Breast Augmentation Recovery

We know how life-changing the results of a breast augmentation can be, but what does it take to get there? From the moment the surgeon closes the last incision to the day you’re finally healed, we’ve got all the details on the recovery process.

The Skinny

Breast augmentation. We’ve all heard of it and probably know a friend or celebrity who has had one, but what does this classic plastic surgery procedure actually entail? Let’s run through some quick basics. A breast augmentation is a procedure performed by a board certified plastic surgeon to alter the size, shape, and volume of the breasts.

We won’t get too deep into the details here, but there are three types of breast augmentation surgeries: breast implants, fat transfer, or hybrid. Breast implant surgery involves the placement of synthetic materials. Fat transfer and hybrid breast surgery use liposuction as part of the procedure creating two separate surgical sites. Two more quick notes: some patients combine breast augmentation with a breast lift to address skin concerns as well and breast reconstructions commonly utilize implants.

The Specifics

What to Expect During Breast Augmentation Recovery

So, what’s it actually like to create your ideal breast aesthetic? Regardless of your procedure type, all candidates can expect pain, swelling, and bruising following this plastic cosmetic surgery. While actual recovery time will vary depending on how invasive your procedure is and how your body naturally heals, one to two weeks is a safe amount of time to assume you’re going to feel significantly uncomfortable and not be up to going about your usual routine.

Another factor to consider is how you recover from general anesthesia, if that is a component of your procedure. Many people feel nausea, drowsiness, and slightly disoriented in the hours following anesthesia. These side effects typically resolve quickly, as the sedating medications wear off. Even so, it is a part of the immediate post-surgical recovery.

The Ultimate Breast Augmentation Recovery Timeline

Ok, let’s get into the nitty gritty of breast augmentation recovery. We’ll start with how to utilize your pre-op time to possibly minimize the intensity of your post-op experience and then we’ll look at what you can expect from the first few days, weeks, and months. There will not be significant timing differences between implant and fat transfer or hybrid procedures, but we’ll note any differences as we move along the timeline.

It should also be noted that your surgeon should provide comprehensive pre- and post-op instructions, and you should always defer to the advice of your medical team. This is simply meant to serve as a guide.

  • Pre-Op

    • Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, taking certain supplements, and reduce caffeine intake a few days prior to surgery. This reduces inflammatory markers and promotes overall health optimizing you for a successful and speedy recovery.
    • Get your supplies together! Have the essentials like ice packs, pain and inflammation medications (like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen), compression garments and surgical bras, and any medications your doctor advises (like antibiotic ointments). Check out our complete guide to recovering from cosmetic procedures in comfort and style to learn more.

  • Immediately Post-Op

    • Depending on how you react to anesthesia, you may feel drowsy, disoriented, and nauseous. Even those of us lucky enough to tolerate anesthesia well should expect to feel sore and swollen. The immediate side effects of anesthesia should wear off within a few hours.
    • Remember that part of your general anesthesia and surgical procedure is usually stronger pain medications that will have you waking up with numbness but not sharp pain. As these medicines get worked out of your system, you should expect to feel a more intense (but not severe) pain. Your doctor will tell you what pain medicines are most appropriate for you post-op.

  • Day 1

    • So, you hopefully got some sleep lying on your back (no pressure should be placed on the chest for at least a few days). You ideally kept an ice pack and your pain and inflammation meds not too far away. Medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen are important not only for pain control, but also for keeping inflammation down. This promotes quicker recovery.
    • You’re probably feeling soreness and discomfort in your chest, shoulder, and upper arms. If you had a fat transfer or hybrid augmentation you can also expect discomfort and soreness at the liposuction sites.
    • Hopefully you’re feeling ok following the anesthesia and can tolerate some gentle foods. Make sure to drink plenty of water!
    • Also, it’s not unusual to have some discharge or bleeding from your wounds. Remember that your body is working hard to heal and it’s sending a lot of blood with nutrients and infection-fighting cells to the area. This creates a lot of inflammation that you can control with meds and ice packs.

  • Day 2 to Day 7

    • Each day, the pain, swelling, and bruising will progressively improve.
    • If you had sutures placed during your procedure, they are usually removed around days five to seven. If you only had steri strips, those will fall off naturally within a few weeks.
    • Make sure to keep wearing your compression garments or surgical bra as directed.
    • During this first week, don’t expect to go to work or be doing anything strenuous. This is the time to binge watch TV, finally organize your inbox, or learn a new language… whatever works for you.

