Modern Family star Ariel Winter has just revealed she’s had breast reduction surgery at the age of 17 to take her bra size down from 32F to 34D.
She had the operation back in June, after years of back and neck pain, and told Glamour magazine: “My neck was hurting so bad and I actually had some problems with my spine.
“I had been discussing my chest with doctors for many years, but when I finally said, ‘I’m thinking of doing this’, he said, ‘Your back is going to thank you so much’.”
From the sounds of things, it’s no surprise she eventually opted for the surgery – which is also known as reduction mammoplasty, and reduces the weight and volume of the breasts.
Winter said her breast-size had also been a struggle when playing teenager Alex Dunphy on Modern Family:
“[They’d use] big sweaters, or strapping me down, which is fine, I understand that it doesn’t fit the character they have in mind. I understand that.
“But it was difficult to do that every day.”
Her story seems to have struck a chord with young big-breasted women across the world. Many have shared their own stories of breast reduction on Twitter, or spoken about how Winter has inspired them to seek help for their own health issues:
In the UK, around 5,500 women had breast reduction surgery last year.
Stephen Hamilton, a consultant for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), says it’s fairly common – especially for women struggling with large and heavy boobs.
Unlike breast augmentation, it’s rarely done for cosmetic reasons. It isn’t even carried out on women who are trying to reduce their breast size after previously having a boob job, like Katie Price. They would have ‘implant removal’ surgery instead.
Hamilton explains that women who opt for breast reduction surgery are mainly doing it to improve their quality of life: “It’s a very individual thing but often do women it for symptoms like back ache and neck discomfort. They can get skin irritation under the breasts from a collection of sweat. Sometimes there’s an odour.
“The symptoms affect them psychologically. Many are out of proportion and that affects their confidence in social situations. There’s a lot of evidence for psychological benefits with this surgery.”
One of those women is Holly Brockwell, editor of tech website Gadgette. She had the surgery back in 2012 aged 26, after years of dreaming about it. Her boobs went down from a 34GG to a 34DD.
“My boobs were ridiculous,” she says.
“They prevented me from doing anything. They drove me up the wall. I’d be at work resting then on my desk for relief. I couldn’t exercise because it would hurt. . I didn’t even walk because they’d bounce. I’d have to hold them going up the stairs and I could never lie on my front.
“I had such bad neck and back pain that I was spending a fortune on massages. The therapist once asked, ‘do you carry anything heavy’? I was like, ‘these two massive things’. Because you can’t take them off.”
Hamilton agrees that a significant problem for women opting for the surgery is the weight of the breasts.
“A really large-breasted woman can have as much as two kilos on each side,” he says – meaning a woman could be carrying four whole kilos on her chest. That’s equivalent to the average newborn baby, or more than three bottles of wine (which weigh about 1.25kg each).
“If you reduce a breast by half, that’s a kilo off. You can often have four or five pounds of breast tissue after the surgery.”
It’s no wonder that having such large boobs can have such huge physical effects on a woman’s body. But Brockwell, now 29, says it also had a huge impact on her confidence and self-esteem.
“I used to be quite proud of my big boobs at school but then they got bigger and bigger. At uni especially when I put on a bit of weight, I felt really self-conscious. It was so hard to get clothes that fit, and every piece of clothing looked ridiculous – even conservative clothing looked revealing.
“I used to buy statement necklaces to convince myself people were looking at the necklace, not my boobs, which was really sad. It really affected me quite a lot and I used to think about it all the time. Eventually I went to see my doctor, and he said, ‘have you tried a well-fitting bra?’
“It’s like, ‘yeah I hadn’t thought about that mate.’”
In the end, she was able to have the procedure on the NHS – otherwise it could have cost around £6,000 – and says: “It’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever done.”
The NHS offers the surgery in cases of extreme pain such as backache, neck problems, skin irritation and excessive sweating, or psychological distress. But a crackdown on the guidelines means more women are turning to the private industry – which is thought to be responsible for a three per cent rise in the surgery last year.
There’s no legal age limit for the surgery, but Hamilton explains most clinics recommend the woman is over 18, so her breasts have stopped growing.
Winter is just 17, but Hamilton says clinics do carry out the surgery on younger women if they are suffering from extensive problems and their breasts are no longer developing.
For most of those women, it’s the only way to stop the pain, discomfort and stress they experience on a daily basis because of their breasts. Even though it can cause permanent, extensive scarring – far more than with breast augmentation – it’s one of the procedures with the highest satisfactions rates in the UK.
Hamilton says hardly any women ever regret it – instead they’re delighted with the results and the change it has brought to their lives.
It’s exactly how Winter says she feels. She explains: “It’s something that I did to better my life and better my health and I think that that can benefit a lot of young girls.
“’I have felt more happy with myself than I ever have.”
And really, that’s all that matters.