What Getting Breast Implants Is Really Like: One Woman's Story

woman in surgerySo you're thinking about getting breast implants. Or maybe you're just curious about what breast augmentation is like. You've seen celebs from Iggy Azalea to LeAnn Rimes get them. But how bad is the recovery -- and how long do they last? We asked a woman who's spent nearly two decades with implant to get the full, ehrm, scoop.


A financial investment

Olivia (not her real name) first went under the knife in 1997 when she was 25 years old. At the time, the strip club industry was booming and she had joined the ranks of topless dancers. One thing stood in her way of raking in the tip. Well, two things: Her A/B-cup breasts.

woman before implants
Olivia before implants

"People go to see big boobs," Olivia says. For her, getting implants was a financial decision, an investment. And it worked. "I definitely made a lot more money," she says. She estimates she doubled her income "at the least."

Having been a teen mom also influenced her decision, and not just because she needed to make money to support her child. "In my mind, I was still a child when I had my baby, so there was never that moment when I was like 'I'm a woman now,'" she says. Not until she had her implants.

Why saline implants over silicone?

Olivia got saline implants. Silicone implants had been banned by the FDA in 1992 (the ban was lifted in 2006). Olivia had heard horror stories about silicone bags leaking, causing infections, and even autoimmune diseases. She explains, "I chose saline implants, because if you have a rupture, your body absorbs the salt water" instead of silicone.

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Given her line of work, Olivia had seen examples of both silicone and saline implants. "Some people don't like saline, because if you lean over, sometimes you see ripples in your skin," she says. "But it depends on your body mass. If you're not bony -- 'tits on sticks' we used to call them -- it's not going to be an issue."

That said, Olivia says she has a lot of friends who are happy with their silicone implants. "They think silicone breasts look more malleable and more natural looking, but I don't think so."

woman with breast implants
Olivia with implants

Under or over the chest muscles?

She also chose to have her implants inserted under her chest muscles, which is generally recommended to make saline implants look more natural. Some doctors believe that breast cancer is easier to detect (via mammogram or self-exam) with implants under the muscles, but not all agree. 

Recovery time

The surgery put her out of commission for at least two weeks. In fact, she says, "You cannot exercise for six to eight weeks, which is hard for people like me who like to work out." She also cautions that you have to avoid crowds for a while. 

A boob job is not forever.

Now here's the surprising part: Given her line of work, Olivia decided to go big. Her surgery resulted in double D-sized breasts. But they didn't stay that way.

"Apparently, your boobs will keep growing," Olivia says. Whether it was her gradual weight gain or hormones, those double Ds eventually grew to (gulp) H by 2011. "My boobs got tooooo big!" Olivia says. "I could not handle having such large breasts. It's hard to live a normal life like that."

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By this time, she had long since quit dancing, earned a college degree, and was married. So there was no advantage to having such attention-grabbing breasts.

The solution was to get what's called a mastopexy -- a breast lift, essentially. Olivia had some breast tissue removed as well, which is often part of the procedure. She left the implants in, but now she was back to double-Ds.  

What happens when breast implants rupture

Olivia was thrilled with the results up until March of this year, when one of her implants ruptured. She woke up one morning to find one breast "significantly" smaller than the other! She had lost weight recently, but that didn't explain the lopsided effect. "I was like, 'This isn't right!'" she shares.

She happened to have a scheduled mammogram screening and sure enough, she and her doctor could see what had happened. Olivia describes her damaged implant as looking like an empty, crumpled sandwich bag. (Always tell your mammogram technician if you suspect anything could be wrong with your implants.) 

Olivia says her doctor drained her other breast implant with a syringe. Then, she returned, and they inserted the new implants -- with another little lift, which was a nice bonus. 

"The healing has been minimal this time because there was an empty pocket there," Olivia says. "You have less downtime, because your body isn't adjusting to as much."

So, what's it like to live with implants?

As you might expect, Olivia's implants draw a lot of attention. "Sometimes it's annoying, but you get used to it," she says. After she had her second implant drained following her rupture and before she had the new implants inserted she noticed a significant drop in attention from men. 

(For the record, Olivia is gorgeous regardless of her boob size.)

Another aspect of implants is that depending on your size, shopping for bras and tops that fit can be challenging. "If you get a normal-size job, it's not an issue. But my size? It's so hard to find a swimsuit that fits up top!" Olivia was buying her H-cup bras from the U.K., which for some reason specializes in big-busted clothing.

There's also this strange effect: "One time, I tried to jump rope, and it felt like when you take a soda can and shake it up," Olivia says. "It was the weirdest feeling!" However, she has no problem running. "There's nothing really I can't do," she says. "I work out more than I did before my implants."

Would she do it all again, knowing what she knows now? 

Olivia wonders what her breasts would look like if she'd never gotten implants, considering they kept growing through her 20s and 30s. "Boobs are weird," she says. But regardless, she's glad she got implants.

"I love them!" she says. "I wouldn't change anything. I would still do it all. It's something that fits my personality, and it's who I am now."

"I really like boobs," Olivia continues. She thinks this may be because her mother had very large breasts, and in her mind that became what a woman is supposed to look like. "Not having big boobs made me feel less feminine," she says. "So, it was mostly to make money, but it was also my ideal of what a woman should look like."

Were you surprised by anything in Olivia's story? Did any of it change your perception of breast implants?


Image via ProStockStudio/Shutterstock

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