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.

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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