I’ve gotten so many questions on instagram about my breast reduction surgery so far that I figured I’d just throw together a Q&A post with all the dirty details. I do plan to write more posts about breast reduction surgery as the healing process continues with helpful tips for other people considering breast reduction, so stay tuned for those in upcoming months.
(Update: find a new post about the things no one told me about with breast reduction surgery here!)
Alrighty then (in Jim Carrey’s voice)………let’s dig into it!
Q: Why did you get breast reduction surgery?
A: Ummmmmm…. this is why.
If it’s not abundantly obvious, I had very large breasts. I took this extremely (un)glamorous photo to show as clearly as I could what my life was like before- with no bra for support or padding, I’m spilling out of the sides of my shirt and busting at the seams.
It wasn’t just about looks though, in fact it wasn’t about how things looked at all. I could deal with the giant boobs but the strain they put on my back, neck, and shoulders was almost unbearable. Just doing everyday things like bending to load dishes or wash laundry would make my back scream, and I constantly had painful, angry red dips in my shoulders where my bra straps sit. Frequently those dips were lined with broken blood vessels and even bruising, or the skin would be rubbed raw where my straps laid, especially if I was moving intensely (like working out) because trying to hold the girls in place would cause so much strain. Upon further examination from the doctor, my large chest had done spinal damage in the form of Kyphosis- which basically just means you can call me Quasimoto. 🙂
Along with the pain came headaches and migraines (hello, old friends!) and incredibly irritated skin underneath my breasts. I’d frequently get rashes, bumps, and acne that never seemed to be treatable, no matter how clean and dry I tried to keep things or how often I washed my bras. And should we mention that I had numbness in my hands and arms? Yep. Let’s mention it, because it’s a big deal.
Of course, there is a whole other level of the psychological toll having large breasts has had on me through my life. My confidence levels, my self esteem, my perception of sexuality, etc. have all been pretty negatively impacted at some point but I’ve worked hard to overcome some of these issues and ultimately, these were not a deciding factor for me. I just bring them up because I know they are a deciding factor for other people and I want to be transparent that I very much struggled with this for years.
Ultimately, I got the reduction surgery to fix all of these physical problems I had, including the back pain and kyphosis, headaches and migraines, neck and shoulder strain, numbness in my hands and arms, and skin irritations.
Q: Why didn’t you just try to lose weight to get smaller boobs?
A: First, RUDE….but a valid question. A lot of people have bigger breasts because they are overweight, however I had boobs like watermelons BEFORE I ever gained weight. I started wearing a bra in 4th grade my friends (lucky me!), by 7th grade I was triple the size of my friends wearing a C cup, and by the time I graduated high school my bra size was a 32G.
Yes. Really. 32G.
See me in the middle there? It’s poor quality and my 16 year old awkwardness is showing, but I think it makes my point. Clearly, I had boobs bigger than boulders before my weight was ever an issue haha. If anything, my delightful chubbiness has made me look… more proportional? Ha! But really, I could lose weight and certainly my chest would get smaller, but I’d still be extremely large chested and have all of the problems I listed above. Not to mention how difficult it is to exercise to lose weight when you get bruises on your shoulders and fear giving yourself a black eye with your own boob. I literally wore two bras and sometimes had to tape them down just to exercise through the most painful 30-60 minutes and my back would hurt so bad I’d have to lay on the floor and ice it. Sounds like fun, right?
Q: When did you start considering surgery and how did you decide when to pull the trigger and do it?
A: I hit about 10th grade (at that time wearing a 30DDD) and knew that I needed to have the surgery done. My mom had a reduction done when I was a child, and as I grew my inner eye could see the surgery in my magic crystal ball growing clearer and clearer. And by that I mean my boobs got to be the size of actual crystal balls. Ha. As much fun as it was to have boys try to throw things down my shirt during class when the teacher’s back was turned and to get called RPG Jess, I hated that I couldn’t wear a bathing suit that didn’t make me look like a pornstar. Back then, those were my terms haha, how I looked in a bathing suit.
After I had Emilia I decided I wasn’t going to have any more babies, or at least not for a long time (but who really knows, those things seem to surprise me!) , and I thought it’d be a good time to consider the surgery. I met with a doctor last year in March and started going through the process of getting it covered with insurance. As soon as it was approved, I scheduled it.
