It May Be Time

How To Know If You Might Benefit From A Breast Reduction

Oh, you mean tingling in the hands and fingers isn't normal? Could've fooled me, friend.

Originally Published: 
A large-chested woman takes off her shirt.
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Maybe you've had big boobs for as long as you can remember. Maybe your cup size has grown due to body changes from pregnancy, postpartum, or life in general. No matter the reason, lugging around extra weight on your chest can be far less sexy than the ridiculous beauty standards and societal beliefs placed on boob-havers simply for, you know, existing with a large bust.

If you've tried supportive bras, yoga poses, physical therapy, and all the other sh*t and still find that your breast size impacts your quality of life, it might be time to consider a breast reduction.

But how do you know if surgery is the answer? After all, women are often made to believe that their pain and discomfort is something they just have to deal with… or worse, that it's all in their heads. A plastic surgeon is here to help you determine if a reduction is right for you.

Does Size Matter? What To Look For

First, you might be wondering if your breasts are even big enough for surgery. The easy answer is that any person who wants a smaller chest for any reason deserves to have a smaller chest. There is no a specific cup size or weight guideline to go by, and you're entitled to seek surgical options even if you're not experiencing physical pain but would like a reduction for cosmetic and/or gender-affirming reasons.

That said, there are several telltale signs/symptoms that you might benefit from a breast reduction, as Dr. Lyle Leipziger, chief of plastic surgery at North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center, tells Scary Mommy.

"Women that have very large, pendulous breasts that hang loosely may suffer from persistent back, neck, and shoulder pain," he explains. Along with pain or soreness in those areas, you might experience numbness and tingling in the arms, hands, and/or fingers, a sign of nerve pain radiating from your upper body due to the size of your chest.

This upper body pain might impact just about every aspect of your everyday life, including your ability to move comfortably, sit properly, and sleep peacefully, says Leipziger. "Many women with large, pendulous breasts feel self-conscious that their chest is too big for their body. This may impact activities in daily life, such as exercising, finding clothes that fit properly, and even feeling as though they lean forward when they walk, resulting in poor posture." This very writer knew it was time to schedule a consultation when a dinner out with friends left her in agony due to the low, unsupportive chair back in the restaurant, a problem she'd been trying to ignore for months — if not years. (♫ It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me. )

If you battle frequent boob sweat despite your best efforts to stay comfy and dry, you might consider chatting with a doctor, be it your primary care physician, a dermatologist, or a breast surgeon. "In addition, they may develop rashes in the fold under the breast that require medical treatment," he says. Chafing and rashes under the chest can not only cause pain and discomfort due to skin rubbing against skin but can also lead to infection. (Eek!)

The next time you slip your bra off, take a peek at your shoulders. If you notice indents where your bra straps were, that might be a sign you could benefit from a breast reduction. "Upper shoulder grooving may also occur from bra strap indentations caused by suspending the significant breast weight," adds Leipziger.

"Women having these many symptoms don't always think they can be related to their large breasts," he notes. "Some women see orthopedic and chiropractic doctors for evaluation. These doctors may see no skeletal reason for the pain except for the enlarged breasts weighing on their back, neck, and shoulders, and therefore they're referred to plastic surgeons for a breast reduction."

Other aesthetic signs you might benefit from surgery include breasts that are uneven in size or shape and breasts that droop or sag downward due to their weight. But beyond the physical, if your chest is impacting your self-esteem or confidence, there's no reason to continue carrying around the weight of your worries on your chest.

Where To Begin

As blissful as smaller tatas might sound, breast reduction is a major surgery, which means you'll need to account for weeks (or longer) spent healing and without heavy lifting — no small feat if you have small children who rely on you for just about everything.

Along with varying levels of pain or discomfort post-surgery, you might experience swelling, bruising, and other potential complications which you might not always be able to plan for. Chatting with your doctor can help answer all your questions, as well as set things in motion with your insurance plan if you're hoping to have the procedure covered due to medical necessity. Your primary care doc or OB-GYN can provide a referral to a surgeon who specializes in breast surgery.

"A thorough consultation with a plastic surgeon should outline the breast reduction procedure in detail," says Leipziger. "A patient's body features, including height, weight, and breast size, will be assessed. Breast size and shape will be evaluated preoperatively, and patient goals will be reviewed to determine the optimal desired result."

The good news is, there's a solid chance you'll be thrilled with the results of the surgery, he says. "Breast reduction is one of the most satisfying procedures in plastic surgery regardless of age. In my own practice, I have performed breast reduction surgery on patients as early as age 18 and even later in life at age 83. Whether younger or older, all patients feel as though a great weight has been removed, resulting in an improved quality of life."

New mamas or mamas-to-be, listen up. If you are planning on having kids or you're newly postpartum, you might need to take timing into consideration, he notes. "If pregnancy is imminent, I would recommend postponing breast reduction surgery until after having children. Postpartum breast reduction should be performed only after breastfeeding is complete."

That said, a consultation or conversation with your doctor is never a bad place to start, and you'll be thankful to get the ball rolling so you can prepare for a life with less pain and discomfort — which is what we all deserve, no matter our cup size.

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