Everything You Wanted to Know About a Breast Reduction from Someone Who Got One

Breast Reduction - A colorful illustration of a woman looking in a mirror holding her chest.
Rudzhan Nagiev/Artur Debat/Getty Images

There was no specific moment when I realized I wanted to have a breast reduction. It was just something that I always knew. A long held, deep desire that just felt unattainable for me. Wanting something is one thing—but believing you are someone that can have it is another.

A breast reduction felt like something other people got to have. People with a lot of money, a lot of time to take off for recovery, a lot of autonomy over their body that I just didn’t have. Looking back, I understand how the total lack of control I felt around getting a reduction was a direct result of years of objectification from the world around me. Whether it was the overt portrayal of breasts as sexual objects or the stereotypes of promiscuity and indecency surrounding them, it took me until my thirties to see myself as the subject—a woman equipped to make any decision she wants—rather than an object that was frozen powerless due to years of critique, projection and commentary.

I once told a therapist that I sometimes felt like a porcelain doll that was kept in a box. I made up a half-joke that I’d call ‘Ariel Syndrome’ where, like the Little Mermaid, I wanted to be where the people are—just wearing a white T-shirt and not thinking twice about it, for example—but felt like I was stuck underwater, looking at the world happen, unable to participate. In a body with large breasts, doing something as simple as running at the park just attracted a different energy from the world. I always felt observed and insecure rather than present in the moment.

I didn’t develop into my body over time. I was one of those girls who came back from summer break in 5th grade and had D-cup breasts. It was overwhelming and emotionally painful.

People make lots of assumptions about young women with large breasts. It really confused me. I didn’t see them as sexual, because everyone else around me kind of ruined that for me. As I got older, I’d often hear, “I had no idea you had such big boobs!” during beach trips or “I would pay for those” as someone stared into my chest for five minutes straight. Objectification is a funny thing. Sometimes, of course, it can feel good to be observed favorably, but there’s always a sinking feeling when you are praised for something superficial that you had no part in creating. It’s like being put on a pedestal, but the pedestal is secretly secured over a dunking booth. You sort of hold your breath and hope you remain on the lucky side of the coin. Pretty exhausting.

Cut to a few months ago when I was crying in my car...I made a called to my primary care provider that day to get the process started."

Cut to a few months ago when I was crying in my car. A series of events had led up to a total frustration overload and I had one of those moments where I needed to let it out before coming back into my body. I needed to ask myself what was bothering me, what I could control, and what I needed to surrender. I realized in that moment of clarity that so many things I wanted were on the other side of getting my breasts done, the number-one thing being my own comfort. I felt held back and weighed down—in all senses of the word. I made the decision to become the subject in my own story and to take back the narrative surrounding my body. I made a call to my primary care provider that day to get the process started.

Getting Approved for Surgery and Finding the Right Surgeon

For each person, the insurance aspect of a reduction is different. Depending on your plan, you may need to provide proof of back, neck and shoulder pain. This can be in the form of logged chiropractor visits, photos of indents made from bra straps on your shoulders, and/or a letter from your healthcare provider explaining how the procedure would be medically necessary. Each company handles this process differently. While the process can range from simple to very complex, it is important to remember that it is possible. You just need to find the right provider and take it one step at a time.

Once I got my primary care provider’s letter, I was able to research plastic surgeons in my plan and have a few consultations. While each doctor was different in terms of bedside manner and office policies, they all agreed on one thing: I was a perfect candidate for the surgery. I decided to go with the surgeon that I felt the most comfortable and secure with, Dr. Kevin Small, Director of Plastic Surgery at New York Bariatric Group. After one meeting with Dr. Small, I knew his office was the right one to go with. He was very experienced and very kind, listening to my concerns and questions with total patience. I loved his before-and-after photos of reductions, and I felt comfortable every step of the way in his office. Like anything else, it’s one of those things that you will know when you know. By the end of my second visit, they submitted my information to the insurance company, and I waited to hear back. About a week later I got confirmation: I was approved. I actually happened to be in the car—once again—when I opened the email and cried. Kind of a cinematic theme, you could say. The whole process from booking to final approval took about two to  three months. This also varies from patient to patient depending on who you are working with.

Quote on iridescent background reading: "Before I had even gone in for the operation, I was feeling a deep sense of relief."

Once approved, I had to get some tests done including bloodwork, a mammogram and an EKG, all making sure I was fit for surgery. As everything aligned, I felt a combination of nerves and excitement. As I bought my surgery PJ set, got all my prescriptions and post-op meals ready, it was feeling totally surreal. I couldn’t believe it was actually me getting the surgery. Before I had even gone in for the operation, I was feeling a deep sense of relief.

As Dr. Small told me, “It’s one of those great operations in plastic surgery because patients have immediate relief, so it’s very satisfying for the patient and the doctor. They feel so much better.” I was also happy to hear that the desire for this relief is much more common than you may think. “I perform about two to three reductions a week.” He said.

The Surgery

When I woke up, I looked down to see my breasts were significantly smaller and higher (reductions come with a lift!) The combination of a nice mix of post operative drugs and deep sense of relief made me feel totally amazed and grateful. It's important to know that while your doctor can give you a general estimate, you won't be able to know what size you're getting until the surgery is done. Once your surgeon is doing the operation, they will be able to get you to the best size while maintaining blood flow to the nipple to maintain breast health. Your breasts can take up to a year to fully settle into the final size and shape.

“Patients almost have an immediate relief after a great reduction because that unwanted weight is taken off from the chest so, even though they’re still swollen, the volume is taken off so that back pain, that shoulder pain is just almost gone the next day.” Says Dr. Small, and I could not agree more.

The Recovery

The next week was a bit difficult in terms of soreness and post-anesthesia nausea, but by the time I hit the ten-day mark, I was feeling back to myself, only a new, more self-actualized version. Trying clothes on for the first time sent me into a bliss I never experienced before. The joys of open back dresses, plunging neck lines, tube tops and light-colored tank tops are all part of my life now, which felt totally impossible just a month ago. I think the new feeling of freedom felt even better because it came from a commitment to myself.

When it comes to plastic surgery, or any procedure that is going to change the way you see yourself, there will always be some noise you need to tune out before making the commitment to yourself. If you are considering this or any surgery that aligns with you with feeling more comfortable in your body, I would just say trust that you deserve it. Tune into yourself and tune out the noise. You really can make the change you want to make. Just take it one step at a time and try to enjoy the process.

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