Before undergoing breast augmentation, it’s important to know that the procedure itself is only the start. The surgical procedure is relatively straightforward, but full recovery does take several weeks.
Breast augmentation surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis by a qualified plastic surgeon, but requires careful attention during recovery to ensure the best possible outcome.
Depending on various factors, such as the size of the implant and its placement, it typically takes between two and three weeks before a person can resume all of their regular daily activities.
In this article, we go over your breast augmentation recovery timeline, and take a look at how you can get ready for your post-op journey.
The surgical process
Your plastic surgeon will begin by administering either general anesthesia or intravenous sedation to numb the area so that you’re comfortable during the procedure. Together with your doctor, you will decide which type of anesthesia is best suited to your specific needs.
Next, your surgeon will make an incision, usually in an inconspicuous area in order to minimize the appearance of scarring. There are three common incision points: around the nipple area, at the base of the breast, or above the armpit.
Your doctor will then insert the implant beneath the pectoral muscle (submuscular placement) or directly behind the breast tissue (subglandular placement) depending on the type of implant being used, the size of the breast, and your personal preferences.
Finally, your doctor will close the incisions using sutures, adhesives, or surgical tape so that your skin heals properly. A good surgeon will know how to close the incisions properly to minimize scarring.
Following surgery you will be taken to a recovery room where you will be monitored by medical professionals. At this time, you will be required to wear a surgical bra and gauze to protect your breasts and aid in the healing process.
In general, breast surgery takes between 60 and 90 minutes from start to finish. However, the procedure may take longer depending on the surgical technique used, and whether you’ve opted to have a breast lift performed simultaneously.
If you are having breast reconstruction surgery following breast cancer or trauma, the procedure may be more in-depth and require a longer recovery period.
Contrary to popular belief, those who opt for larger implants will not experience a longer recovery period following cosmetic breast augmentation. They may, however, have more difficulty adjusting to their new breast size than those who opt for a subtler increase.
Breast augmentation recovery timeline
Total recovery is a slow process that takes place over the course of several weeks. Remember, everyone’s recovery experience is different.
24 hours following surgery
In the first day following surgery you will most likely experience moderate discomfort, which can be alleviated using prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, depending on what your surgeon recommends. Some swelling, bruising, and nausea is also likely.
Your arm movements will be restricted for the first 24 to 48 hours following the procedure. This will, among other things, prohibit you from driving. Make sure you have easily removable shirts ready for the first few weeks of recovery. Button-down tops and tops that zip up in the front are ideal.
You will be required to restrict all physical activity during this period. Avoiding nicotine, alcohol, and blood-thinning medications is also highly recommended.
During the first days of your recovery, you will need help moving around, getting dressed, and preparing meals.
Two to ten days post augmentation
You will be instructed to begin displacement exercises. These at-home massage techniques will help you achieve natural-looking results and prevent common breast augmentation complications such as capsular contracture.
Breast augmentation patients who have had submuscular placement of either saline or silicone implants are typically required to do these exercises.
Following the 48 hour mark, you should be cleared to drive as long as you are not taking any pain medications that seriously impair your motor skills. It is important to check with your doctor before getting behind the wheel.
You will likely need to go for one or two follow-up visits over the first ten days of recovery.
Ten to 14 days after augmentation
Most patients are able to resume some light activities. Light lower body exercises can resume around the two week mark with your doctor’s approval.
Your doctor will likely recommend that you get back to your regular daily activities and return to work.
Patients are still required to avoid any heavy lifting, and refrain from engaging in any intense aerobic activity while the breasts recover from surgery in this early period.
Two to three weeks post surgery
Your doctor will probably advise you to continue your displacement exercises during this period, likely encouraging you to gradually resume some of your daily activities.
However, most doctors typically still restrict their patients from doing upper body exercises, such as push-ups and weightlifting until roughly one month after surgery.
Four to six weeks following augmentation
Approximately one month following your procedure you will begin to see some of the final breast augmentation results come to fruition. Your breasts will begin to settle into their natural position, and you shouldn’t require any painkillers or medications during this period.
You can also slowly transition from your surgical bras back to wearing your support, sports, or push-up bras at this time and resume your normal exercise routine.
After being cleared by your doctor, you should be able to slowly resume upper body exercises around the four week mark. Running can typically be resumed around the six week mark as well.
Several months after surgery
You will now be able to see if the results meet your expectations.
Ten to 12 weeks following the procedure, you should be cleared for all lower body exercises. You’ll be able to resume heavy lifting and upper body exercises around the three month mark.
Scar tissue will begin to heal, and will continue to gradually fade over time and blend in with your surrounding skin. These scars should be virtually invisible by the two year mark if properly cared for.
It’s widely recommended that you schedule one or two follow-up appointments in the month following your procedure to consult with your doctor about your results. They will observe the incision site and breast fold to ensure proper healing, and to confirm that you’re happy with the implant size and shape.
After breast augmentation: post-op tips
In order to recover as quickly as possible, follow the in-depth post-op guidelines supplied to you by your doctor. Here are a few more tips you can follow to speed up recovery:
- Avoid taking certain medications; Aspirin and other blood-thinners are off-limits.
- When your doctor gives the okay, moisturize the area regularly to avoid stretch marks.
- Suppress the urge to open your bandages and look at your progress. This could reopen your wounds and cause infection.
- Give your implants time to settle. At first they will appear in a higher position but they will gradually lower to their natural state.
- Make sure to get lots of sleep as this will speed up the process.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing and choose tops that don’t require you to raise your arms to put them on.
- Make sure to have plenty of nausea medication on hand. Nausea is common following breast augmentation surgery.
- Avoid sleeping on your sides. Rest upright, with pillows positioned behind your back.
- If you are in extreme pain or experience excessive bleeding or swelling, don’t hesitate — call your doctor immediately.
- Don’t be alarmed if you experience either hypersensitivity or a lack of sensation in the nipples after surgery; this is normal and to be expected.
Note that most women are capable of breastfeeding after surgery, but breast milk may be slow to produce. If you plan to breastfeed in the future, it is typically recommended that you delay breast augmentation.
» Still have questions about the stages of breast augmentation recovery? Use Zwivel’s online directory to locate a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: 2016 Top Five Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures (2017) d2wirczt3b6wjm.cloudfront.net/News/Statistics/2016/top-five-cosmetic-plastic-surgery-procedures-2016.pdf
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Breast Implant Surgery (2018) fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064176.htm#After_Surgery