Woman's large breasts 'agony' relieved by reduction: 'I couldn't pick my kids up'

We explore the signs you could need a breast reduction and who may be eligible for one on the NHS.

Victoria Marsh had a breast reduction
Victoria Marsh forked out £10,000 for a breast reduction after nearly two decades of discomfort. (SWNS)

A woman whose chest size caused her ‘agony’ for almost two decades says her breast reduction has improved the quality of her life.

Victoria Marsh, 33, has had size 34H breasts since she was a teenager, but says that her chest caused her endless shoulder and back pain and she found it hard to pick up her children.

However, when she enquired about a breast reduction with the NHS, she was told that she wasn’t eligible.

"I had to buy my wedding dress two sizes bigger to fit my boobs in," Marsh explains. "I felt so self-conscious. I didn’t want to be really booby. It’s really hard to pick the children up. I just wanted to feel nice.

"I constantly had strained muscles in my neck and infections in the skin under my boobs. I was constantly putting talc under there."

Read more: 'I had my breasts reduced from 30GG to 30DD – and it’s changed my life' (Yahoo Life UK, 8-min read)

The mum-of-two from Nuneaton, East Midlands decided to pay for the surgery herself, using some money from the profits of the sale of her house and a £3,000 loan to pay for the £10,000 procedure.

"It’s been three weeks now and I feel great," Marsh, who had her breasts reduced by five sizes to a 34C, says. "The procedure was so worth it and my quality of life has improved a thousand times over."

Victoria Marsh before and after her breast reduction
Marsh before and after her breast reduction. (SWNS)

Marsh says she knew she had to get the surgery done when she began to feel her breasts ‘push down’ on her ribs and had to get physio work on her shoulders which had grooves in them due to her bra straps.

When she enquired about a reduction with the NHS, Marsh says she was told she would have to have a BMI under 25.

Read more: Mum with 34JJ breasts couldn't breastfeed her daughter 'for fear she'd suffocate her' (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)

"I starved myself beforehand and I was bang on 25," she explains. "But I got a letter to say I wasn’t eligible. I wasn’t deemed disproportionate enough."

Following the surgery, Marsh says her back no longer hurts and she wants to use it as an opportunity to have a ‘more active’ lifestyle.

"I love running but it’s been impossible. It’s too painful," she says. "I can do a lot more with the children. I can wear the things I want to wear and not feel self-conscious."

Who is eligible for a breast reduction on the NHS?

The NHS says it provides breast reductions if it’s for health reasons rather than for aesthetic reasons.

There is no one set of guidelines as each reduction is decided by the person’s local integrated car board (ICB). Some ICBs do not fund breast reductions at all, while others fund it if you fulfil a certain criteria.

Young woman patient relax or making physical therapy in medical examination room for healthcare and medicine industry concept.
Breast reduction surgery can take up to six weeks to recover from. (Getty Images)

In general, the NHS says you may be eligible for a breast reduction if it causes health problems such as:

  • backaches

  • shoulder and neck pain

  • skin irritation, rashes and skin infections

  • grooves on shoulders from bra straps

  • psychological distress

  • the inability to exercise

Your local ICB may also have criteria including:

  • the size of your breasts

  • your weight

  • age

  • whether you smoke

  • and whether there are other options available

You can see a GP if you think you may be eligible for breast reduction surgery who can check the criteria with the local ICB and refer you to a plastic surgeon for a consult.

It can take between two to six weeks to fully recover from a breast reduction surgery.

What causes large breasts?

Breasts can grow to any shape and size and usually begin growing during puberty for women. Hormonal changes, genetics, pregnancy and breastfeeding can all contribute to the shape and size of someone’s breasts.

happy female doctor with her patient
If you think you may be eligible for a breast reduction, you can chat to your GP. (Getty Images)

However, some people with a much larger than average chest size may have a rare condition called gigantomastia which causes breasts to become excessively large and can be treated with a breast reduction surgery.

Gigantomastia is defined by breasts that have an excess of at least 5lbs of breast tissue or equal to more than 3% of your body weight. A similar condition called macromastia is defined by excess breast tissue that weighs up to 5lbs.

While the right size breasts is different for everyone, if your chest size is causing you pain or discomfort, or limiting you from everyday activities, it could be worth considering a reduction.

Watch: Raven-Symoné underwent liposuction and two breast reductions before the age of 18