Attractive breasts are not only a matter of size. With age, the breasts can start to sag and lose their youthful perky appearance. A plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon can restore a more youthful shape to sagging breasts so that swimsuits and bras fit better and the overall appearance of the breasts is more feminine and pleasing to the eye. Keep reading to learn more about the breast lift procedure and what it can and cannot do for you.
What is breast lift surgery?
A breast lift surgery is a cosmetic surgery procedure that is performed to change the shape of the breasts and lift them higher on the chest wall. During the surgery, which is also known as mastopexy, the surgeon removes excess skin and breast tissue and reshapes and raises sagging breasts. A breast lift is typically recommended to women with a sagging breast profile or nipples that point downward.
Having a breast lift mastopexy procedure performed can boost a woman's self-esteem and confidence. It is worth noting, however, that while a breast lift changes the breast contour, it does not significantly alter the breast size. If you want larger or smaller breasts in addition to correction of sagging, a combination breast surgery can be done. Such a surgery could involve combining a breast lift with a breast augmentation or breast reduction. For example, a breast lift can be performed along with the placement of breast implants to increase the size of the breasts.
Why is breast lift done?
As you get older, your breasts lose some of their firmness and elasticity. This occurs because over time gravity causes the supporting ligaments in the breasts to stretch, causing the breasts to sag. The ligaments can also stretch during pregnancy when the breasts are heavier. These changes can occur both with and without breast feeding. Also, weight fluctuations can lead to loss of skin elasticity, causing the breasts to stretch and sag. A breast lift might be offered to correct these problems.
Cosmetic procedures like a breast lift surgery can be done in combination with breast augmentation with breast implants or breast reduction. This can correct the changes in breast contour and size that occur over a woman's lifetime.
Types of breast lifts
Plastic surgeons use various techniques to lift the breasts by removing excess skin and tissue. Here's a quick breast lift guide that describes the commonly used techniques:
- A crescent lift is recommended in patients with minimal sagging. The incision is made in a crescent shape along the top edge of the areola.
- A donut lift corrects mild sagging. The scar is circular and encircles the nipple.
- A lollipop lift is performed to remove excess skin and reshape the breast. The incision goes around the edge of the areola and extends vertically down to the breast crease.
- An inverted-T lift, also known as an anchor lift, is performed for pendulous breasts with significant sagging. This technique allows the surgeon to remove a large amount of excess skin and sagging breast tissue.
How to tell if you need a breast lift?
You are a good candidate for breast lift surgery if your breasts have lost volume or changed shape over time, i.e., they have become longer and flatter instead of rounder and fuller. This cosmetic surgery can reduce sagging and give your breasts a perkier, more youthful appearance. If your nipples fall below the breast crease when your breasts are unsupported, a breast lift can correct the problem. Mastopexy surgery is also recommended for women whose nipples and areolae point downward instead of forward or whose areolae are stretched and out of proportion with the breast size (the areola is the dark skin surrounding the nipple). Last but not least, a breast lift can can address asymmetry, i.e., if the breast on one side hangs lower than the other side.
What breast lift surgery can't do
A mastopexy surgery is not right for everyone with sagging breasts. Women who are considering pregnancy in the future may want to hold off on this procedure. This is because during pregnancy the breasts can stretch and this could destroy the results obtained with a breast lift. Patients who are planning on breast feeding should take into consideration that a breast lift surgery can sometimes (not always) make breast feeding difficult by reducing milk production. A breast lift can be done on breasts of all sizes, but the results tend to last for a shorter duration if the breast size is large. This is because larger, heavier breasts have a tendency to sag again over time.
Combining a breast lift with augmentation
If your breasts have lost volume due to weight loss, pregnancy, or aging and look deflated, a breast lift alone may not give you the desired results. Your surgeon may recommend a breast lift with implants to give the breasts a fuller, rounder shape as well as correct the sagging with a single procedure. You will be able to choose a breast implant size to get the results you want.
Preparing for your breast lift procedure
Like all cosmetic procedures, the plastic surgeon will review your medical history and perform a physical exam on your first visit for mastopexy consultation. They will assess the quality and tone of your breast skin, breast volume, and breast shape. Photos will be taken and placed in your medical record. The surgeon will discuss your expectations from a breast lift and the achievable results. They will also make sure you understand the benefits and risks of breast lift surgery.
