For many women, breast augmentation is an exciting prospect. This procedure allows you to regain your pre-pregnancy figure or feel more confident and proportionate in swimwear and clothing. As you consider breast augmentation, you have every reason to feel optimistic.
With that said, it is also very natural to have some reservations regarding your recovery after surgery. Prospective patients naturally want to know how much discomfort they will have, how long it will be before they feel normal, what kind of scars they can anticipate, and more.
These are all questions that should be covered during your breast augmentation consultation. Your plastic surgeon will be able to provide you with a more personalized set of expectations. In the meantime, we have put together this overview to provide a general sense of what to expect and how to prepare for your breast augmentation surgery.
What to Do Before Your Surgery
Before you have your breast augmentation surgery, there are several steps you should take to ensure that you are fully prepared for the procedure and for the recovery process. These steps can help your recovery go much more smoothly.
Read All Instructions Provided by Your Surgeon
Your plastic surgeon will provide you with plenty of written information about postoperative care, and about general expectations, you should have following your surgery. Take the time to read through all of this is well before the surgery itself, ensuring that you have plenty of time to ask follow-up questions and get clarification as needed.
Fill Your Prescriptions
You will need prescription medications to take before and after surgery including a pain management prescription as well as an antibiotic, and other medications. Be sure to pick up your prescriptions well in advance of surgery.
Your plastic surgeon may offer further guidelines for you to abstain from certain medications, supplements, and herbs especially those that can cause bleeding.
Stop Smoking and Vaping
Among the many adverse effects of nicotine is that it can impede your body’s ability to heal, increase your risk of complications such as infection, and worsen the appearance of your scars. If you smoke or vape, make sure you cease all nicotine products for at least 6 to 12 weeks before and after your procedure.
Arrange For a Support Person
You are going to need someone who can drive you home following the surgery and stay with you for the first 24 hours. But really, it is best to have a spouse, friend, or relative who can help out for the first day or two, helping you with meal prep, child care, and household maintenance. Remember that you are going to have limited energy and mobility and will appreciate the extra help. Be sure your support person has access to your written post-op instructions from the surgeon.
After surgery, you will not be able to run a lot of errands. Make sure you stock up on healthy foods and snacks, water, and Tylenol. (This is the safest option with regard to over-the-counter pain management.)
Recovering from Breast Augmentation: Important Guidelines
In preparing for surgery and recovery, patients can be overwhelmed by all the information given to digest. In the following checklist, we have distilled some of the most important tips and guidelines for you to know in the immediate aftermath of your breast augmentation procedure.
- Following your surgery, you are going to feel very fatigued. You should not plan on doing anything but resting for your first week or so of recovery.
- For the first two or three days, it is crucial that you avoid any activities that could elevate your blood pressure. This can cause bleeding which may necessitate further surgery.
- It bears repeating: You need someone staying with you for at least the first 24 hours, and ideally the next day or two if you have young children, toddlers, or infants. Your support person can help around the house, but also keep an eye open for any unexpected complications.
- You may feel tightness, soreness, or pain in your chest for several days. This is why you will have medication options, both over-the-counter and prescription.
- You cannot shower for the first 24 hours. And, you will want to avoid any still water, such as bathtubs and swimming pools, for at least 2 to 6 weeks.
- Do not plan on traveling for the first week or two.
- Be alert to the common signs of infection: Warmth, redness, and fever. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, call your plastic surgeon’s office ASAP.
- For the first 6 weeks, you will need to wear either a post-surgical bra or other non-underwire bras at all times.
- Avoid bending over, reaching up or across your body, and do not lift anything that weighs more than 5 pounds.
- Due to the medication and anesthesia in your system, you may have constipation for your first few days of recovery. Be prepared for this with Colace or other over-the-counter constipation medications.
- Do not sleep on your stomach. Ideally, you should lie on your back with your head slightly elevated.
By sticking to these basic tips and guidelines, you will be well on your way to a smooth, fast, and safe recovery.
Breast Augmentation Recovery: Timeline
One of the most common questions that patients ask before breast augmentation is how long is it going to take for them to feel fully recovered.
There is no simple answer to this question as all patients are different. Your recovery time can vary depending on the type of implant and the type of incision, as well as your healing progress. Adherence to your surgeon’s post-op instructions will help you to recover more quickly.