  • Week 2

    • Ok, so now you can probably start thinking about getting back to most aspects of your life. If you need to travel home from your procedure, it’s now safe to get on a plane. It’s also safe to wear a bra with no underwire.
    • Keep wearing your compression garments as directed by your plastic surgeon.

  • Week 3 to Week 12

    • For most candidates, it’s safe to get that blood pressure up again. Your doctor will give you specific instructions, but, by week three or four, you can generally resume more strenuous activities and exercise and slowly ramp up the intensity over a few days as tolerated.
    • It’s worth repeating that during this entire time swelling will continue to go down and it is important to protect your chest from trauma. Save playing catch for a while.
    • By week six, most candidates can expect to have a pretty good idea of what their final results will be. Time to hit the stores and fill up your closet!

Tips to Improve Your Breast Augmentation Recovery

Now that you know more about the recovery timeline associated with breast augmentation plastic surgery, we’ve got some tips to help you progress along your healing journey as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. Like we mentioned, every individual body heals at its own pace, but there are definitely some universal truths that augment healing.

1. Be Mindful & Be Patient

We’re not being deliberately vague here. Your body will let you know what it needs. If you feel like taking it slow one day, do it! If you suddenly have the desire to get some fresh air, go for it (albeit you are medically cleared for it)! The mind-body connection exists and the more you respect it the easier your recovery will be. Patience rules the day, so be kind to your body and slowly ease yourself back into your routine without forcing things like your return to work or working out.

2. Eat well, sleep well, & stay hydrated

This is just good life advice, but, especially during times of increased stress on the body (think: following a major plastic surgery), the more you nourish yourself and properly rest the better. Some of the best repair hormones only get cycled through your blood while you sleep, so be like a pro athlete during the months following your surgery and get those eight hours. Your chest (and your entire being) will thank you for it.

Additionally, eating a balanced diet free from processed foods in combination with plenty of water and taking it easy on caffeine and alcohol will naturally reduce inflammation and help lessen swelling more quickly (check out our guide to what to eat before and after cosmetic procedures). Oh, and don’t smoke. Our advice is to never smoke, but it’s particularly vital to lay off after a major surgery.

3. Elevate & Ice

Cold compresses and your compression garment will lessen blood flow to the area and reduce the amount of fluid accumulation in and around your chest. While blood does bring all the good nutrients and healing cells, it can also leave large deposits of infection-fighting cells and other materials you don’t really need hanging around. This is why icing for periods of time (i.e. not continuously) creates the best balance of blood flow.

4. Moderate Your Activities

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but, just in case, three weeks after your breast augmentation is not the time to begin your CrossFit training regimen. Vigorous exercise makes blood pressure increase. Increased blood pressure means increased swelling. Intense exercise also naturally increases the stress hormone cortisol. While it’s great in moderation when you're healthy, it’s not ideal in the months following a major surgery.

Other activities to avoid or limit: chest presses and/or heavy lifting, sun bathing, and laying on your stomach.

Breast Augmentation Side Effects & Complications

So now that we’ve thoroughly covered the days and weeks following a breast augmentation procedure, let’s review what you can definitely expect versus what may or may not occur. Every breast augmentation patient should expect at least one to two weeks of bruising and at least four to six weeks of swelling.

While rare, more serious complications are possible. Infections of the breast tissues are a possible complication of breast augmentation and can be treated with antibiotics. Permanent numbness from nerve damage, intractable pain, asymmetry, implant migration, capsular contracture, and scarring are more significant complications that may require further surgical revision or be unable to be fixed.

The Takeaway

The healing process following a plastic cosmetic surgery like breast augmentation can seem intimidating. And while we are not minimizing the fact that a breast augmentation is a major surgery with considerable risks and side effects, tens of thousands of breast augmentations are safely performed successfully in the United States each year with patients enjoying life-changing results. Never underestimate the value of a consultation with a breast augmentation board certified plastic surgeon to more specifically determine what your unique breast augmentation experience will entail.
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  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2018 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report; 2019-01-01

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