Breast reductions questions!
October 9, 2013 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm scheduled to have a breast reduction next Tuesday, and am hoping for tips, advice, and any other information other Mefites who have undergone this procedure would like to share.

This will be my first major surgery and I'm getting quite nervous. I don’t deal well with situations full of unknowns.

I'm 45 and have been thinking about this since I was 20, so it is not a hasty decision. I'm currently wearing a 36J or 36JJ cup bra. The doctor has agreed to aim for a full C, possibly D cup. He wanted to do a straight C, but I'm worried my self-image will have a difficult time adjusting to what I think of as so small (in relation to what I am now.)

Please tell me about experiences with your body image and adjusting to your new breast size. Is bra shopping suddenly fun? New areas of clothing opened up? Do you wish you'd gone bigger? Smaller?

I would also like to know anything and everything about the surgery and recovery you think I should know. Things I should have ready for when I come home? Good ways to deal with the drains? How long should I expect to spend in bed? Anything about the surgery or recovery that you wish someone had told you!
posted by Squeak Attack to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have no experience to share, but there have been quite a few IAMAs (with pictures) on Reddit that you might find interesting. See these search results. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
posted by carmicha at 10:36 AM on October 9, 2013

Best answer: I had my breast reduction a little over three years ago when I was 28. It remains the single best thing I have ever done for myself. I couldn't be happier. The internet is full of scary stories, but I had a really easy recovery. I had drains for a day. They were gross, but they came out 24 hours after the surgery, no problem. I was tired and sore for a couple days and spent most of my time laying in a lazy boy, but after that I was pretty much good to go. I took two weeks off work, but I was going stir crazy after one. The only thing that remained a problem was things like wearing a seatbelt that involved actual contact with my chest area.

As for my body image, the change was pretty much instantaneous. Even when my breasts were covered in stitches and drains I was just *so* happy. I went from a 32G to a 32C-D. Things eventually settled out at around 32DD, which is a little bigger than what I initially envisioned but I'm totally content with. I spent a ton of time my first few weeks just trying on clothes. It was great.

Best of luck with your surgery! Feel free to me-mail me if you have other questions.
posted by fancypants at 11:15 AM on October 9, 2013

Best answer: My sister and I had breast reductions in our 20s. While I am comfortable with surgery and the like, my sister is not. The drains were difficult for her, but ultimately, she is SO happy she went through with it.

I am too.

It's painful. Don't let anyone tell you differently. You use your chest for all kinds of things you didn't think of. Move VERY slowly. Take your time in healing and don't push yourself to go back to work/whatever, before you're really ready. My boobs were so perky afterward I wore a sport bra for a lot longer than I needed to, just because I really didn't need the support. It was awesome.

From what you've said, you're going to be another happy reduction person. One of us, one of us!
posted by Sophie1 at 11:53 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had this surgery about 20 years ago, when I was in my 20s. I went from a G to a C, and it was the best thing I have ever done. As you have never had major surgery, I will include comments about surgery in general.

A procedure of this magnitude may be a day surgery or they may end up keeping you overnight. You, and your insurance, should be ready for this. I assume someone is driving you home from the hospital (you cannot drive home after general anesthesia, and you may not be able to drive for several days after the surgery).

You may sleep a lot for the first day or two. If you can have someone at home with you for the first few days, that would be very helpful. You will be tired, cranky, in pain, and unable to move very easily. Your chest will be in a corset to hold everything together during the first few days of healing, and having someone around to cook your meals, get your meds, and even empty your drains for you will make this recovery time much easier. You will want to have some oversized button-down shirts so that you don't have to try to get your arms up in order to pull on a pull-over shirt.

If you have never had general anesthesia, you may want to ask them to do what they can to reduce any associated nausea. The reduction was my first surgery as well, and that was the way I found out that I am very sensitive to general. Throwing up after this surgery is NOT FUN. They can add very effective anti-nausea drugs to the anesthetic now, so feel free to ask the anesthesiologist when they come to talk to you during pre-op.

