Medical Tourism: Go on vacation and come home with a new you

Those of us who live in the United States, especially if we live in border-states like Texas and California, are accustomed to thinking of Mexico as a vacation destination, it’s close enough to fly to inexpensively, and it offers everything from horseback riding to lazing on the beach, either in tourist-filled resorts or more natural settings. More and more Americans, however, are coming to think of Mexico as a destination for something other than a fun-filled vacation: they go south of the border to have cosmetic surgery done for (on average) half the cost of similar procedures here in the States.

Put any mental images of grimy chop-shops in gritty border towns out of your head. While those exist in Mexico (just as they exist here), the vast majority of facilities are perfectly clean, with state of the art equipment and staff who go beyond the perfunctory care offered by overworked American nurses. Indeed, the “in” place for cosmetic surgery is Guadalajara, which is Mexico’s second largest city.

It’s Easy

Medical Tourism, as the trend of flying to exotic locales to “have a little work done” has come to be known, has become as easy – or easier – than booking a package tour with flights and buses, with travel agents that help patients plan their trips as if they were planning a stay in a resort. Door-to-door service is provided by companies like Air Lift, Inc., a North Carolina-based organization that arranges for women traveling to Guadalajara for cosmetic surgery to be set up with a bilingual driver, room and board in a private home, and a surgeon to do the work in question.

In a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, the public relations manager of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Tony Staffieri, said that the number of people traveling outside the United States for plastic surgery “…has grown dramatically,” and that, “Mexico is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.”

For Guadalajara specifically, it is its close proximity to popular tourist destinations like Lake Chapala and Puerto Vallarta, which has increased its appeal as a medical tourism destination for Americans. ISAPS could not confirm the ratio, but locals say that their city has more certified plastic surgeons per capita than any other place in Latin America, except Rio de Janeiro. They also mention that Guadalajara has a public hospital where poor people can have cosmetic procedures done at deeply discounted rates.

So what’s the biggest factor in choosing to go abroad for plastic surgery, even as far away as Thailand or India? It all boils down to price. Jose Guerrerosantos, a plastic surgeon in Guadalajara, told the Christian Science Monitor that a tummy tuck – a procedure that costs upwards of $15,000 in the United States, is done for around $4,000 in Mexico. That’s a big difference, especially when you consider that cosmetic surgery isn’t covered by insurance, and must be paid for out of pocket.

But is it Safe?

While the practice of medical tourism isn’t new, the increased number of people doing it have the ISAPS working to define guidelines and offer risk warnings. Two points of concern are that some tour operators connect patients with doctors who are unqualified, and that there is no system in place to ensure access to follow-up care if it becomes necessary.

Despite this, and despite Tony Staffieri’s advice to look for savings on things like laundry soap and not a new face, the trend of going on “holiday” to have a cosmetic surgery procedure is not likely to go away any time soon.

Can You Breastfeed with Breast Implants?

Just because you want to be a mother one day does not mean you can’t get the breasts of your dreams today! Though some women who want to be moms are concerned about breastfeeding after they receive breast implants, most can feed just fine after breast augmentation. Still, it is important to understand how breast implants can affect breastfeeding.

Understanding How Breast Implants Affect Breastfeeding

Like we stated above, you can definitely breastfeed with breast implants. However, your feeding success depends on the size and placement of the breast implant and the type of incision made. That being said, most approaches to breast augmentation allow patients to breastfeed.

Incisions on or around the dark part of your nipple, called the areola, can lead to a loss of feeling in your nipple, reducing milk production. If incisions are made under the fold of your breast or in the armpit, you should have no trouble breastfeeding. As long as your surgeon is highly experienced, skilled and knows that you plan to breastfeed in the future, your milk ducts and glands should remain undamaged after surgery.

Along with incisions, the placement of your breast implants affects your ability to breastfeed as well. It is much more likely that your ducts and glands will remain undamaged if the breast implant is placed under the muscles rather than in between the muscles and breast tissue.

It is always best to speak with your surgeon and health provider about the safety of breast implants and your interest in breastfeeding, as everyone’s individual breasts and surgeries are different.

How Your Natural Breasts Affect Breastfeeding

Not many people think about how their natural breasts affect baby feeding, especially after they undergo breast augmentation. Your natural breasts play a big role, with our without breast implants.

Women who have insufficient glandular tissue in their natural breasts will have trouble breastfeeding, according to a study published in Pediatrics. In a study conducted by Huggins, Petok and Mireles, four types of breasts appeared to be associated with lower breast milk production. These include breasts that are spaced 1.5 inches apart or greater, asymmetrical breasts, stretch marks on the breasts, and tubular breasts (breasts that have a lack of fullness). If you have trouble breastfeeding, it may not be because of your breast implants. It might just be a result of your natural, pre-surgery breasts.

How to Prepare for Breast Augmentation and Breastfeeding

If you are planning to get a breast augmentation and want to breastfeed in the future, it is important to talk to your health provider. When you have your consultation at the plastic surgery clinic, discuss your interest in breastfeeding with your surgeon. He or she will need to examine your breasts to see how to best insert implants in them.

You should speak with your surgeon about how he or she can preserve as much of your breast tissue and milk ducts as possible so that you can successfully breastfeed. Again, most women who receive breast augmentation typically can successfully breastfeed, but it is still important to speak to your surgeon and prepare.