Q: What size did you wear? What is your new size?
A: The old size…. k wait, this is a trick question, right? I feel like when my boobs got past a G cup I never really knew what size I was haha, I mostly floated somewhere in the middle of the alphabet! Generally I wore a 38H to a 38J, depending on the bra. For all intents and purposes of this conversation, let’s say I was a 38J because that’s what most of my bras are.
The new size…. is looking like a C cup right now. There’s so much that goes into shaping your new body in breast reduction surgery. I spoke with my doctor about going to a cup size around a C, but I asked her to make me look proportional and to stick to the smaller side. Depending on how my body finished healing will determine my true size, but I’ll likely be a small C to a small D cup once everything finishes recovering and my swelling finally goes down.
Q: How do they do the surgery?
Breast reduction surgery is typically done with what is called an anchor incision. It basically goes around the bottom curve of your breast where it meets your waist, then from the middle of that an incision will go straight up the middle of your breast to your nipple. Frequently the areola will also have an incision made around it so the doctor can reshape or resize it and fit it to the changed breast. They use the incision areas to pull out excess tissue and then stitch it back together. See my cute little diagram below. 🙂 I’m so artsy.
Because my breasts were so large, they had to intensify the surgery a bit. Is intensify the right word? Ha! Basically from my collar bone to the end of my nipple was like 18 inches or some ridiculous length, so they had do free nipple grafts. This process completely removed my nipple from my breast all together and then the doctor sewed it into the new location using a nipple graft method.
When I was in pre-op and the doctor was drawing on her marks, she basically drew a new curve where my breast would end, and then did the anchor cut ON TOP of that area, and removed everything else underneath. Or at least… that’s what looked like was happening and what I understood from her explanation haha. So my surgery looked a little more like my (expertly drawn) diagram below. The incision along the bottom of my breasts also extended ALL the way to the end of my breast, which means it circles my waist all the way under my arm and to my back on both sides.
Yep, my boobs were so big they started at my back. That’s why my arms were always pushed out and why I had tingly and numb hands all the time. Jealous? I thought so.
Here’s another little artistic and SUPER medically accurate drawing of what MY reduction looked like. It’s basically the same process, but they remove excess tissue AND skin, and fully reconstructed the new breast. Then the nipple is removed from the old location and sewed in place on the reconstructed breast.
Q: Will you have scars?
My doctor used the most up to date surgery methods and I’m taking the necessary measures to minimize scarring, but to be honest I’m not really concerned about having the scars.
Q: So how much did they have to remove???
I had over 2/3 of my breast tissue and excess skin removed, which weighed in total over 9 pounds. I remember coming out of anesthesia and her telling me that, and I thought it wasn’t really that much but think about it… 9 pounds off of JUST your breast area- that’s like 9 pounds of butter! It’s quite a bit.
You can see from this very lovely post-op photo that got snapped when I was still trying to wake up from anesthesia that those 9 pounds really made a difference! What a great photo of me haha. #sendhelp
Q: Does this surgery affect your ability to breastfeed or have sensation?
Yes. I’ve done a lot of research and many women are able to breastfeed after breast reduction, however because I had a free nipple graft all of my nerve endings were damaged and the connection between my milk ducts and my nipples were severed, I will not be able to breastfeed.
I have had people tell me that they swear their nipple was fully removed and they could still breastfeed, but guys- I spoke with multiple experts and doctors and did a lot of my own research. If you were able to breastfeed afterward then they either likely did NOT remove the nipple entirely (some nerves were left attached), or it they did then they were able to complete the procedure with very little damage to nerve endings and the milk ducts and so a connection was able to be maintained or re-grown. I also read some obscure article about how the position of the nipple needed to be similar but I didn’t see anything else about that.
I had so much removed that a lot of my mammary glands were damaged in the process and I’ve been told there is absolutely no way I’ll be able to breastfeed because there is no connection or exit for the milk to get out. So.. that’s the answer I’m going with haha.
As far as sensation, I have sensation around my breast but my nipple is completely and totally numb.
Q: What is the recovery process after surgery?
Basically 6 weeks of downtime and 3 months total before returning to normal activity, although it can be up to a year before my breast tissue settles and is completely healed.