The doctor should match your new cup size to your body, so there isn't a lot of leeway as far as how small they will go. They are trying to make you look as natural and "normal" as possible. Keep in mind that a woman's breasts are not usually exactly the same size as each other, and this may be more evident when you are a C than when you were a J. I notice a difference, but it's not a big deal. You really won't know exactly how everything looks until the swelling goes away, and that takes a while, even after the drains are removed. As you are going down from a larger size, you may need the drains in for even longer than I did, which was 2-3 days.

There are several methods that they can use to reconstruct the breast. I had the keyhole method, but your doctor may be using a different method. Depending on the method, they may or may not remove and replace the entire nipple. If they do, you are most likely to lose nipple sensation, and you typically will not be able to breast feed (although there are cases which refute this).

I ended up having to have a scar revision a year or so later, as I tend to hypertrophy after surgery (another thing I learned from my first trip to the OR). Even with that extra procedure, I am still thrilled to have done this.

My body image changes were immediate and positive. I was able to wear normal clothes. I could finally shop for "pretty" bras, including front-closures. (I went a little crazy with the lacy front-closure bras for a few years.) The stress on my lower back was gone. Once I healed, I was able to run without holding onto myself (a dream of mine since high school). I loved the way I looked, scars and all. Even now, 20 years later, having gained some weight and gone up to a D, my breasts really should be showing the effects of gravity, but I'm still pretty damned perky.

Good luck and I hope you have an easy recovery! Feel free to me-mail if you have more questions.
posted by blurker at 1:33 PM on October 9, 2013

Best answer: I am so excited for you! I had my breast reduction (or, as I am now used to calling it when I go over my health history with new practitioners, my "bilateral reduction mammoplasty") about four years ago. (I am 27.) It was, without a doubt, life-changing. Yes, new areas of clothing are going to open up to you! Bra shopping... well, you will doubtless have a few weeks' wait before you undertake it, but it, too, is so much more pleasant for me than it used to be. It's shallow, but I most appreciate being able to wear "normal" sizes of tops and bras that can be purchased at the same stores as everyone else's.

My boobs were so perky afterward I wore a sport bra for a lot longer than I needed to, just because I really didn't need the support.

Yup, this, too - turns out I actually enjoy/can do things like running and volleyball when they don't require two layers of (still futile) no-nonsense sports bras. My family also says my posture has improved.

I did not have drains, so I can't speak to that, but an aunt who had gone through the procedure advised me to move household things like dishes, clothes in drawers, laptop chargers, etc. to chest level in advance to avoid unnecessary reaching or lifting. Depending on how your surgery is done, the area around your sides and underarms may also be a bit sore afterward. (I remember one vigorous handshake about a week after my surgery really causing me discomfort.) So, consider that you may end up wanting to account for your sides and upper arms in the recovery period, in addition to your chest, and plan accordingly.

The doctor has agreed to aim for a full C, possibly D cup. He wanted to do a straight C, but I'm worried my self-image will have a difficult time adjusting to what I think of as so small (in relation to what I am now.)

If I had the chance to do it again, I'd probably ask for the smaller size. My surgeon strongly suggested aiming for a C. I wanted a B (and joked about wanting nothing at all), but ultimately agreed to the C. A few years out, I've filled out to more of a D, which is fine, but I kind of wish I had stuck to my guns. Once you experience the perks (no pun intended) of being a smaller size, your self-image may adjust more quickly than you anticipate, and they may fill out a bit more than expected in the future if you gain weight, etc.
posted by Austenite at 1:37 PM on October 9, 2013

Response by poster: You guys are wonderful! I should add that people who don't want to discuss their boobs on the internet are welcome to MeMail me. :)

Presumably, my husband will still be furloughed next week, which means he'll be home with me. And it will be a keyhole procedure.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:46 PM on October 9, 2013

Best answer: I had mine done at age 20 and am now in my mid 30s. Best thing I ever did. I went from a DDish to a B. I didn't have drains so I can't speak to that, but recovery was easy. the worst part was having the stitches taken out.