If you have gained weight in the past year, you may be asked to first attempt weight loss with diet and exercise. This is because weight fluctuations can affect the durability of the breast lift results. Being at a healthy weight ensures the improvements obtained with a breast lift are not offset by weight fluctuations.
If you are a deemed to be a good breast lift candidate, you might be asked to get a mammogram (breast imaging study) in preparation for the procedure. Your surgeon will also advise you to stop smoking and avoid certain medications that can increase the risk of bleeding.
You will have to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after the breast lift surgery. You might also need help with daily activities during the first week of recovery.
What you can expect during the procedure
A breast lift procedure can be done on an outpatient basis in a surgical facility or hospital. It is done under general anesthesia, but may sometimes be done under local anesthesia with sedation. The procedure typically takes 2-3 hours to complete. During the surgery, the surgeon makes incision lines around the nipples and areolae, extends them downward to the breast crease, and extends them horizontally underneath the breasts as planned. The surgeon contours the breast shape and lifts the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening sagging tissue. The nipples are shifted to a higher position. Deep stitches may be placed to reduce the size of the areola.
Aftercare and recovery: Life after breast lift surgery
You can go home the same day after your breast lift surgery. You will have a dressing on your chest wall and will wear a surgical bra for support. The surgeon will leave small tubes called drains near the surgical site to remove excess fluid and blood.
For about two weeks after the procedure, your breasts will be sore and swollen and tender. You will be given pain medication to reduce discomfort in the post surgical period. The incision lines may remain pink or red for a few weeks to months. Sensation in the nipples and breast skin typically takes 6 weeks to return.
You should avoid lifting, bending, straining, sexual activity, and sleeping on your tummy to keep pressure off the chest wall for at least 1-2 weeks. Your doctor will advise you when it is okay to start resuming daily activities like showering and washing your hair.
You will need to return to the surgeon to have the drains removed in a few days. Some stitches dissolve on their own while others need to be removed by a doctor. You will get instructions about care for your incisions and supporting your breasts with a soft support bra for 3-4 weeks.
Limitations and Risks
Like all surgeries, a breast lift carries risks of infection, bleeding, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. Additional problems that can occur include:
The scars from a mastopexy fade with time and are usually well-hidden by your bra or bathing suit. However, rarely, poorly healing scars can become thick, wide, and visible.
Changes in nipple sensation
Sensation in the breast and nipple usually returns in several weeks after the breast lift surgery, but some loss of feeling can be long term or permanent. Most patients report erotic sensations during sex are not affected.
Irregularity in shape and size
A skilled plastic surgeon can usually achieve good symmetry between the right and left breast, but some changes can occur during healing. Also, pre-existing asymmetry may not be fully corrected by the procedure.
Loss of nipple and areola
Rarely, the breast lift procedure can interrupt the blood supply to the nipple, areola, and surrounding tissue, leading to a partial or total loss of these structures.
Some women may have difficulty with breast feeding after a breast lift procedure.
Keeping your breasts looking their best
You should think of your breast lift surgery like a resetting of the clock or a reversal of the sagging caused by age. With time, your breasts will again undergo natural changes in elasticity and sag. However, you can retain the results of your breast lift surgery for longer by eating a healthy diet and exercising to avoid weight gain. It is also a good idea to postpone breast lift until after you are done with having children or after planned weight loss. This is because pregnancy and weight fluctuations can affect the results of your breast lift.
How long will the results last?
After a breast lift surgery, you will notice an immediate change in the appearance of your breasts, but the breast contour will continue to change over the next few months as the breast tissue settles. Your breasts will be firmer and rounder and you may need to wear a smaller bra size even if you have not had a breast reduction. The results of the breast lift are long lasting but not permanent. With age, your skin and breast tissue will become less elastic and sag again. This is especially true for larger, heavier breasts.
Choosing a board certified plastic surgeon for your breast lift
If you're considering breast lift surgery, choosing a surgeon will be an important decision. The MeTime app makes it easy to find a board certified plastic surgeon nearby if you live in the United States. In the UK, Europe, South Africa, and elsewhere around the world, the MeTime app connects you to experienced plastic surgeons in your area who perform breast lift surgery. You can click and upload pictures and have suggestions sent directly to you. Want to get in touch with aesthetic providers for a breast lift? Try the MeTime app now!