The first week I pretty much spent in bed or on the couch on heavy painkillers and icing. I basically had a cast sewn on over my nipple grafts and wasn’t allowed to get it wet at all, and then bolsters and surgical tape holding all the other stitches in place. After the first week, I went to the doctor and had those removed and got new dressings, which I change out every day for two weeks. I still have to ice very regularly and I keep on a steady stream of ibuprofen and acetaminophen. I’m exactly 12 days post-op at the time of writing this. 🙂 Oh! and I’m allowed to lift up to a gallon of milk, but no repetitive arm movements and I have to be very careful and limited in the amount that I reach for things or lift my arms above my head.
I’ve never had major surgery before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the pain was definitely worse than I thought it would be. I hate sleeping on my back, and my boobs basically look like Frankenstein porn because they are all stitched and bruised, and so swollen that they’re rock hard and don’t move haha. It’s gross. But I love the size and I can see how they WILL look in the future, and I can’t believe the instant relief I’ve already experienced on my back. It’s like I didn’t even realize how much pain I was in until the weight was lifted.
If you want to learn a little more about the recovery process, you can read this post here.
Q: Was your surgery covered by insurance, and if so, how did you get it covered?
Yes, thankfully! Let me tell you what, insurance is a freaking joke here. When I first tried to get the procedure covered my plan was horrible. I went through tons of hoops to provide them with documentation, all for them to respond 2 MONTHS later and tell me my plan didn’t provide coverage for that surgery, period. At all. Luckily we were able to change to my husband’s insurance plan quickly and I jumped through all the hoops again, and this time the procedure WAS covered but only after I met my deductible and such. I guess it was better than nothing, but I still felt frustrated that the surgery was going to cost me a few thousand dollars. By some miracle I landed a new amazing job and was blessed with incredible insurance, so I submitted the claim for the third time and finally got the procedure covered in full. Talk about a PROCESS.
For me to get the procedure covered, I had to provide extensive documentation from doctors that my chest has caused me problems over a long period of time that other treatments (like massage therapy and pain medication) had failed to fix. I had to include documented instances of back pain, skin problems, records of physical therapy and pain medication usage, and X-rays of my spine showing my kyphosis. All insurance plans are different so I would call and find out what your insurance requires so you can start making the necessary steps to get that documentation if you are considering breast reduction surgery.
Q: Did you take time off of work?
Yes. My doctor and surgical team said 6 weeks is typically what is “medically necessary” but for people working jobs that are desk jobs or don’t require too much strenuous activity, returning to work after two weeks is an option. I had my surgery on a Thursday and took the whole following week off. I work a desk job that I can do from home when I need, so for the next few weeks while I’m still healing I’ll be taking it really easy at work or working at home.
Q: Who was your doctor and how did you find him/her?
I did a LOOOOOOOOTTT of research. I took into account the types of surgery they specialized in, where they went to medical school, their years of experience, reviews, personal recommendations, and I interviewed multiple doctors. I’m not going to list the name of my doctor here, but if anyone is legitimately pursuing a breast reduction surgery and is local to the area and looking for recommendations, please message me and I am happy to share more details and answer any questions!
Q: How are you feeling?
At one of my pre-op appointments my doctor gave me a guide for what to expect emotionally after surgery, which I thought was the greatest thing ever haha. I think generally it’s pretty accurate and my doctor and team warned me about feeling sad, confused, or even guilt and regret about my decision.
To my surprise, I’ve been so happy and elated about everything for the most part. Physically however, I’m in a lot more pain than I expected. So… worse physically than I thought and better psychologically? Ha!
My swelling game is still running strong and the incisions that run under my arm specifically are pretty sore still. I’m tired of sleeping on my back too, but I am out of the nasty surgical bra now and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more elated than walking out f target with a normal-sized sports bra that cost $11.99. I haven’t bought a bra in target, or one less than $70, since I was about 16! Blessed be this day forever.
Alrighty, I think that answers all of the big questions I was getting but feel free to DM me more about the process, I’m totally open about this process and will be as transparent as possible. I definitely want to help anyone that might be considering breast reduction surgery, too!
I love each and every one of you for taking time to show so much love and support, it means the world to me!