Everything You Need to Know About Breast Reduction Surgery

If you’ve been graced with the gift of larger breasts, you’ve probably contemplated shrinking your breasts three times a day every day since you first started puberty. After all, bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to your chest (and subsequent backaches).

After all, there are several downsides of having a larger chest, like perusing the seldom brands that actually carry your bra size—only to find mundane pre-geriatric-looking bras to choose from. Nevertheless, your bulkier bust has given you some unexpected gifts, such as the gift of chronic back pain. Well, that and perpetual under-boob perspiration.

While some small-chested gals may envy you and your cup size, you’ve probably seriously thought about getting breast reduction surgery at least once in your adult life. Whether you want to switch to a smaller cup size because of subsidiary side effects or because you just want smaller boobs, breast reduction surgery could be a viable option for you.

Apart from adding dozens of actually cute bras that don’t cost you $200 to your shopping wishlist finding the perfect in-network plastic surgeon, there are several things you should consider before you put your tatas under the knife.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Boobs Hurt

1. You might have to lose weight before you get the surgery

If you’re relying on your insurance to cover a portion of your surgery, then your soon-to-be surgeon might recommend that you lose weight before the procedure.

Regardless, Hagen Schumacher, Expert Consultant Cosmetic Surgeon at MyAesthetics tells Her Campus that your surgeon might still require you to try to lose weight, even if you’re expecting to pay for your surgery with your own funds.

“Unless you've had a BMI of 25 or less for more than two years and have exhausted all other possible avenues, surgery on the [National Health Service, or NHS] may not be readily available,” Schumacher says.

While it might seem a bit extra to have to lose weight before you can reduce the size and weight of your boobs, this can help your primary care doctor and your surgeon rule out if weight loss could be a useful alternative to breast reduction surgery.

Schumacher explains that, though breast reduction surgery is considered cosmetic surgery, it’s still a serious procedure. “If you go private, your surgeon will want a full understanding of why you want surgery and manage your expectations accordingly - it's a serious procedure and they need to make sure it's right for you.”

Explaining to your surgeon why you want a breast reduction can also help your medical professionals evaluate what your needs are, which could help them determine if you need to lose any pre-op weight.

Overall, medical professionals typically recommend losing weight before a cosmetic surgery to help reduce any risks of complications during and after the procedure. Aside from incorporating a comprehensive workout regime into your surgery to-do list, there are a few other life choices you should think about before you decide to commit to a breast reduction.

2. If you want to have kids, breast reduction surgery could complicate breastfeeding

If you’re a wannabe cat mom, then you might not spend your nights thinking about your future breastfeeding plan. However, if you’re considering a breast reduction surgery and having children in the future, then you should tell your plastic surgeon ahead of time.

Leigh Anne O’Connor, a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), tells Her Campus, “I work with many moms who had breast reduction surgery in their teens and twenties and didn’t consider breastfeeding at that time in their lives.”

“It’s important to find a provider who’s aware of this. I have seen plenty of moms who had breast reduction who are 100 percent breastfeeding and others who do not make a full milk supply,” O’Connor expands.

If you’re entirely inoculated from baby fever (which is perfectly fine, btw), then discussing future breastfeeding options might not be a priority during your surgery consultation. However, if you do want to have children in the future or you’re still undecided, then you might want to discuss the potential breastfeeding scenario with your surgeon.

Nevertheless, just like giving birth isn’t the only route to motherhood, you don’t necessarily need to breastfeed your hypothetical babies (after all, there is formula). However, if not being able to breastfeed in the future is the only downfall to your breast reduction surgery, then the positive attributes to your breast reduction surgery could outweigh the risks—but you should still discuss all of your qualms with your surgeon before the actual surgery.

Related: Why You Need To Try a Breast Self-Exam ASAP

3. Getting your insurance to cover your breast reduction surgery can take some time

Don’t worry, learning witchcraft to force convince your insurance company to cover your surgery is entirely optional (albeit, it’s still a great resume builder).

Dr. Joshua D. Zuckerman MD, FACS Breast Reduction, tells Her Campus, “There must be a demonstrated medical condition involving shoulder, back or neck pain not well-controlled with the over the counter medicine or physical therapy.”

