Hidden pain of plastic surgeries

What you need to know:

  • Plastic surgeries have in many cases wreaked havoc on the mental, psychological and physical health of women who opt to go under the knife

Dar es Salaam. Body reconstruction surgeries, also known as plastic surgeries, are becoming increasingly popular among Tanzanian women who want to change their looks.

But the practice, despite giving perceived attractiveness to those who go for it, has in many cases wreaked havoc on their mental, psychological, social, and physical health.

Mwanza resident Irene John, 38, is one of the victims of plastic surgery after undergoing a breast operation in India.

Four months after the surgery, she started experiencing severe pain in her breasts for twelve straight days. She decided to go to the hospital, where a surgeon advised her to undergo another surgery to remove silicone bags from her breasts.

“It was a hard decision to remove them because of the money I spent on my first surgery.

“The doctor advised me not to think about the money but about the possible effects of the silicone bags in my body,” she says.

After three days, she agreed to undergo the surgery due to increasing pain. She then continued with medical treatment for three consecutive months until she fully recovered.

Marry Steven, 29, a resident of Arusha, says after doing all the surgeries as she agreed with her fiancé, she was told that they went well and she would not have any health complications later.

However, several days later, she started feeling pain on both sides of her hips, which forced her to go back to the hospital.

“At the hospital, we were told that my buttocks failed to recover,” she reveals.

“I did three surgeries in a period of four months as an effort to end that health challenge, but it continued to torment me,” she says.

“My decision to remove the added meat in my buttocks resulted in loss, and I became shapeless.

“That’s the reason I broke up with my fiancé and flew back to my homeland (Tanzania) from Cyprus,” she says.

The surgery forced her to have two tattoos to hide the surgical scars.

A psychologist, Zabibu Idrissa, says the way society defines beauty has affected women in many ways, forcing them to put more effort into meeting the ‘standards’ of being considered beautiful and acceptable.

“The problem starts with the way society pushes women to meet the standards of beauty by even adjusting their body parts by undergoing plastic surgeries.

“It’s like we are forcing our girls and women to ruin their originality to impress society,” she says.

Zabibu, who is also an assistant lecturer at St. Augustine University of Tanzania (Saut), says the increasing number of girls and women who undergo plastic surgeries in the country would result in a country of fake people.

“It’s like we are building a country of robots, people with fake shapes and negative perceptions towards the definition of beauty and an acceptable woman.

“Society made our girls think that beauty is all about the external look of their bodies instead of the qualities that make them beautiful inside.

“They continue to put more effort into impressing society instead of focusing on their good inner characteristics,” she explains.

She went on to say that even after a woman has undergone plastic surgery to adjust a certain part of her body, she will, at the end of the day, be labeled as fake by the same society.

“They undergo surgeries to impress society, and after surgeries, the same society attacks them for what they have done,” she says, adding: “It is confusing them as they can’t undo what they have done.”

She says most women think undergoing plastic surgery is the best solution to overcome the challenge of being considered ugly and unacceptable in society.

“After undergoing surgeries, they came to know that society perceives them as idiots,” she says.

She says after undergoing plastic surgery, most girls lack self-confidence as they know their shapes are artificial and not their own.

“If a girl lives in a society in which people used to know her before surgery, it will be hard for her to be confident, as she knows everybody knows she has an artificial shape,” she explains.

Another psychologist, Saldin Kimangale, says a woman who has undergone plastic surgery may be affected psychologically based on what she thinks society thinks about her.

“She may start thinking that other people consider her not beautiful because her body has an artificial shape.

“That may lower her confidence and push her to isolate herself from the public eye as she thinks people discuss her artificial body whenever she passes across the streets,” he comments.

However, Mr. Kimangale says some women who have undergone plastic surgery may never be affected by public perceptions of their decision, especially those who have done it for soul satisfaction.

“Women of that kind are not likely to be affected because they have done it for themselves,” he says. He continues: “They don’t care at all about what other people think about their decision; all they care about is that their souls are satisfied.”

Mr. Kimangale says girls and women should be given psychological support to reduce and get rid of body dysmorphic disorder so that they cannot reach the point of doing plastic surgeries.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder that causes persistent, intense focus, shame, and anxiety over perceived body defects.

“Most of them just need conversation therapy to find out why they have reached the stage of feeling that they are not beautiful or acceptable women.

“It’s a matter of helping them not see themselves as worthless and teaching them how to respect and accept the way they look.

“Even those who have undergone surgeries can also get psychological help so that they stay mentally stable,” he adds.

Dr. Aidan Njau, a plastic surgeon at Aga Khan, says body reconstruction surgery may not go well and result in a body shape that is smaller or bigger than what the requester needs.

“That may force her to undergo another surgery to get the body that she wanted to have,” he explains.

He went on to say that such surgeries may not last long in a person’s body and thus cause the flesh to loosen.

“Some women’s bodies fail to recover shortly after surgery,” he says, adding that some people’s flesh loosens after several years due to age.

He says the situation forces the woman to undergo another surgery, which will be done according to her age as part of efforts to stay in her normal body state.

In addition, he says that in breast surgery, if the woman gets various skin bacterial infections shortly after the surgery, it may cause the silicone bags to scratch the inner part of the breasts, and after some time, it can be visible on the outside.

“When it reaches such a situation, the woman has to remove them and remain with a wound that will take a long time to heal,” he explains, adding: “She will be forced to be under the care of a doctor to make sure she does not get other effects caused by bacteria.”

He says many women who undergo such surgeries are deceived by agents who fly them outside their home countries, such as India and Turkey, to undergo surgeries.

“If they come back and face health complications caused by surgeries not going well, they abandon them. They are left with no choice but to return to local hospitals for treatment,” he says.

He says women who undergo breast surgeries are at risk of failing to breastfeed because the silicone bags in their breasts may affect the production of milk.

“That will force the victim to give her child cow’s milk when she gives birth,” he describes.

Assistant director of health services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mwinyikondo Amir, says people who seek plastic surgery should be given enough information on the risks of the practice before undergoing surgery.

“She should be warned beforehand so that she can decide for herself if she is ready to do it or not.

“If she is ready, it means she is also ready to face the consequences and side effects of such surgeries,” he adds.

Dr. Amir reveals that the health insurance system in the country does not pay for such kinds of surgeries because it is a personal thing that a person has decided to do to improve his appearance.

“It’s something she has decided to do of her own free will; it’s not caused by health problems, which is why health insurance doesn’t cover those surgeries,” he says.

He went on to say that the Ministry of Health is looking after the welfare of all citizens of Tanzania, regardless of whether someone has suffered harm expectedly or unexpectedly.

He says plastic surgeons should follow the procedures, rules, and laws of the country so that they do not harm the health of the people.

“The ministry ensures the surgeons who perform these surgeries have the right qualifications so that they do not cause harm to the patients,” he explains.

Supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation