Mastopexy is the medical name for a breast lift. In this procedure, a plastic surgeon raises and reshapes your breasts to give them a firmer, rounder look. The surgery also removes extra skin around your breast and reduces the size of your areola — the colored circle around your nipple.

As you get older, your breasts lose their elasticity and firmness. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weight gain or loss can accentuate this process. You might want to have this surgery if your breasts have started to sag or droop. If you’d also like to increase the size of your breasts, you can sometimes have breast augmentation at the same time as mastopexy.

Surgeons perform a breast lift using a few different procedures. Which technique your doctor uses depends on the size and shape of your breasts, and how much lift you need.

Before your procedure, your surgeon will probably ask you to stop taking certain medications. These include drugs like aspirin that thin your blood. If you are a smoker, you’ll need to stop smoking about four weeks before your procedure. Smoking can interfere with your body’s ability to heal after surgery. It can cause serious wound-healing problems such as loss of your nipple or breast skin.

In general, the surgery involves these steps:

  • You’ll be marked by the surgeon in the standing position to determine the new lifted position of the nipple on your breast.
  • You’ll get medicine called anesthesia to relax you and relieve pain. You’ll be asleep during the surgery. This is called general anesthesia.
  • The surgeon will make an incision (cut) around the areola. The cut will usually extend down the front of your breast, from the bottom of the areola to the crease. It may also extend along the sides of the areola.
  • The surgeon will lift and reshape your breasts. Afterward, the surgeon will move your areolas to the correct position on the new breast shape, and may also reduce their size.
  • The surgeon will remove any extra skin to give your breasts a firmer appearance.
  • Finally, the surgeon will close the incisions with stitches, sutures, skin adhesives, or surgical tape. Surgeons usually try to place incisions in parts of the breast where they will be less visible.

You may decide to have breast implants at the same time as a breast lift. An implant can increase the size or fullness of your breasts. For safety reasons, some surgeons will not do the two procedures at the same time. If this is the case, you’ll first undergo the lift, with the augmentation followed weeks to months later. This “staging” is to prevent any loss, or necrosis, of the nipple.

In 2016, the average cost of a breast lift was $4,636, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The cost may be higher in a major city, or if you go to a very experienced surgeon. Most health insurance plans will not cover the cost of this surgery because it is considered cosmetic.

In addition to the cost of the surgery, you may have to pay separately for:

  • medical tests
  • anesthesia
  • prescription medications
  • post-surgery accessories, such as special clothing
  • the surgeon’s fee

Your breasts may be swollen and sore for a few weeks after your surgery. Your doctor will give you medication to relieve the pain. You can also hold ice to your breasts to relieve swelling and soreness.

You will need to wear a surgical bra or a non-wire bra for two to three weeks after your surgery. You’ll also need to sleep on your back propped up by pillows to keep your chest raised.

The soreness, bruising, and swelling should go away after a few weeks. Your breasts may take between 2 and 12 months to reach their final shape.

Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for two to four weeks after your surgery.

Like any surgery, a breast lift can have risks. These include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • blood or fluid collecting in the breasts, which may need to be drained
  • scars — some of which could be thick or painful
  • poor healing of incisions
  • loss of feeling in the breast or nipple, which may be temporary
  • uneven shape to one breast, or uneven breasts
  • blood clots
  • need for another surgery
  • loss of some or all of the nipple and areola (very rare)

Make sure you discuss all possible risks with your surgeon before the procedure. After the surgery, call your doctor right away if:

  • your breasts are red and feel warm to the touch
  • you are running a fever over 101°F
  • blood or other fluid keeps seeping through your incision
  • you have chest pain or trouble breathing

Mastopexy should give your breasts a more lifted, firmer appearance. You may have some scars on your breasts, but they should fade over time. Newer breast lift techniques cut down on scarring. To maintain your new look, try to avoid significant changes in your weight.

You may not be able to breastfeed after this surgery. If you plan to get pregnant in the future, check with your doctor before having the procedure.