However, there are other symptoms and ailments that your insurance might take into consideration. “Other signs include bra strap grooves and difficulty performing daily tasks. Insurance companies typically require four physicians and/or medical professionals to document the condition. Insurance companies also most often require a minimum amount of breast tissue to be removed,” Dr. Zuckerman adds.

While nearly every woman has to deal with painful bra strap marks, larger breasts inhibit daily functions. Depending on the person, doing ordinary tasks, such as bending down or just existing, can be incredibly painful.

Welmoed Sisson, an ASHI Certified Inspector, tells Her Campus her personal story of why she underwent breast reduction surgery. Sisson notes that prior to her breast reduction surgery in 1996 she was a DD cup; however, her breasts caused some distressing symptoms.

“By the time I hit my early 30s, breastfeeding two babies added to the droop, and I was experiencing numbness in my hands and deep grooves in my shoulders, all from the bra straps digging in,” Sisson says. Though deep grooves from bra straps are common for any bra-wearer, numbness or tingling in your hands can be a serious symptom.

Bra straps work to, well, hold your breast up, but, in the process, they use your shoulders as a support to do so. Over time, your bra straps can begin to restrict circulation to your upper extremities (i.e. your arms, hands and fingers). Members of the small cup club might experience some sore innervation (or lack thereof) around their shoulder muscles; however, people with larger breast can be more prone to extremity numbness from their bra straps.

After all, bigger breast means your bra straps need to support more weight. Thus, your shoulders can experience more tension from your straps, which can have a constricting effect that ripples down your arms.  

Beyond illustrating that bras are basically torture devices, Sisson’s story shows that larger breast can cause some consequential side effects beyond troubling posture and back pain. Regardless, Sisson was able to turn to a supportive friend, who also had a breast reduction.

“When a good friend of mine had a reduction, I spoke to her at length, looked at her scars, and told my husband I wanted to have a reduction too. I'm very lucky he was supportive! We agreed that since we were done with having kids, I wouldn't have to worry about retaining the ability to breastfeed (it's one of the common outcomes of reduction surgery). Since I was having medical issues due to my bust size, the operation would be covered by insurance,” Sisson expands.

Granted, seeing multiple medical professionals just to prove to your insurance that your breast reduction surgery is a necessity might seem excessive—and it is. Going through numerous physical exams with various in-network physicians can also improve your chances of getting your surgery covered.

After all, a single physician could determine that your back pain—caused by your larger breasts—is only a minor side effect and thus doesn’t require surgery. Whereas, another medical professional could perform a more extensive exam to prove that a breast reduction surgery is essential for your health and well-being.

Although it can take time to get your insurance finally on board with your surgery, the recovery from your breast reduction isn’t nearly as long-winded as your insurance regulations doctors visits. Ultimately, it can seem like a grueling process to get your insurance company to approve of your breast reduction surgery, but thankfully your post-surgery recovery time won’t be that arduous.

4. While your recovery time might vary, it typically doesn’t take long to recoup from breast reduction surgery

Everyone’s body is different, so everyone’s immune system recoups at a different rate. Though your recovery time might differ from your bestie, it’s crucial that you ask your plastic surgeon what your recovery schedule will likely look like. This could also help you determine if breast reduction surgery is right for you (at this particular stage in your life).

Dr. Zuckerman notes that, typically, there are a few commonalities that most breast reduction recipients experience during their recovery time. However, these minor aches and pains should dissipate shortly after the procedure.

“Shoulder and back pain can disappear virtually overnight with a breast reduction. Patients should expect raised, smaller breasts that are natural-looking, round and symmetric. They will have a scar at least around the areola down to the inframammary fold underneath the breast,” Dr. Zuckerman expands.

Although each person’s recovery time can vary, Top NYC Plastic Surgeon and RealSelf contributor Dr. Lara Devgan tells Her Campus, “Most patients take about one week off of work. Strenuous exercise is not allowed for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery to allow for proper recovery.”

If you do lead an emotionally or physically strenuous lifestyle, you might want to save any of your remaining vacation days that you didn’t exhaust on Coachella for your surgery. (After all, mental stress and physical stress can delay your recovery process.)