For some patients, it takes just a few days to a week before they are able to resume most of their daily non-strenuous household activities. For others, it may take more time. Even if you have a perfect recovery, you should wait at least 3 to 6 weeks before returning to the gym or engaging in any strenuous exercise, and always check with your surgeon when in doubt.
With that said, here is what you can expect in terms of a general timeline.
The First 24 Hours
Breast implant surgery will usually take less than one hour to complete. After surgery you will be taken to a recovery room, where your condition will be monitored for another hour then you will be cleared to head home with a caregiver.
When you first wake up, you will likely feel some pain and soreness in your chest. Your movement will be limited, and you may also have some minor dizziness and fatigue.
Once you get home, you are just going to want to rest. Follow your doctor’s orders with regard to painkiller use.
The First 48 Hours
You will likely need pain medication for the first 2 or 3 days. Hang in there and remind yourself that this is temporary. You will soon begin to feel quite a bit more normal.
You may experience varying levels of pain, swelling, and bruising. Use your pain medication as directed by your surgeon, and make sure you stay consistent with your antibiotic use.
One thing to keep in mind: Some patients develop a very mild fever during the first couple of days. This is not necessarily a sign of infection. If the fever worsens or persists, let your surgeon’s office know.
Do not shower until cleared by your surgeon. Remember to avoid still water, including baths and swimming pools.
The First Week
For the first 4 to 7 days, you should stay home from work and continue resting as much as possible. Avoid strenuous activity of any kind. By the end of the first week, you should notice your energy coming back to you and your pain and soreness lessening quite a bit.
Another important note about the first week is that your incision will still be covered with gauze bandages and/or surgical tape. Follow your surgeon’s instructions with regard to changing and checking your dressings.
Your implants may appear to be too high, especially if placed under the muscle. This is normal and will take weeks to months to settle into the correct position.
Fast forward to week three: By this point, any pain, discomfort, or soreness should be significantly abated. At this juncture, you are free to resume most of your regular physical activities, except high impact activity or upper body exercises including yoga, pilates, and golf unless cleared by your surgeon.
Continue to wear your support bra, or a sports bra, to ensure that your breasts are supported, especially during high-impact activities.
First Two Months
Once you move out of the initial recovery phase, your plastic surgeon will let you know when it is okay to stop wearing a support bra. Additionally, after two months or so, most patients will be cleared by their surgeon to resume all of their normal activities, including vigorous workouts and other physically strenuous endeavors.
When Can You See Results from Your Breast Augmentation?
When you first start thinking seriously about getting breast implants, it is natural to feel excited about seeing your new figure. However, it is important to realize that you are not going to see the final results immediately from your breast augmentation. There will of course be some swelling and bruising. Swelling in the area of the sternum is common which may make your cleavage look less pronounced. This is normal.
It may be about two full months or more before you can truly, clearly see the outcome of your breast augmentation, and really assess the change to your body. Our advice: be patient and do not be discouraged. It can be frustrating to go through surgery and not see a perfect outcome immediately. Scars should begin to slowly fade until they are only faintly visible. Keep in mind that it takes 12 to 18 months for scars to fully mature so be patient during this transitional process.
Dealing with the After Effects of Breast Augmentation
During your recovery period, you can anticipate some discomfort, swelling, bruising, and more. Your plastic surgeon can provide you with some practical remedies. In the meantime, here are some general thoughts on handling these common side effects.
Dealing with Discomfort
The most common side effect of breast augmentation is physical discomfort. Patients describe the pain as being either mild or moderate in nature, and it usually takes the form of tightness, or a feeling of pressure, in the chest. Symptoms of pain may last for up to two months.
Your plastic surgeon will prescribe you a painkiller that you can use as needed and also direct you to the best over-the-counter remedies. Just remember that any discomfort is temporary and that rest and time will help.
Dealing with Swelling and Bruising
Breast augmentation patients should also anticipate some swelling and bruising. Again, this is no cause for alarm unless the swelling and/or bruising are significant. There are homeopathic medications such as Sinecch or Arnica Montana that will help minimize swelling and bruising.
Your swelling should go away completely within several weeks or months. We do not recommend the use of cold packs or ice.
