In a world where Kylie Jenner is queen more Irish women than ever are considering breast augmentation
In a world where millions of Snapchatters tune in to the every move of the nipped, tucked and busty Kardashians, it's easy to understand why more and more Irish women are viewing breast augmentation as an option when it comes to improving their own self-image.
According to the latest figures from comparison website WhatClinic.com more than 12,000 Irish women looked into breast augmentation in 2016, a figure which correlates with an increase in the number of patients undergoing breast lifts and implants in many of Ireland’s cosmetic surgery-focused clinics throughout the past two years.
Aisling Holly, Managing Director of Enhance Medical, said their clinics around the country have experienced a rise in the number of patients undergoing breast procedures, a trend which she says can be attributed to social media.
"Social media is now driving image trends, from the Kardashians to UK reality shows where the trend is to have well enhanced breasts, big lips and hair extensions. Celebrities also have a lot to do with driving trend changes. In general, Enhance has seen a huge increase in the amount of procedures carried out from 2014 to 2016."
While social trends seemingly can be attributed to the number of women opting for breast augmentation in Ireland, for many women the main driver to go under the knife is to boost confidence.
A new survey cited low self esteem and a lack of body confidence as the main reason Irish women underwent breast augmentation in Avoca Clinic.
In a survey of 43 women who opted for a breast lift or breast implants in the Wicklow-based clinic, 54pc said their confidence was "low" or "extremely low" prior to the procedures. More than half of these women said this lack of body confidence affected their relationships with sexual partners.
Niamh Murdock, Managing Director of Avoca clinic said that while there can be a perception that people who undergo cosmetic surgery do so for vanity reasons, procedures often have a greater psychological impact on the patient.
"I think that there’s this concession that if you get plastic surgery, you’re vain and I really don’t think that’s true. We see so many women who just want to restore and get back something they’ve lost and to get that confidence back. Jordan and Pamela Anderson-type boobs aren’t really a thing anymore in this industry and procedures are more often than not undertaken with a natural result in mind.
"I've just had a baby and I can totally understand why women want to just restore themselves to the place they were before and get that bit of self-esteem and body confidence back," said Murdock.
Although many Irish women who've undergone breast augmentation in Ireland say it was a decision made to boost their confidence, Systemic Psychotherapist Anne McCormack does ask if it is healthy to view such invasive procedures in this way.
"It is always possible to increase self-esteem to a high level without changing your body shape and it simply involves sourcing your confidence from the inside instead of from an external source.
"I believe however that to undergo surgery in order to increase confidence levels points to a belief within that person that there is not another, non- surgically invasive way to go in terms of increasing confidence levels to 'very high' and that is a false belief," she said.
The psychologist also said there is a question about whether cosmetic surgery does have an impact on personal relationships, and believes that women's desire to undergo breast augmentation is linked more to society's pressures on them.
"Having worked with many couples around the issue of sex, my view is that confidence because of the size of your breasts does not in any way account for greater levels of sexual intimacy at all.
"The biggest sex organ in the body is the brain so if you feel confident in your own skin, if you can communicate your sexual desires and preferences honestly and openly, then you will feel freer and more comfortable to really enjoy the intimacy that sex can create. I think for many getting breast augmentation, feeling 'sexually attractive' is not even about sex, it is about feeling of worth and it is society that needs to stop telling women that they are only of worth if they look a certain way," she said.
When it comes to going bigger, Aisling Holly said jumping from an A-cup to a D-cup is the most common request made by patients but interestingly, women who undergo surgery in Enhance's Cork clinic opt for the biggest implants.
"Kerry and Cork woman usually like going bigger that the average patient. Why, we don't know.
"The age profile of women in these regions seems a little older and maybe some are woman post pregnancy who have lost volume through breast feeding and want to fill the space with big implants giving them perky, youthful breasts."
Breast augmentation may be a procedure pondered on by many but there is also the financial plunge to consider. Whatclinic.com’s latest research says the average starting price for breast implant procedures begin at €4021 and at €4190 for breast lifts. However, the cost of breast augmentation can be as much as €8k. While many patients in their 40s and 50s are in a good financial predicament when it comes to covering the costs of surgery, Enhance Medical’s Aisling Holly says younger patients often have to save for a considerable amount of time or take out loans to fulfil their desire for bigger breasts.
"The older patient definitely has access to finance and most patients self finance their procedures.
"The younger girls tend to have to save first or borrow from the credit union or their parents to pay for these procedures but cosmetic surgery can be hugely beneficial to young girls who are flat-chested and struggle with confidence.”
As with any surgical procedure, the risks should seriously be considered before making the decision to undergo any cosmetic surgery.
Dr Peter Prendergast, president of the European College of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery and medical director of Venus Medical, said the most important period in the process is the consultation between a doctor and a patient.
"One of the most important discussions is that between the doctor performing the surgery and the patient. Here, any expectations can be discussed and the risks explained. Any surgery comes with an upside and a potential downside. While the majority of these procedures go very well, there is of course a risk of infection, asymmetry and issues with the healing process. Many of these procedures are done under general anesthetic which also poses a risk," he said.
As social media continues to act as a driving force according to Ireland's industry experts, psychologist Anne McCormack says there is a vital need to work on the confidence of our nation's young people.
"The fact that the rise in demand for breast augmentation surgery is being linked to social media worries me as it points to the possibility that it is feeding a very strong message to young women and girls which is, you need to look a certain way in order to be deemed of worth.
"We need, as adults involved in the lives of young people, to become much more involved in their online life in order to make sure that their self esteem is not being impacted by the numerous celebrities and social influencers they see online who are viewed by many young people as having a body to 'work' for. And so, because young people want to feel 'of worth', they can often obsess over their body shape to the point of feeling they need to change it. It is the conversations in society and in the media that need to change in order for this situation to change," she said.