More and more women are going under the knife each year for breast augmentation surgery, for most it is about improving appearance and boosting self-confidence or getting back those pre-baby boobs. Offspring examined why these bags of silicone (or saline) are proving so popular and what is involved when you take the step to enhance your chest.

Despite the recent French-made PIP-implant scare, the popularity of breast augmentation around the world continues its steady incline. No longer confined to celebrities and strip clubs, our suburban neighbourhoods and play groups are filling with these new perks, pardon the pun. And they are becoming harder and harder to spot with advancements in procedures and implants able to give a more natural appearance than ever before.

Specialist cosmetic breast nurse at the recently opened Assure Breast Centre in Subiaco, Jill Brady, says the centre has seen the number of breast augmentation procedures at least doubled in the past 18 months with mums making up the largest increase in breast surgery.

“There is definitely increasing social acceptance of breast surgery,” she says. “Surgery is more accessible and surgical techniques have improved, costs are more affordable and the quality of implants has improved. All of these things contribute to society’s support and acceptance of this type of surgery – just as society is more accepting of other cosmetic procedures now than it was 10 or 15 years ago.”

“The pressures of pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding can all contribute to unwanted changes in the body. Breasts can become overstretched and saggy-looking. Other problems like enlarged areolas, unevenly shaped or ‘empty’ looking breasts and stretch marks are all common complaints from mums.”

Ms Brady, who conducts the centre’s initial client consults, says breast surgery can be as much a functional operation as it is an aesthetic one. That aside, Jill said she was always careful to remind patients that surgery was not a solution to psychological or emotional issues and not right for everyone.

“Breast surgery should be a personal choice and is only appropriate for women seeking to improve their own self image. A woman who is depressed or trying to please a partner should not have the surgery,” she says.

The three common types of breast surgery are enlargement, reduction or lift, sometimes a combination of two options.

Some reasons women consider breast enlargement:

  • The breasts have reduced in size following pregnancy, breastfeeding or weight loss.
  • The breasts are smaller than normal, uneven in size or out of proportion to body size.
  • To boost self esteem and improve overall appearance.

Some reasons women consider a breast reduction:

  • The size of the breasts is uncomfortable.
  • Pain in the lower neck, shoulders or back, or the breasts themselves.
  • Discomfort during physical activity.

Breast lift surgery can help to:

  • Reshape sagging breasts and improve contour.
  • Increase the firmness of soft breasts by removing excess skin.
  • Raise the position of downward-pointing nipples and areolas.
  • Reduce the size of the areolas.
  • Balance the size and shape of unequal breasts.
  • Increase the volume of breasts, in combination with a breast implant.

The decision to have breast surgery, whether to increase or reduce current size, like any surgery can be daunting. Many women contemplate the idea but don’t pursue because of the cost, the recovery, the perceived vanity, the permanence and the confusion about where to even begin. The decision is made even more complex, because breasts are a functional and symbolic icon of femininity and motherhood and the end results are designed to be noticed.

Dr. Brigid Corrigan, specialist Plastic Surgeon at Assure Breast Centre says no matter the breast surgery under consideration, the choice of surgeon is the most important factor.

“If you are thinking about surgery, the first step would be lots of research and then book a consultation with a medical expert who will sit down with you and discuss your expectations and the options that are right for you. If you decide to go ahead, an initial appointment with a plastic surgeon would then be scheduled,” she says.

“Having the surgery involves at least two consultations with your surgeon, plus time for in-depth thought about whether to proceed.

“The process cannot be short-circuited over the internet, with photography and email as a substitute for face-to-face appointments with a qualified surgeon because techniques and options will differ for each patient.”

Dr.Corrigan elaborates that depending on the type of surgery, a patient can expect to stay in the hospital a few hours, up to a few days, and explained there are a number of surgery methods available depending on the patient and the procedure.

“The implant insertion, for example, can be done with a small incision under the breast, around the nipple or in the armpit,” she explains. “The plastic surgeon will determine the most suitable approach depending on the patient and overall look to be achieved.”

And an inevitable result of any surgery is scarring, generally a few centimeters long and often positioned below the breast, with fading expected over time.

Dr. Corrigan says while the chance of post-operative problems is relatively low, some of the worst complications have occurred in patients who have traveled overseas for surgery.

“There is no regulation of the industry in places like Asia, so consequentially the risk of post-operative problems is much higher,” she says. “People have told us cost is the main reason for choosing to travel overseas for cosmetic surgery, termed ‘medical tourism’ but if there are complications and revisions required, that initial cost can blow-out.

“While some bruising and swelling can be expected for a few weeks following any breast surgery, patients can usually resume normal routine around two to three weeks after surgery, but we do not recommend people travel by plane for at least two weeks (ideally six weeks) after surgery and returning to strenuous exercise may take a little longer.

“The post-operative period is crucial to recovery, making it a poor combination with an overseas holiday. Recovery is a time best spent at home with close family to help out.”

And the cost?

While the cost will vary depending on the surgeon, anesthetist, implants, and hospital, the procedure usually ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. Some private health insurers will help with a hospital bed and theatre fees, especially for reconstruction or reductions so having a GP referral will enable you to claim some of the cost.

Note to readers: The information presented is not an endorsement of breast surgery. Readers must evaluate the options for themselves under medical guidance.

“I recently moved to WA from the Gold Coast and breast implants are fairly common over there. I heard advertisements on the radio for different clinics and friends who have already had the procedure gave me recommendations of reputable surgeons. I did some research and find a surgeon that offered 100 percent finance, sealed the deal for me. I wanted them to look natural, it was important to me that they didn’t look bolted on, so I opted for Brazilian teardrop implants inserted through the nipples, which were also reshaped. I am a small person and went for a large C-cup, small D-cup, depending on the bra, from my current A-cup.

All up it cost me $11,500, which I pay off fortnightly, but I felt safer and more comfortable having it done in Australia than going overseas and being able to go home to my own bed afterward. I know I could have got them for around $4,000 if I went somewhere like Thailand but I have heard the horror stories.

Prior to the surgery I had about four consults and had to start taking a Vitamin C and mineral powder drink every day to boost my immune system.

I stayed in hospital four hours in total and was sent home with Endone and Arnica. I wasn’t allowed to shower for two days after surgery, had to sleep sitting up for about two weeks because it was too painful to lie down, and was required to wear a sports bra 24 hours a day for six weeks. I was still on Endone for the pain a week later and took two weeks off work. The recovery was very hard and very emotional for me.

I am concerned about what will happen if I have subsequent children and try to breastfeed but the surgeon assured me after the first year it would be safe to fall pregnant and if I wanted to breastfeed, it all still should work as normal.

I have heard from friends that in order to keep the implants looking ‘perky’, the surgery should be redone in about 10 years, and while the end result is worth it, the pain of the recovery means I doubt I will go through it again.

It has been almost a year since surgery and they are looking and feeling very natural now. I am very pleased with the results.

For me, the surgery has given me back what I had before pregnancy, breastfeeding and weight loss and renewed my confidence after separating from my husband.

In light of the recent surge of mums heading for the operating table, many plastic surgeons now offer ‘mummy makeover’ packages combining breast enlargements, lifts or reductions with a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), liposuction or other skin rejuvenation techniques. Mother of two young boys, Kelly, says combining an enlargement with a tummy tuck not only reduced costs but also meant there would be no need for multiple surgeries.

“The recovery was really easy compared to what I expected. I was back at work a week out of surgery,” she said. “It was the best thing I have ever done. My confidence has drastically increased. I would highly recommend anyone considering getting it done, to do it.”

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