Dealing with Bleeding
Another side effect to watch for is bleeding. Although it is uncommon, bleeding can actually occur even a week or two after your surgery but is most common immediately following surgery. If you do notice any excessive swelling or bleeding, especially if one breast suddenly appears much larger than the other, call your plastic surgeon’s office right away. It may be a sign that there is a hematoma that may require reoperation.
Dealing with Fatigue
Following any major surgery, you are bound to feel tired. For those who get breast implants, it is normal to feel very fatigued for the first few days to two weeks of recovery.
First and foremost, we urge you to be patient with yourself. Surgery takes a lot out of your body, and being tired is in no way a sign of weakness. It is a natural response to a physically taxing event.
Beyond that, we simply recommend preparing a comfortable place in your home where you can rest for the first five to seven days, minimizing physical activity as much as possible. This is another reason why having a support person, is so crucial; it ensures that you do not have to get up to handle chores around the home.
Dealing with Limited Movement
For the first several weeks, you may be instructed to strictly limit your upper body movements, avoiding reaching up overhead or forward. This is to allow the pockets where your implants are placed to heal without disruption. Take it easy and do not do too much!
Dealing with Infection
Although it is exceedingly rare, it is understandable for patients to be concerned about infection. Patients are usually treated with IV antibiotics during surgery and placed on a short course of oral antibiotics post-operatively. Please be sure to complete the full dose of your prescribed antibiotics.
You should be concerned about the possibility of infection if, after two weeks, you do not seem to be making any progress in your recovery; and especially if you have a persistent fever or discharge such as pus from your incision(s). If you believe you have an infection, contact your surgeon right away. Often, early infections can be treated very simply with antibiotics.
Something else to keep in mind is that, by showing up for all the recommended follow-up appointments, you give your plastic surgeon an opportunity to assess your healing. These follow-up appointments can help you avoid more serious issues down the road, so make sure you keep them.
Dealing with Capsular Contracture
Following breast augmentation, every person develops scar tissue around each implant. This capsule is what holds the implant in place. Scar tissue forms around an implant that is placed in the body whether it be a breast implant, chin implant, hip implant, et cetera.
In rare cases, the capsule forms more aggressively, causing it to feel firmer than it is supposed to and sometimes distort the shape of the breast. Medical researchers are not totally clear on why this happens although there may be a genetic predisposition to forming thicker scars or capsules.
If a patient develops severe capsular contracture, the treatment is to replace the implant and remove the scar tissue. This is called a capsulectomy or capsulotomy. The good news, beyond the fact that this is not very common, is that a capsulectomy usually corrects the problem, and often it does not recur.
Dealing with Implant Rupture
Something else that breast implant patients should be aware of is the fact that implants are not considered lifetime devices and at some point, their implant(s) will rupture. This is more likely to happen sooner with a saline implant than a silicone implant. Your plastic surgeon can talk to you more about the specific rupture risks with each implant type and implant manufacturer. Ruptures may happen due to a traumatic accident or simply due to older implants over time.
In the event of ruptured implants, your plastic surgeon will need to remove the implant and sometimes part of the capsule. Replacement implants can be put in during the same operation and a warranty through your implant manufacturer may help you defray some of the costs associated with this operation.
What About Scarring?
One final consideration related to breast augmentation recovery is scarring. Here are a few considerations:
Prior to surgery, your surgeon should discuss your options for the incision site. Your scar may be located just underneath the curve of your breast, called the (inframammary approach), along the lower half of the nipple (called the periareolar approach), or in the armpit (called the transaxillary approach). Your plastic surgeon can tell you more.
Your scar will initially be fairly noticeable; it may be red or pink in color and slightly raised or bumpy in its texture. For the vast majority of patients, it will fade over time, blending with your natural skin tone. This process may take up to 18 months, but most patients will notice their scars fading sooner than that.
How to Minimize Scarring
As for steps you can take to minimize the visibility of your breast implant scars, some quick recommendations include:
- Abstain from smoking, both before and for several weeks after your procedure.
- Minimize scar exposure to the sun.
- During your recovery, eat nutritiously and stay hydrated.
- Consider a medical-grade scar product if you are prone to poor scars.
- Follow post-op instructions from your surgeon.
Questions About Breast Augmentation Recovery?
If you have any additional questions or concerns about breast implant recovery, we welcome you to contact Brucker Plastic Surgery. We are always happy to share insights and discuss your candidacy for breast augmentation recovery.