect my life. My boyfriend says it's still a bit of an adjustment, but he's so happy my quality of life has improved — he always says as long as I'm happy, nothing else matters.

I remember waking up in the recovery room after surgery and looking down, then looking to the nurse next to me and crying because I was so overwhelmed with happiness, also the anaesthetic was still going strong! I was in hospital for two nights and felt my transition from hospital to home was easy — setting up your home before surgery was great advice so I had new sheets, a clean house, everything from high up was accessible, and I had someone stay with me for a few nights to help me move and get up.

Post op was frustrating at times, I was on Tramadol for around 10 days and felt pretty out of it for most of the first week. You just sleep in bed and on the couch, eat lightly and wear pjs all day. I felt myself after week two and managed to start driving (with a pillow) and get back into walking as exercise because I had made a butt-indent on the couch. I've been seeing my physiotherapist to help me "reset my upper body" and strengthen my shoulders/back so my neck wouldn't tense up when I get back into soccer. It's been frustrating not being able to run, but in a few weeks I'll be able to do so with 1.1kg off my chest and the ability to turn off muscles that cause my migraines.

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When I put on a few dresses and tops that never fit me, and I just burst out in tears because it finally doesn't look like my boob is about to smack someone in the face! Goodbye getting ogled at in a pretty dress and hello boobs that sit up without a bra!! The only regret I have is that I didn't do this sooner. I am beyond happy with the result and Dr Kollias has brought me down to a full D, which works for my body shape and is small enough that they sit up - they're more perky now at 24 than they were when I was 14.

This surgery has only positively impacted my life and it's only been five weeks, I can't wait to see what the rest of my twenties will be like. If anyone reading this is contemplating surgery, get your GP's referral and see a surgeon ASAP, you'll thank me later.

Erin, 36.

I was 32 when I had a breast reduction, along with a breast lift (no implants) and full tummy tuck. I underwent the surgery after losing over 40kg, leaving me with a large amount of excess skin on my breasts and stomach. The biggest motivator for me was that after working so hard to lose all that weight I still had saggy boobs and tummy.

My experience right from my first consultation through until the end was positive. Everyone in my life was very supportive. I felt comfortable with my surgeon, he was amazingly honest and realistic about the results I might achieve. I stayed in hospital for six nights on account of the tummy tuck as that’s a huge operation. I barely have any noticeable scaring anymore, you have to look very closely to see it.

The only thing I'd warn is, with breast lifts and/or re-shaping, it can often take a long time to see the final result. I was disappointed initially because my breasts didn’t look natural, as my surgeon had to purposefully lift them higher than desired to take gravity and my skin naturally giving a little into account. In the same way, the swelling took months to disappear so I think it’s important to note that whilst the result is amazing now, I didn’t feel that way as soon as the bandages were removed.

In terms of results, it’s hands down the most amazing thing. A whole new world of clothing options has opened up for me. I’m happy to look in the mirror and now, I feel like my body matches the healthy life I lead. I highly recommend this procedure to anyone who has been encumbered with large breasts.

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Side note - women making choices about their own bodies, whether for health reasons or cosmetic ones, has always come with a side of judgement. On No Filter, Mia Freedman interviewed Gender studies Professor and feminist Dana Berkowitz about the debate that inevitably opens up whenever a woman decides to get Botox or have a procedure to change the way she looks. Post continues after audio.

Nardia, 31.

I wore my first proper bra with underwire in it when I was in year 4. By year 6, I was a D Cup, and throughout my teens, I was an 12-14 E cup. I always remember wishing I had small boobs. I was never able to wear singlet tops and bikini tops were out of the question. Back then, they didn’t make the beautiful bras with thin straps like they do now.

My breasts were always the first thing people noticed about me. Because I wasn’t an overly big person, they definitely stood out. I was never teased about them, but they always made me feel insecure and embarrassed about myself. I envied my younger sister who had tiny boobs.

I remember one day saying to my mum I wanted a breast reduction. She spoke to my aunt who lived in Melbourne who had been going through breast reconstruction surgery after having breast cancer twice, and she made me an appointment to have a consultation. I don’t remember a lot about the consult, but I do remember just wanting to be a C cup. I always felt like a C cup was not too big but not too small.

A few months later when I was 19, I felt good and excited about my decision. The night before my surgery, my dad (who is in the medical field who hadn’t had any input because I think he felt awkward discussing it) had a little freak out and rang some colleagues in Melbourne to find out about my surgeon. They reassured him that I had one of the best operating on me and that put him at ease.

I was 19 on the day of my surgery. That morning, I was briefed on what was going to happen and I walked into the operating room, hopped on the table and was given the anesthetic. Waking up from surgery, I remember feeling a sharp stabbing pain. I remember lifting my blanket and my chest looked flat. I was so excited.

I had two weeks off from my job as a hairdresser after surgery. I went out for the first time to the pub/nightclub three weeks post-surgery, I wore a strapless dress and everyone kept coming up to me commenting on how great I looked and how I had lost so much weight. I ended up having 500g taken out of each breast, which is funny because you wouldn’t thing 1kg would make much difference to the body.

Twelve years on, with my weight fluctuating between 60-75kg, I now sit at around a 12D (sometimes C when I loose some weight). Over the past few years, I’ve thought about getting implants as I would love for them to sit up nice and high, but without being any bigger. I always say that one day I will, but at the same time, I’m not overly worried about it. Children are starting to be on our radar, so it’s probably something I will look into after I've breastfeed.

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Having a breast reduction was the best thing I ever did and I will never regret it. It was by far the easiest surgery I have had with very little pain and downtime. I had no complications, minimal scarring, and didn’t lose any sensation. I gained so much more confidence and didn’t feel like I had to constantly cover up or risk standing out like a sore thumb.

Hayley, 32.

I was 22 when I had breast reduction surgery and there were a number of factors that influenced my decision. I was extremely self-conscious of my chest, and it was impacting my confidence. I didn't like the attention they sometimes attracted, and I was even really shy around my partner.

I found it really hard to go shopping for clothes, bras and swimwear. As a fashion lover, it was so disappointing not being able to wear certain things because of my breasts. My frame is quite small, so there were not many options that accommodated my breasts as well as being modest. I was also experiencing ongoing back and neck pain, and headaches, the only thing I found helped was fortnightly visits to my osteopath, which was quickly adding up at $75 a visit. After I had the surgery, I didn't go back to see him for another two years.

Everyone in my life was super supportive. I copped a few 'why on earth would you want to do that?!' comments - mainly from males... *rolls eyes*. My partner was especially supportive of my decision and just wanted me to be healthier and happier. My surgery went really smoothly. No complications. The most painful area was to the side/under my arm pits where they did some liposuction - that really hurt. There were also some draining tubes in the same spot.

I stayed in hospital for two nights and then rested at home. My chest was sore for a few weeks - tasks like washing my hair were a bit of a challenge but it was a fairly quick recovery. I do still have some scarring, but having said that, I haven't done anything to try and reduce them. I am so so happy with the end result. I absolutely love being pain-free, being able to exercise freely and basically walk into any shop knowing that I will fit into standard sizing.

The only unfortunate side effect for me was being unable to breastfeed my two children. That still gives me a bit of a pang, and I worry that I was being selfish when I made my initial choice. But my children came along four years after my surgery and there was really no way of knowing if I would be able to breastfeed or not. I imagine that I would have faced a whole other set of challenges being pregnant and breastfeeding with my breasts the size that they were.

Zero regrets here.

This article features the personal experiences of several women who have undergone breast reduction surgery, but should not be substituted for professional, personalised medical advice. Please always seek the guidance of your GP or specialist.
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