Why get breast implants?
A woman might choose to get breast augmentation, or implants, for a variety of reasons.
For one, a younger woman might seek out breast augmentation because she had one breast that did not develop fully, and it's difficult for her to wear clothing without a visibly noticeable difference.
Other women might undergo breast augmentation because they want to increase their bust size. For example, a woman in her 20s might seek out the surgery once she has finished developing. Also, women in their 30s and older might want breast implants after having children and seeing their bodies change because of it.
The average cost of breast augmentation surgery is $3,543. That doesn't include the average fee for anesthesia, operating room facilities or other related expenses. It is generally not covered by insurance.
What happens during surgery?
You are usually placed under general anesthesia, meaning you'll be asleep.
Each surgeon will have a different technique for surgery. For example, one type of surgery involves cutting near a woman's armpit and placing the implant through a small cut. Another type of surgery involves cutting near the nipple. And some surgeons might cut in the crevice underneath the breast to place the implant.
Surgeons will also have different implant preferences. Some surgeons might use silicone gel implants while others might prefer saline. It's important to ask your surgeon any questions you have and play an active role in the decision-making process.
Does it hurt?
Some women say the pain after surgery is similar to the pain felt when their breasts were engorged while lactating.
Overall, the pain should not be terrible. You will likely have soreness where the surgeon made the incisions to insert your implants. It's generally an outpatient surgery, unless there's a complication with anesthesia.
What are the risk factors?
With any surgery, there's a risk of bleeding and infection. There's also a risk that you might not react well to anesthesia.
Some women will develop firm scar tissue over their implants that they will be able to feel through their breasts. This can sometimes require an additional surgery to remove the tissue.
Other risks include scarring that's visible for others to see, poor healing of the incisions, implant leakage or rupture, wrinkling of the skin over the implants and blood clots. It's important to ask your surgeon any questions you have about the risks associated with breast augmentation.
What's the recovery time?
Generally, you might be down for about two days with ice packs on your chest. Your surgeon might also have you take antibiotics. Depending on whether you're taking prescription pain drugs, you might be limited in whether you can drive a car for the first few days.
You usually will be able to shower about three days after surgery. You likely will want to sleep on your back for the first couple of weeks.
If you do desk work, you generally can return to work after about five days. If you have a more physical job, it could take a week to two weeks. After about three weeks, you should be able to return to your normal activities, including exercise routines that are more strenuous.
What's the follow-up?
Your surgeon likely will want to check on you 24 hours after surgery to ensure there isn't any bleeding. After about a week, you will get your stitches out.
Your surgeon might want to see you after a few months and then a year after surgery.
Breast implants do have a life span, and future surgery might be required. For some women, they will outlive the life of their breast implants. The average implant will last about 25 years.
Sources: Dr. Paul Silverstein, a plastic surgeon in Oklahoma City; National Institutes of Health; American Society of Plastic Surgeons.