CEO of Virtual Physical Therapists, PLLC Aideen Turner PT and Certified MDT tells Her Campus that stress, including mental stress, can impact each person's recovery rate a bit differently. "We see it every day: two patients who have undergone the same surgery but healing even at the basic incision is completely different. Any form of negative mental outlook including, anxiety, anger, depression, stress, being overwhelmed all disrupt the body’s natural healing process. The mind is very powerful and if you fill it with doubt and self-defeat the chemical process of inflammation and repair is affected slowing healing," Turner expands.

After your breast reduction surgery (or any surgery), your body endures a fair amount of inflammation because your breasts, obviously, just went through a traumatic event. Post-surgery inflammation, especially near your surgery incisions, is actually an immune response from your immune system. Though you might hate your immune system for making your chest feel like it lost a fight with Ronda Rousey, minor inflammation is a sign that your immune system is attempting to health your post-surgery incisions.

Because your immune system works to heal your body and keep it healthy, it tends to overcompensate after a surgery. After all, during your surgery, your surgeon cut through your skin and disrupted some of your body’s tissue. However, your immune system rudely ignored the memo that your surgeon was cutting in your flesh to benefit your body. Therefore, your immune system doesn’t see your surgical incision as a cool battle wound, it just interprets it as a laceration that it needs to tend to.

Albeit, a healthy immune system can multitask and tend to your post-surgery cut and protect your body against potentially harmful bacteria and infections that could enter your body via your vulnerable surgery incisions. Surgery is an innately stressful event; however, additional physical, emotional or mental stress can slow your immune system’s ability to heal your body from literally being cut open and sutured back up.

Dr. Tamir Mosharrafa, a surgeon at Mosharrafa Plastic Surgery, tells Her Campus that stress can actually complicate your recovery. “Patients under excess stress following surgery are at greater risk for healing problems, infection and prolonged fatigue. Patients may also experience more postoperative pain when dealing with excessive stress after surgery, thus requiring more pain medicine and further complicating recovery. Therefore, it is important to manage stress levels before and after surgery,” Dr. Mosharrafa says.

Certified Psychotherapist and owner and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling Dana Carretta-Stein, M.S., LMHC, LPC, who specializes in Parenting, Panic Attacks and PTSD Counseling tells Her Campus that stress can affect your body's recovery time. While we can’t always control unexpected stressors in our life, Carretta-Stein notes that self-care and relaxation are exceptionally important after surgery.

“If our immune system is compromised, we’re much less likely to efficiently heal from a surgery. The best way to overcome a surgery is to practice relaxation skills training, such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. Doing so will greatly improve your body’s ability to heal, and at a much quicker pace,” Carretta-Stein adds.

Your immune system is already working a double-shift after any major or minor surgery. Even if you aren’t too keen about a rigid self-care routine, your immune system might persuade you to take part in some post-surgery leisure time. (After all, if you think it’s too selfish to treat yourself, at least treat your immune system.)

Other then the fact that stress can weaken your immune system, it can make you prone additional side effects that can postpone your surgery recovery plan.

Dr. Mosharrafa says that post-surgery stress can manifest in a multitude of painful and dangerous ways. “High levels of stress can affect blood pressure, sleep patterns, digestion and immunity. Surgery itself is a stress on a patient's body and additional psychological or emotional stress during recovery can compound these negative effects,” Dr. Mosharrafa explains.

If you’re planning to horde your vacation days for some post-breast reduction leisure time, then you can expect a relatively swift recovery. Nonetheless, you should still stay hypervigilant about certain symptoms.

Dr. Zuckerman adds, “If the patient forms keloid scars, the plastic surgeon needs to know this and discuss treatment options to manage this.”

Generally, if you notice any concerning side effects or complications after your surgery, you should contain your surgeon. While you could just be overly cautious, it’s always best to check-in with your plastic surgeon if you notice any unusual symptoms.

Aside from the overall monetary cost and recovery time, breast reduction surgery is a gargantuan decision. Although you’ve probably discussed your pros and cons list with all your friends, their cousins, your mother and your cats, ultimately, you have to decide whether or not breast reduction surgery is right for you.

If you want a breast reduction to get some weight off your chest, literally, that’s perfectly acceptable—as long as you’re making that decision for and by yourself.