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“I Just Felt Bad About Myself” A.J.'s Breast Augmentation

Before AJ's pregnancies, she'd worn a C-cup bra. After breastfeeding four children, she was as flat as the proverbial pancake. So flat, AJ says, "that I could actually see my ribs right through my breasts." And AJ's self-esteem suffered. "I just felt bad about myself," she says. "I'd stand with my arms crossed over my chest, not wanting anybody to see how I looked." She tried exercising to build up her chest muscles, but in her mind, her well sculpted arms and body only emphasized her lack of breast tissue.

Finally, after months of discussion, she and her husband agreed that she should look into the possibility of getting implants. She did, and today, happily, she's back in a size C and feeling proud of her appearance again. We spoke to AJ two weeks after her surgery to hear what advice she has for other women considering implants. Here's what we learned:

Talk to other women who have had breast augmentation

 AJ didn't try to keep her decision to have the operation a secret, which meant she was more likely to find good information from those who had the procedure, or knew someone who had. She works at a hospital, and many of the doctors and nurses she works with gave her helpful input, but her most valuable resource was a nurse who had had the procedure done years before. "She really helped me know what to expect, both right after the surgery as well as long-term," AJ says.

AJ's recommendation: Ask family and friends for any information they might be able to provide. Do they know anyone who has had the procedure? is she willing to talk to you about her experience? Your doctor should be able to provide you with names of former patients who would be willing to talk with you, too.

Choose the right surgeon

AJ says her surgeon was the key to a positive experience with the entire procedure. He explained the procedure carefully and gave her plenty of opportunities to ask questions. "He also has a lot of experience doing this surgery," AJ says. "So he was able to debunk some of the myths I'd heard about implants, and tell me about advances in technology that have made the operation much safer and more satisfying." Overall, his expertise and willingness to answer her questions reassured her that she was in capable hands.

AJ's recommendation: Don't proceed with this surgery unless you feel confident in your surgeon. Consider interviewing three surgeons before you make a decision.

Be informed about your options

Before her surgery, AJ had no idea that there were several decisions she and her doctor would need to make about different aspects of the operation. She is very satisfied with the decisions she made, and is grateful to her surgeon for the time he took to explore these decisions with her.

AJ recommends that you discuss the following with your doctor before you proceed with the procedure:

  • Type of implant -  Although silicone implants are still used in certain circumstances, saline-filled implants are the most widely used today. Implants can be round or shaped like a teardrop, smooth or textured. AJ's surgeon prefers round, smooth implants because, in his experience, they hold their position well. Other surgeons may have an expertise in using other shapes or textures.
  • Location of implants - Implants can be placed either under the chest muscle or directly under the breast tissue. Although placement under the chest muscle means a more extensive operation with a more painful recovery period, AJ and her surgeon chose this option because the muscle protects the implants from accidental bumps and bruises. As the mother of four active children, AJ knew this was an important consideration for her.
  • Placement of the incision - AJ's surgeon recommended placing her incision under the crease of the breast where her scars would be hidden. Incisions are also made around the areola, under the armpit or through the navel. You should discuss with your doctor the advantages and disadvantages of each location.

Be prepared for an extended recovery period

 AJ says that breast augmentation surgery, though definitely worth it, "shouldn't be taken lightly." Although she was able to go home the day of her surgery, AJ couldn't sit up without assistance for three days. Fortunately, her husband had planned to take time off from work to care for her. In addition to helping her with all daily activities and changing her bandages, he had to measure the fluid from drainage tubes placed under her breasts to make sure they were healing normally.

AJ's recommendation: You are likely to need constant help for at least one week after your surgery and some help for an additional few weeks. If you don't have a family member who can stay with you around the clock, shifts of friends can work just as well. Whatever your plan, be sure to set it up in advance.

Know what to expect afterwards

AJ's surgeon had warned her that her implants would feel strange at first. "They definitely take some getting used to," she says. "They feel harder than normal breasts and they're higher up on my chest than my original breasts were." The implants are purposely placed a bit high, since gravity will cause them to lower over time. A neighbor's experience reassured AJ in this area. "My neighbor's implants were high in the beginning, but now they have fallen and they look beautiful and natural."

AJ's recommendation: Don't be too concerned about the appearance of your breasts immediately after surgery. At first, there will be swelling – which may make the breasts seem uneven, too high, and too large. Over the first few days and weeks, the breasts will progressively "settle into their new shape and position."

Enjoy your new look

AJ's clothes fit better now, and she can wear a variety of styles that didn't look good on her in the past. More importantly, her implants have given her a more positive attitude at work and in social situations. Knowing she looks her best "helps me feel better about myself, so I present myself with more self-confidence." 


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