Also regarding size, I have gained a little bit of weight since then, and my cup size is now a C. But I tend to gain weight in that area -- you might want to go with a smaller size to begin with, in case you have the same weight gain thing that I do.
posted by thatgirld at 2:21 PM on October 9, 2013

Best answer: I had this done when I was 18 (so 17 years ago) and went from I have no idea what size (because there just weren't any shops that carried my size - that I could find, anyway) to a 32 DD/E. The surgeon was going for a C/D. FWIW, I know a couple of other people who have had the surgery and think the doctor was too conservative and left their breasts too big. I had the procedure with the anchor-shaped scars where the doctor removed and repositioned the nipple (they look kind of ragged around the edges now) with drains in for the better part of a week. My pain was controlled by extra strength ibuprofen (I do have a high pain threshold.)

It was life changing for clothing ( finally I could find dresses that fit my top and my bottom halves, instead of having to buy a size 12 to fit the boobs in when the rest of me was a size 4) and exercise (I could run! I could do all kinds of high impact aerobic activity without my boobs getting in the way or threatening to smack me in the chin). And my back pain was hugely helped also - I don't have perma-grooves in my shoulders from bra straps or ongoing low level lower back pain. And pretty bras! It was SO depressing as an 18 year old to be stuck in these vast, 5 hook "minimizer" bras that looked incredibly utilitarian and unsexy.

In my case, I'm unlikely to be able to breast feed and I'm currently pregnant with my first child and fine with that. I wouldn't trade the past 17 years of freedom for breast feeding, which is supposed to be wonderful, but doesn't last for 17 years (because wow, creepy.) (as a side note, being pregnant has made my breasts grow again - I'm up to a 36H - my ribcage has expanded too - and I'm not quite 5 months, so I *hope* they don't get any bigger because maternity bras in these sizes are about $60 each with shipping - but that's completely out of my control anyway, so I am just looking forward to having them return to normal after pregnancy.)

My breasts have definitely sagged over the intervening years but probably not more so than might have happened if I hadn't had the procedure - still worth it. (It's not like I can go braless outside the house anyway, at a 32DD/E).

tl;dr: AWESOME. And I'm glad you have a supportive partner who can lift heavy things and things that are high up for you.
posted by data hound at 5:10 PM on October 9, 2013

Best answer: Didn't see this mentioned above, but when I had mine, I was asked about what size I wanted the areolas. I said "I dunno? The same?" That was a mistake. While my areolas were proportioned correctly to EE breasts, they really look big on my C-cups. It's just an aesthetic thing, but it occasionally bugs me. The other thing I did wrong was go back to work too soon. I had a desk job and didn't think it was a big deal, until I went to grab something from a high shelf and ripped my stitches open (I had the keyhole surgery). For a long time (like years) the underside of one of my breasts looked like I had a severe burn there. I had it done 20+ years ago, and it's smooth enough now that it's not really noticeable, but definitely follow your doctors orders about everything!

Despite my mishaps, I love my boobs. I had huge pendulous breasts prior to this, and even now, all these years later, they are still perky and the nipples point out instead of down and I can wear button-down tops and I don't have dents in my shoulders and it's wonderful. You absolutely will not regret it.
posted by dogmom at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2013

Response by poster: I'll be so happy to say good-bye to the shoulder grooves and neck pain. One final note - since I'm 45, breast-feeding is not a future concern. :)
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2013

@data hound, Bfar is about breastfeeding after a reduction. I was told it probably wouldn't be possible and planned on formula, but tried anyway because the baby was premature where breastmilk makes a significant difference, and we don't have breastmilk bank donations here. There was a noticeable difference between breasts, probably from what had been cut differently, but I was able to mostly nurse her at the start, and then supplemental nurse her with formula as her demand outstripped my supply. A good hospital-grade breastpump machine makes a huge difference, and the time elapsed between the reduction as tissue does appear to repair over time.

Squeak Attack, best decision ever! The surgery is not fun, but the results are wonderful. Definitely discuss nipples and areolas, and ask about scar treatment, even talk to a dermatologist before the surgery for advice. It's not just aesthetics, they can be itchy and weirdly numb if they don't heal right.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:46 PM on October 9, 2013

My SIL had it done. She's as happy as Larry (Larryette?), no complications, just a great weight lifted from her shoulders.
posted by GeeEmm at 7:59 PM on October 9, 2013

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