Emma Clewlow-anaru says she never would have got breast implants had she known it could lead to chronic back pain, brain fog, insomnia and severe anxiety.
For three years the 34-year-old was waking up nearly every night in agony and was relying on Tramadol, a heavy pain relief medication, to ease her chronic back pain.
"I would wake up feeling drowsy, moody, angry and not in a good headspace," the 34-year-old from Hamilton said.
Now, after paying about $6000 to have her implants removed late last year, she said 95 per cent of back pain had disappeared and she had never felt better, inside and out.
"Even my partner said I used to wake up every morning moody, angry and in pain and now I'm so much happier, even in my body I'm way more comfortable and I can sleep on my front without any pain," Clewlow-anaru told Herald on Sunday.
While she used to celebrate her implants, Clewlow-anaru said she now tells women "don't do it" because more people, she knew, than less were having problems.
"My surgeon has stopped doing implants because of all the problems he's seeing which is a big indicator ... everyone should be told about BII [breast implant illness] when they go for a consult."
While some plastic surgeons say there's not enough evidence that BII is a genuine medical condition, the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised in 2020 that "symptoms such as fatigue, memory loss, rash, brain fog and joint pain may be associated with breast implants".
Clewlow-anaru, a tattoo fan and pageant queen who was crowned Miss Ink, said the difficulty was women couldn't be tested for BII which meant it was challenging for doctors to link the symptoms directly to their breast implants.
"I saw a chiropractor, osteopath, acupuncture, I did CBD treatments, I did X-rays, scans, I was medicating and at my worst point I was dropping tramadol on the daily to try and deal with it."
She said it wasn't until she came across a Facebook support page made up of thousands of Kiwi women reporting "horror stories" after getting breast implants that she made the connection.
"It was pretty freaky to start putting the dots together and reading other women's stories and realising it wasn't just the back pain because some of these symptoms you just wouldn't ever think it was to do with implants.
"Why would I get anxiety or insomnia from implants, but now it totally makes sense you've got these toxic bags sitting on top of all your organs like of course your body would want to fight to get rid of them," Clewlow-anaru said.
Auckland plastic surgeon Dr Tristan de Chalain said he had no doubt in the next decade there would be the data and research to support BII as a genuine condition and there would be an apology, but right now women with BII were the minority.
"There may be thousands of women who complain that they have breast implant illness but there are hundreds of thousands of women who are very happy with their breast implants," de Chalain said.
The surgeon - who had been implanting implants for 25 years - said he suspected the rate of BII wasn't as high as reported because while there were some women who seemed to have genuinely fallen ill, for many it was purely psychological.
"Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying there are not women who have very real symptoms of breast implant illness ... what I'm saying is there are a lot of fellow travellers who believe that their implants causing their problems but the implants may not be the cause of the problem," he said.
Last month he saw a mum-of-three who had been unwell for at least seven or eight years and had tested everything, he said.
"She had been to physiotherapists and doctors, she had been up and down the country trying to get help for a collection of illnesses which were ruining her life, she struck me as being a very sane and sensible person."
Eventually, he said he agreed to take out her implants and six weeks after her operation she reported feeling "like her old self" and that she couldn't believe how much better she felt.
"Now, although we could not measure anything specific, her presentation and her story hung together, it was convincing."
When asked if he thought implants should be banned given the reports of BII, he said "no, absolutely not ... some women come in and say they've had implants all their life and had no problems, I want to carry on having them".
"That's why you have to give people the choice, you can't just ban them."
However, de Chalain said there had certainly been a "sea change" as breast implants were "going out of fashion".
While he used to perform about four implant surgeries a month, now he does about one every eight weeks.
"Girls with no bosom, those are the patients who are still coming in to have breast augmentation but we are not seeing 'oh I must get a breast implantation because all my friends have got it.
"I lot of people are being a lot more sensible about it," de Chalain said.
Clewlow-anaru said she got implants because she felt self-conscious about being flat-chested and wanted to feel more feminine.
"I'm 34 now and I'm very confident in who I am ... I didn't think removing my implants was going to change that.
"I love my itty bitty titties now."