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Before having a breast reduction at 23 years old, I had multiple conversations with people who underwent the surgery. I asked plenty of questions of my doctor and did a little too much reading. Fortunately, this all made me pretty well equipped as I anticipated a lot of things that would have been concerning had I not been warned.

That said, there are some emotions and quirks that come with having a breast reduction that no doctor really could have prepared me for. These are a few things I wish future me could have told post-surgery me while I waited on that stretcher outside the surgery room.

You’re not going to feel like a completely different person

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

When you change such a prominent part of you, the aftermath is substantial — so naturally you expect it to impact a lot more than just your body. I was pretty sure I’d be a new and improved person. If I found the confidence to take control of my body, confidence in other areas would follow…right?

In some ways yes, but I wish I was more prepared to literally be the exact same person, just with smaller boobs. While a surgery like a breast reduction is definitely a step towards self-care, it won’t solve every insecurity.

You’re going to want to talk about your boobs all the time

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

I’m a pretty private person, but after my surgery I wanted to talk about it with everyone. Having a substantial surgery like a reduction opens windows for a lot of conversation, especially with people who have also considered getting the surgery. All of a sudden I was sharing my story and talking about my boobs with anyone who was interested enough to listen.

Not everyone will be able to tell the difference — and that’s okay

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

For me, this was one of the hardest things to come to terms with. As much as people undergo this surgery for themselves, a portion of why a lot of females — including me — go through it is to look a bit more balanced and, truthfully, be less self conscious about everyone looking at you.

I was pretty devastated when, after making such a big decision and going through the lengthy recovery process, a friend told me I looked exactly the same. I learned that it doesn’t matter if people can tell the difference — it matters if you can feel the difference. It’s important to feel like you’re carrying less weight and to be more confident in your skin.

Your boobs won’t feel like they’re yours

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

Even though a reduction works with what you have, after the surgery it kind of feels like your boobs have just been sewed onto your body. I’ve never had implants, but I can’t help but imagine that’s kind of what it feels like. Because your breasts endure trauma, they kind of feel like they are attached to you, but not part of you — which I didn’t anticipate. For me, after the five month mark is when everything actually settled and my boobs and I felt like one again. After this point, I was a lot more comfortable with my skin as I finally felt an indication of the true weight and feel of my reduced breasts.

You’re going to be stuck with bralettes and sports bras for a long time, so be resourceful

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

Leading up to my surgery, I was dreaming of bralettes. I couldn’t wait to wear something less restricting and more versatile and comfortable — and yes, more sexy. After my surgery, I lived in a happy world of lace bralettes for a few months until I actually found myself wanting to wear a real bra that would provide me with that extra oomph. Problem was, I still wasn’t physically ready because of my fairly new scarring.

After getting fed up with the limitations of bralettes and sports bras I could wear, I embarked on a hunt for bras and sports bras that had more structure and padding. It was, and continues to be, frustrating to find the perfect hybrid of a sports bra or bralette that provides the same kind of support and shape as an underwire bra.

Your boobs won’t be perky forever — gravity exists

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

To be honest, my doctor did tell me that my boobs would eventually fall more naturally as my recovery progressed — and I was so glad she did. Because lifts can be thrown in with a reduction, women commonly think their boobs will be up to their chins forever after the surgery. My doctor also told me I wouldn’t need to wear a bra for a while, which excited me up until I excitedly told my boyfriend’s sister (who also underwent the surgery), and received a text reply in all caps “WEAR A BRA.” Harsh reality = the truth.

Moral of the story? Don’t force yourself into anything that hurts post-surgery, but do find something that resembles a bra for some support, because they won’t be perky forever (just for a decent period of time).

Everything you own will look different — and not everything will look better

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

After surgery my button-down tops stopped pulling, and flowy tops didn’t overwhelm my torso so much. Alternatively, some of my favourite tops that I filled out before now hung differently, sometimes in ways I didn’t like. I was pretty disappointed when one of my favourite (see: expensive) blouses just didn’t look nearly as good without all that boob to fill it out. On the flip side, a wrap sweater my mother kindly gifted me, that just wouldn’t sit right, suddenly fit me perfectly. It’s kind of a give and take.

The recovery doesn’t end after the six-week mark

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues

Typically the recovery time for breast reduction is two weeks. The first week is for you and your pain meds, and the second week is for your doctor’s piece of mind — to ensure you don’t have any blood clots, infections, pull stitches etc. Other than refraining from exercise for six weeks, it’s all free game from there on.

For some reason, the two week mark kind of stuck with me and I was pretty disappointed to not feel one hundred percent once I hit it. Don’t get me wrong, my pain was minimal — save for tightness and sensitive scarring — and I was out and about after starting to go stir crazy at home.

Still, after two weeks the scarring is very much there (obviously), the swelling doesn’t go down completely, you’re nowhere near underwire bras and your body is still getting used to the new weight. I had to be reminded that my surgery was actually pretty substantial and the recovery wasn’t going to be two weeks flat — it was going to come in stages. Once I came to terms with that, I was actually able to recognize how far I had come since the surgery and how fast everything was healing in reality. No regrets here.