Some women just love their breasts, but many are not so lucky. Plastic surgeons hear from women all the time who are dissatisfied with the way they fill out their cups… whether because they dislike the shape of their breasts, the size of their breasts, or all of the above.
The good news: there are procedures available for you to get the breasts you have always dreamed of. Primarily, we are talking about breast augmentation, a procedure that involves adding volume to your breasts through the use of artificial implants.
Just wait a minute, though. While it is true that breast augmentation can give you the figure you have always wanted, there are plenty of other issues to consider. Like, what about the recovery time? How long will your breast implants last? Are there risks and complications? And how can you be sure you are going to be satisfied with the results?
Before you even consider getting a breast augmentation, we would encourage you to think through these and many other salient issues. Allow us to walk you through the basics, highlighting some of the most important things for any woman to know before she makes that initial appointment for a breast augmentation consultation.
01. There are bad reasons to consider getting a breast augmentation.
One of the first things you should ask yourself: Why are you looking to get a breast augmentation, exactly?
See, there are plenty of bad reasons to pursue this surgery. Did you just have a bad break-up that has left you feeling less than self-confident? Are you looking to reward yourself for a big move up the corporate ladder? Are you hoping to score a new body just so that you can look good on your upcoming cruise or beach trip?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you might want to hold off on something as major as breast implants. This is a big decision, with life-altering effects on your personal health and physical appearance (to say nothing of your pocketbook). And while breast implants can be removed, that is another surgery that you could avoid by pressing pause and seriously interrogating your rationale for wanting breast augmentation.
The reality is that, when you meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss getting implants, you will be asked why you are considering surgery… and if you cite one of the iffy reasons mentioned above, there are decent odds that your surgeon will be unwilling to do the surgery at all.
02. There are also good reasons to consider getting a breast augmentation.
With all of that said, what are the legit reasons to think about getting breast implants?
- You are seeking a more proportional body. Small breasts can sometimes make your body look oddly proportioned, especially if you happen to have wide hips. Breast augmentation can address this.
- You are seeking symmetrical breasts. Some women have breasts that are dissimilar in size or shape. Through breast augmentation, you can ensure that your breasts look even.
- You want to regain your pre-baby body. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can take their toll on your body, including your breasts. It is perfectly reasonable to consider breast augmentation as a way to regain lost volume.
- You hope to improve your body shape following significant weight loss. It is not uncommon for women to experience significant weight loss… and a significant reduction in breast size, at the same time. Breast augmentation can help restore your figure.
- You want to restore your feminine appearance following a mastectomy. If you have recently undergone a procedure to treat breast cancer, consider breast augmentation as a way to restore your curves.
Of course, you may also want to get new breasts simply as a means of feeling sexier, finding clothes that fit you better or boosting your self-confidence. If these are carefully thought-through decisions, then breast augmentation may be a reasonable way forward.
03. There are multiple types of breast surgery for you to consider.
Looking to change the appearance of your breasts? One thing you should know is that breast augmentation is not the only option.
Essentially, breast augmentation is all about enhancing the size of your breasts. It is about adding volume through the use of breast implants.
For some women, volume is not necessarily the problem. You may have concerns over the shape of your breasts; for instance, they may be too saggy, too droopy, or with a nipple that falls too low on the breast mound.
If you are more concerned with shape than with size, ask your plastic surgeon about a breast lift, which repositions the nipple and changes the contour of your breasts without necessarily adding volume.
Of course, some patients want to alter both the size and the shape of their breasts, in which case you might want to have both procedures performed at the same time. This combination is called a breast augmentation with lift.
Finally, there is also breast reduction, which actually decreases the size of your breasts… but that is a conversation for another time.
04. You probably will not get much help from your insurance company.
One of the big factors for women to think about when considering breast augmentation is how they will pay for it. Keep in mind that your insurance is highly unlikely to pitch in, at least if they think the procedure is purely cosmetic.
The only situation in which your insurance company might help you out is if your breast augmentation is deemed to be a medical necessity. For example, your insurance company might cover the cost of implants if it is part of the reconstruction process following a mastectomy.
Your insurance company may also pay for breast reduction if you have breasts large enough to cause rashes, back pain, or other medical symptoms.
For most women seeking a boob job, however, health insurance is probably not going to be much help.
05. There are some “less invasive” alternatives to breast augmentation… but be careful.
Some women may long for larger breasts, but have some trepidation about going under the knife. For these women, the prospect of a less invasive option may be really tempting.
Such options do exist… but proceed with caution. Frankly, these procedures are not as reliable, and the results they offer cannot be counted on.
For example, some plastic surgeons may offer an option known as fat grafting. The problem with this approach is that the results are simply extremely hard to predict. As much as half of the fat that is grafted to your breasts may not survive; and, it is impossible for the surgeon to know which areas of fat will and will not prove to be permanent. The bottom line: you may end up with results that look great, but you could just as easily end up with breasts that are oddly or unevenly shaped.
If you really want to have larger, fuller breasts, it is generally best to avoid shortcuts and instead learn more about proven surgical solutions, such as breast augmentation. Yes, it is more invasive, and yes, it will be more time-consuming. But it is also much more likely to leave you with results that you absolutely love.
06. There are different kinds of incisions.
As you consult with a plastic surgeon about breast augmentation, one question you will certainly want to ask is what kind of incision are you going to make?
There are four basic types of incision that are used for breast augmentation: Transaxillary, inframammary, areolar, and trans-umbilical.
Why does it matter? Well, mostly because the type of incision that your plastic surgeon uses will determine where you have a scar.
- With a transaxillary incision, you will likely have a small scar in your armpit.
- An inframammary incision will result in a scar underneath the crease of your breast.
- Areolar incisions may lead to small scars on or encircling your areolas.
- A trans-umbilical incision can create a scar on your stomach.
There are a number of factors that might impact the kind of incision you ask for. Are you someone who likes to wear tank tops? Then maybe you would want to avoid a visible scar in your armpit.
Of course, there are also a number of medical factors that can determine the incision your plastic surgeon uses. If you have particularly small areolas, then an areolar incision may be much more difficult for your doctor to perform.
There is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” type of incision, but it is definitely a matter to consider carefully, under advisement from your surgeon.
07. Certain types of breast implants have been linked with cancer.
Yeah, that sounds scary… but before you stop reading, consider the details.
The type of cancer we are discussing is what is known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL. This cancer has been attributed to breast implants that are heavily textured; in other words, you can minimize your risk by choosing smooth implants.
Even among women who do choose textured implants, the risk of ALCL is fairly low. And the cancer is extremely easy to treat: All that is required is for the implant to be removed from the body.
This is not necessarily a huge risk, but it is a risk that you should know about.
08. There are several types of implants to choose from.
The last section brings up another important point: As you seek breast augmentation, you will have a number of types of implants to choose from.
Saline implants are filled with sterilized salt water. The pros of this type of implant? They provide great uniformity in firmness, shape, and feel. And they are FDA-approved for women ages 18 and above. The one big downside is that saline implants may sometimes leak, in which case the implant will collapse completely. (The silver lining is that the salt water naturally absorbs into your body and is eliminated naturally.)
These implants are filled with a silicone gel material, which many women believe to feel a bit more like natural breast tissue. These implants also pose less risk of collapse, though you will need to make routine visits to your surgeon to ensure the implants are still functioning the way they are supposed to. (A mammogram is usually all it takes to assess the health of your implants.) You have to be 22 or older to get silicone implants.
Gummy bear implants
These implants are so named because of their unique kind of stability; they maintain their shape even if the outer shell ruptures for any reason. Gummy bear implants are actually made with silicone gel, but the gel is thicker than in other types of implants. As a result, gummy bear implants feel especially firm. The one big downside is that gummy bear implants tend to require a longer surgical incision.
Some breast implants are form-stable, but round implants have the same shape all over… meaning it does not matter even if they rotate a little bit. They can also provide you with breasts that look especially full.
Smooth breast implants feel the softest, and they can move around in their shell in a way that helps simulate the motion of natural breast tissue. Smooth implants may produce some visible rippling just under your skin.
Finally, textured implants are made to create a bit of supportive scar tissue, minimizing the risk of your implants becoming loose, rotating, or shifting out of place.
Clearly, there is a lot to process here, and a good plastic surgeon will be ready to walk you through all the options. Before your appointment, though, it does not hurt to know some of the basic choices and terminology.
09. You will probably need multiple breast implant surgeries.
Breast implant technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and today’s implants are designed to last a good long while. But even the most durable implants will not last forever. You can anticipate needing to have new implants added in around 12 to 15 years.
Keep in mind that, even after your breast augmentation procedure, there are a number of factors that can further alter the appearance of your breasts: Breastfeeding, fluctuations in your body weight, or simply the forces of time and gravity.
You could also have implants that spring a leak. Or your implants could develop a “scar shell,” which can warp their shape considerably.
