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Thu, Nov 04, 2010
The New Paper
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Perks without the pain?
by Kwok Kar Peng

AS IF taking care of a baby wasn’t enough to make mothers frazzled, some have another problem to worry about:

Their drooping and shrinking breasts – which have somehow become smaller than before they got pregnant.

It is not clear why this happens to some women, but it has been variously attributed to the women’s genetic predisposition, skin elasticity, or simply the amount of weight lost after pregnancy.

One woman, who wanted to be known only as Ms Siew, said she’s losing her confidence because of her saggy breasts. The phone sales associate, 28, said she feels shy about undressing in front of her husband because she feels her breasts look unappealing.

To have her assets enhanced, she’s even willing to go under the knife. But all the other women The New Paper on Sunday spoke to said no to surgery, preferring non-invasive procedures or other approaches, like using creams or doing certain exercises.

At The Sloane Clinic, consultant plastic surgeon Dr Tan Ying Chien said 70 per cent of his patients are now opting for minimally-invasive procedures such as breast fillers, instead of surgery.

Similarly, Dr Karen Soh, an aesthetic physician at Pacific Healthcare Specialist Centre at Paragon, said that more than half the patients who see her for breast procedures now ask for less invasive methods.

Growing popularity

Breast fillers are gaining popularity here, Dr Soh said, mainly because of the short downtime (women can go back to work the next day), lower costs and needle- point scars.

The filler is a gel containing hyaluronic acid – a component of connective tissue found naturally in the body – that is injected into the breasts.

Dr Tan added: “One can achieve a mild to moderate increase in breast size with the injection of fillers. It can also have a very mild lifting effect on the breasts.

“However, there is a limit to the size increase one can get from this, and the result are not permanent, lasting only a few months to a year.”

Fat injections are another kind of minimally- invasive procedure available here. Like breast fillers, they operate on the same principle – this time by adding the patient’s own fat to her breasts.

Fat is first harvested from a patient’s abdomen, thighs or buttocks via liposuction. Impurities and blood are removed and what is left is then concentrated before being injected into the breasts.

Dr Soh believes invasive procedures like breast implants and breast lifts are losing their appeal because women are less willing to accept scars or a longer downtime.

Ms Alicia Leong, 31, who is self-employed, said she’s afraid of the pain and trauma of going under the knife. The mother of two said she is one cup size smaller after childbirth compared to before.

Housewife Sharon Chong, 36, is wary about the risks surgery involves. She has heard horror stories about how complications can arise after breast enhancement procedures, resulting in scarring, bleeding, infection, and implant failure (leakage or rupture).

She told The New Paper on Sunday that her breasts became smaller after she had two children. She is now pregnant with her third.

There is also a stigma attached to women who have had plastic surgery, education officer Karen Tan, 32, added.

Apart from getting the help of a doctor, there are other ways women may enhance their assets. For example, wearing the right bra can make a woman’s breasts appear perky and more shapely.

Ms Wileen Chen, 28, advertising and promotions manager of Triumph International Singapore, said that wearing a good-fitting bra may gradually mould the breasts to give them a more shapely look.

But she added: “Every body type is different so it depends on the individual.” Some women claim breast creams also help.

Businesswoman Angel Peng, 32, mother of a 4-year-old boy, said breast creams and massages helped her assets return to their original size and shape after a month. Ms Peng’s breasts had shrunk and become saggy after she gave birth. The skin around her cleavage also became wrinkled.

Out of the question

Going under the knife was out of the question for her. It was expensive, painful and risky, she explained.

She also intends to have a second child and isn’t sure if the procedures will affect breast-feeding.

“The person who sold me the cream taught me how to massage my breasts when applying the cream,” said Ms Peng. Cream or no cream, some women believe that massages can help too.

Beautician Wang Hai, 30, from Ma Kuang’s beauty and slimming centre, said she applies pressure on the acupuncture points and lymph nodes in the body to increase blood circulation, thus firming the breast.

This method can help even women who have not given birth, she claimed, including women below 30.

Other women have turned to exercise. Amore Fitness gym manager See Hai Ping, 34, explained that the breasts lie on top of a layer of chest muscle.

Women can do exercises to strengthen this muscle and thus lift the breast. One simple exercise is the standing push-up against the wall. Do these 12 to 15 times, for a total of three sets, four times a week.

Women can also do the push-ups with their knees on the floor. This is also known as the women’s push-up.

Subsequently, they can move on to the standard push-up, or try doing the push-up with one leg lifted up.

Push-ups not only train one’s chest muscle, they also work the triceps. For women with the much-hated “butterfly arms”, this work-out kills two birds with a stone, said Ms See.

But Ms Claudel Kuek, pilates director of PowerMoves Pilates in the Park, said breasts that have shrunk or are sagging cannot be increased in size or lifted in appearance through exercise alone.

“There are no muscles in the breasts, only fat tissue.

“We have exercises for the chest, arm and shoulder muscles that might give the illusion of more lifted breasts but only marginally,” she said.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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