Women explore cosmetic surgery for a variety of reasons; some wish to repair damage from an illness, physical deformation, or accident, and others want to change some aspect of their body that they didn’t like. Throughout the past twenty years, the most popular cosmetic change that women have chosen to undergo has been breast augmentation. During the first ten years of the twenty-first century, breast augmentation has increased by almost 40 percent. In 2010, nearly 300,000 people received elective breast augmentation and another 90,000 had elective breast lifts performed. 

Women are increasingly manipulating their breasts for cosmetic purposes, and, happily, these surgeries may be having positive effects on the women’s self-esteem and sex lives. A 2007 study published in Plastic Surgical Nursing investigated the relationship between self-esteem and breast augmentation. The article argues that women who have breast augmentation procedures self-reported higher self-esteem and more satisfying sex lives after the operations. 

Cynthia Figueroa-Haas, the researcher for the study, found that many of the eighty-four women interviewed experienced increased self-esteem; after the breast augmentation, they found that they had a more positive body-image perception.

Breast Augmentation and Self-Esteem

Many women who choose to have breast augmentation do so because their breasts have not developed, or because there is unevenness in breast development. The women do not necessarily have low self-esteem, but they are unhappy with the way their bodies look; breast augmentation can fix that one specific problem. After the surgery, they experience greater self-esteem because they are more comfortable in their own bodies. 

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Figueroa-Haas emphasizes that the increase in self-esteem does not come if the surgery was encouraged by outside forces or done for another person such as a partner or spouse. The biggest gains in self-esteem come when the procedures are performed at the behest of the patient. 

Breast Augmentation and Sexuality

In addition to increases in self-esteem, many women report greater satisfaction in their sex lives and with their sexuality. The increased satisfaction with their sex life may be a result of feeling more feminine and more confident with their bodies. In other words, there may be a link between one’s self-esteem and body image, and one’s satisfaction or happiness with sex. 

Breast Augmentation and Psychological Health

Despite the fact that most of the eighty-four women responded positively to the survey, Figueroa-Haas warns prospective patients that breast augmentation will not cure underlying psychological problems such as depression or body dysmorphic disorder.   

Figueroa-Haas encourages women who may suffer from psychological disorders to have those disorders treated before undergoing breast augmentation procedures. Sometimes women who believe that having a breast augmentation procedure done will cure their depression become suicidal when after the surgery they still feel depressed.     

Additionally, cosmetic surgeons are urged to perform screening procedures for mental health problems with all of their cosmetic surgery patients.  Many plastic surgeons and psychological health advocates argue that it is the surgeons’ responsibility to be as sure as possible that their patients do not suffer from depression or body dysmorphic disorder.