When you return to your plastic surgeon to have new implants placed, it is what doctors call breast revision surgery. And you may as well factor it into your budget on the front end.
10. The average cost for breast augmentation is $3,947.
This is the official figure provided by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, accurate as of 2019. Of course, a number of factors can impact your specific cost:
- Type of implants
- The surgeon’s fees
- Insurance coverage (if any; see above)
Also, keep in mind that this number does not include ancillary costs, such as facility fees, the cost of your anesthesiologist, etc.
Some plastic surgeons may offer financing options, which are worth exploring. But the bottom line is, this is not an inexpensive procedure, and budgeting is a key part of the preparation process.
11. You may need to increase your breast size gradually.
Are you looking to go up about one cup size? It should be no problem.
But if you are looking to increase from an A to a DD, understand that this may not be possible or advisable overnight. Instead, your surgeon may caution you to approach your breast augmentation gradually, going up one or two cup sizes in one surgery, adjusting to your new breasts, then possibly increasing their size further in a subsequent surgery.
It is generally better to do breast augmentation incrementally, and for women with lofty goals, that may mean a couple of procedures as opposed to just one.
12. You can ask your plastic surgeon about different ways of “trying on” new breasts.
You may not know exactly what cup size you are aiming for or by how much you want your breast volume to increase. Or maybe you think you know, but still have some reservations about what the end result will look like.
Thankfully, there are a couple of ways in which your plastic surgeon can help you “try on” different breast sizes.
First, and probably the easiest, you can have “sizers” placed in your bra, which will simulate the look and feel of different cup sizes.
Additionally, many plastic surgeons offer 3-D imaging, allowing you to visualize what you will look like with implants of a particular size. While this imaging is approximate, it can still provide some peace of mind about what your breast augmentation outcome will roughly look like.
Your plastic surgeon will probably offer you options like these, but if not, do not hesitate to ask. You need to know how your new breast size will look and feel before you go under the knife.
13. Your implants should feel natural.
There is a common misconception that breast implants feel unnatural or “fake.”
Well, they are not supposed to. Implants that feel fake have probably been placed improperly. But if you have breast augmentation done right by a skilled surgeon, your new breasts should feel fairly normal.
Specifically, you should not be able to feel your implants through the skin of your breasts. Instead, they should be placed in such a way that when you touch your breasts, you just feel natural breast tissue.
A good surgeon will consider everything from your natural skin texture to your skin elasticity as they seek to provide you with completely “normal”-feeling results.
14. Getting implants may impede your ability to breastfeed.
Some plastic surgeons may recommend that you hold off on getting breast implants until you are through having children… and through nursing them. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the primary ones is that breast augmentation surgery can sometimes impact your ability to produce milk.
Actually, this is true of all forms of breast surgery. “Breast augmentation, lift, and reduction procedures have the potential to affect the nerves and ducts within the breast, thus impacting lactation,” the CDC notes.
Certain types of breast augmentation carry higher risks of impaired breastfeeding. For example, if you have an areolar incision, there is a greater likelihood that you experience diminished sensitivity to the nipple, which may, in turn, interfere with the “letdown” reflex that causes your milk to drop.
Generally speaking, the breast augmentation method with the lowest breastfeeding risk is the inframammary incision, where there is less surgical interaction with the nipple or with the breast ducts.
The bottom line? Most women who get implants are still able to breastfeed, but not all. If you are considering breast implants but also want to maintain your ability to nurse children, make sure you consult with both a plastic surgeon and a lactation specialist.
15. You may lose nipple sensitivity… but it will probably be temporary.
One of the most vexing side effects of breast augmentation is a loss of feeling in the nipples. This results from your nipples getting stretched during the surgical procedure.
If you do find that you no longer have any feeling in your nipples, do not panic. For most women, this side effect lasts no more than a couple of weeks.
Permanent loss of nipple sensitivity can happen, but it is pretty rare.
16. It will take some time for you to truly see your results.
It is crucial to have the right expectations for your breast augmentation procedure… and for the immediate aftermath.
If you expect that you will wake up from surgery and immediately see the breasts of your dreams, you may be in for a disappointment. The reason for this is simple: The surgery is going to leave you with a moderate amount of short-term swelling and bruising. This is no big deal, as it will all subside within a couple of weeks. But it does mean you need to be patient and wait just a little while longer before you take stock of your implant results.
17. Your implants will not interfere with breast cancer screenings.
The rumor that implants mess up your mammogram has been around for decades, and there is really no truth to it.
