BREAST-CONFIDENCE LINK "Some women consider themselves less attractive or less feminine because of the lack of ideal size and shape of their breasts, and this feeling of inadequacy can to lead to a lowered level of self-esteem and sexuality," Cynthia L. Figueroa-Haas Ph.D., ARNP, clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing and author of the study tells Cosmetic Surgery Times . "Cosmetic surgery may be associated with issues concerning self-esteem levels and sexuality."
Dr. Figueroa-Haas conducted a study in which she surveyed 84 women between 21 and 57 years of age, and assessed their self-esteem and feelings of sexuality before and after their breast enhancement surgery. All participants in the study underwent the breast surgery for purely cosmetic reasons.Dr. Figueroa-Haas found that after the breast implant surgery, women experienced a stronger and more intense sexuality. Results showed that women who underwent breast augmentation experienced significant increases in their sexual arousal, desire, satisfaction and lubrication.
"Interestingly, the women included in the study did not have a particularly low self-esteem or low level of sexual satisfaction prior to surgery. These patients simply desired larger breasts. Following the surgery though, the vast majority of the patients significantly benefitted from having larger 'more feminine' breasts — at least more feminine according to the definition of society pressures and trends," Dr. Figueroa-Haas observes.
CAPITULATION OR EMPOWERMENT? She cautions that there is a fine line, however, between women succumbing to the psychosocial pressures of sexuality and having larger, more feminine breasts, and women who simply desire large breasts because they want to enhance their own sexual image of themselves, for themselves. Sometimes this fine line is not so clear and the common denominator is a breast enhancement surgery.
For this reason, Dr. Figueroa-Haas believes that it is of paramount importance for breast enhancement surgery candidates to receive proper counseling before and after surgery, and that healthcare professionals acquire training to be able to handle the psychological aspect of these patients.
"A breast augmentation surgery may significantly increase the self-esteem and sexuality of women, but it would be foolish for any woman to believe that simply getting larger breasts will serve as a silver bullet for their problems in self-esteem and decreased levels of sexuality," Dr. Figueroa-Haas says. "The surgery may boost their outward look on their femininity; however, it may not address serious underlying issues they may have."
SCREENING ETHOS According to Dr. Figueroa-Haas, serious underlying psychological conditions involving body image such as BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and other psychosocial conditions must be addressed first before a patient undergoes such a surgical procedure. Furthermore, she contends that it should be the responsibility of an ethical plastic surgeon to actively screen for such behavior types in prospective breast augmentation patients in order to avoid any further psychological distress to the patient.
"Today's societal pressures concerning body image and outward femininity can often be the cause of much distress for women, especially for those patients who already suffer from more serious problems such as BDD. Though the results of a breast augmentation procedure can be a very positive experience for a patient, if the patient suffers from BDD or a similar disorder, the surgery may very likely backfire and not help the self-esteem nor positively affect or enhance the sexuality of the patient," Dr. Figueroa-Haas concludes.
Figueroa-Haas CL. Effect of breast augmentation mammoplasty on self-esteem and sexuality: a quantitative analysis. Plast Surg Nurs. 2007;27:16-36.
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