The reality is that lots of women get implants, and mammogram technicians have long known how to maneuver the implants out of the way to get an accurate reading of your natural breast tissue.
Do not let this worry prevent you from getting a breast augmentation procedure.
18. You should plan on taking some time off from work.
Following a breast augmentation procedure, you will need to allow your body some time to rest and recover. This means staying home and taking it easy. However, before you start hoarding PTO days, you should know that the recovery time for breast augmentation may be less onerous than you think.
While it may take up to a couple of months for your swelling and tenderness to go away completely, the vast majority of patients are cleared to head back to the office after just five to seven days.
Plan on spending a week at home, ideally with a spouse, mom, sister, or close friend on hand to help you with basic around-the-house tasks. But after that, you will likely be ready to ease back into life as usual.
19. It will take a while longer for you to be ready for regular exercise.
Just because you are cleared to return to the office, that does not mean it is a good idea for you to resume strenuous exercise or vigorous physical activity.
You can ask your surgeon about specific exercise limitations, but generally, you will be advised to take it easy for four to six weeks. Now, if you want to take a casual stroll through your neighborhood or the local park, that may be one thing. Anything that involves heavy lifting or an elevated heart rate, however, is probably off the table for a while.
20. You may experience some psychological effects from your breast augmentation procedure.
Getting breast implants can completely alter your sense of self and the confidence you feel in your own skin. As such, the immediate psychological effects can be profound. Many women emerge from their breast augmentation with significant improvements to their mood and their state of mind.
With that said, some women experience the opposite effect: It is easy to get yourself excited about the prospect of new breasts, only to feel a slight letdown when you wake up from your surgery, and the results are not immediately evident. (“This is something I have wanted to fix my entire life, but now that I did it, I am so depressed,” says one forum user.) Often, these feelings of postoperative depression stem from all your pre-procedure adrenaline fading away, which can cause your mood to crash.
If you feel a little let down at first, that is perfectly natural. Hang in there and be patient! You will see the results you have longed for soon!
21. A little pain is to be expected.
Many women want to know how much discomfort they can anticipate in the days and weeks following their breast augmentation.
You can certainly anticipate a little soreness extending through your breasts and down into your ribs. You may also feel a slight burning sensation in your nipples. All of this may last for up to two full weeks. As the bruising begins to subside, the discomfort should go away, too.
Some women may experience more extreme discomfort, including sharp, shooting pain throughout their breasts. The level of pain you face can depend on a number of factors, including the size and positioning of the implants. The good news is that even the more extreme pain will be temporary, and your doctor can let you know about both over the counter and prescription pain medications that can be used to minimize your discomfort.
Really, though, the single best way to ensure the pain is short-lived is to be dedicated to recovery: Take those first five to seven days to really rest up and let your body heal.
22. Breast implants can affect your posture.
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but getting implants can sometimes impact the way you stand or the way you carry yourself.
This is mostly true for women who seek larger implants. If you pick a size that is fairly proportional to your frame, any impact on your posture is likely to be minuscule.
23. You can have your implants removed at any time.
While getting breast augmentation is not a decision to make lightly, neither does it have to be a decision that is life-altering and permanent. If you decide, after a few years, that you simply do not like having implants and wish to return to your natural breast size, implants can be removed. This is a common procedure that any plastic surgeon can help you with.
Do be aware that having implants removed may result in your breasts looking a bit deflated, but this can usually be fixed with a simple breast lift.
24. Finding the right surgeon is essential.
It goes without saying that the plastic surgeon who performs your breast augmentation needs to be someone reputable and trustworthy. Some general tips for finding the right provider:
- Pay attention to online reviews and testimonials, which can tell you a lot about overall patient satisfaction levels.
- Make sure you find a board-certified plastic surgeon, not merely a cosmetic surgeon. (And yes, there is a huge difference!)
- Be mindful of the kindness, warmth, and attentiveness the surgeon provides you. Ultimately, you need to pick someone with whom you feel comfortable asking all your questions, even the most intimate ones. If you do not like a surgeon’s demeanor or communication style, that is reason enough for you to keep searching.
25. Getting breast implants may be one of the best things you ever do for yourself.
Look, breast augmentation is not for everyone, and there are some valid reasons to approach this decision with caution.
However, there are countless women who get implants and experience a life-changing surge in their self-confidence. Implants may help you fulfill a lifelong dream and finally feel comfortable and happy in your own skin.
If that is something that rings true for you, by all means, learn more about what the breast augmentation process entails. Reach out to a board-certified plastic surgeon to begin your journey.