Breast Augmentation Recovery Stages: What to Expect, Week by Week
If you’ve decided to get breast implants, it’s a good idea to do some research regarding the recovery process so that you know just what to expect following surgery.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reports that breast augmentation was the most-performed cosmetic procedure in 2016, with nearly 300,000 women electing to undergo this surgery.
Because it’s one of the most oft-performed cosmetic procedures in the United States, there is ample information available to help those who have committed to breast augmentation surgery (or are exploring the option) prepare for the recovery period.
Breast augmentation, or augmentation mammoplasty, is a cosmetic surgery that requires the implantation of a body-safe substance — typically either saline, fat transfer or silicone breast implants — beneath the chest muscles or tissue in order to increase breast volume.
It can be performed on an outpatient basis by a qualified plastic surgeon but requires careful attention during recovery to ensure the best possible final result. Depending on various factors, such as the size of the implant and its placement, it typically takes between 2 and 3 weeks before a person can resume all of their regular daily activities.
The Surgical Process
Your plastic surgeon will begin the breast augmentation process with pre-operative preparation. This typically entails administering either general anesthesia or intravenous sedation in order to numb the area so you’re comfortable during the procedure. Together with your doctor you will decide which type of anesthesia is best-suited to your particular needs in order to be most effective and lower any potential health risks.
Next, your surgeon will make an incision, usually in an inconspicuous area in order to minimize the visibility of scars later on. You can talk to your doctor about where to make the incision to better ensure the end result meets your expectations. 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 the skin heals properly. A good surgeon will know how to close the incisions so as to minimize the appearance of scarring surrounding the breast tissue. 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 – 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
The breast augmentation recovery process is relatively short, with most people feeling back to their normal selves within a few days. There will, however, be limits on upper body activity for several weeks afterward. It’s recommended to have a close friend or family member with you when your doctor explains the outpatient procedure so that they can assist you throughout the process. You will probably need help moving around, getting dressed and preparing meals at first.
The FDA recommends taking at least two weeks off work following breast augmentation, but many doctors will give the go-ahead to return to work much sooner than that. Here’s what you need to know about the recovery time. Remember, every woman’s recovery experience is different.
- 24 Hours After Surgery — In the first day following surgery you will most likely experience moderate discomfort, which can be treated with prescription or over-the-counter pain medication depending on what your doctor recommends. Some swelling, bruising and nausea is likely. You will be required to restrict all physical activity during this period and instructed to avoid nicotine, alcohol and blood-thinning medications such as aspirin.
- Two to 10 Days After Surgery — At this point you will be instructed to begin what’s referred to as displacement exercises. These exercises help you achieve natural-looking breasts following implant surgery and are generally done at home. They are usually only recommended to breast augmentation patients who have had submuscular placement of either saline or silicone implants. You will likely need to go for 1 or 2 follow-up visits over the first 10 days of recovery.
- 10 – 14 Days After Surgery — This is the period in which most patients are able to resume some light activities. Your doctor will likely recommend that you get back to your regular daily activities around the house but caution against engaging in any intense aerobic activity. Patients are also required to avoid any heavy lifting while the breasts recover from surgery in this early period.
- 2 – 3 Weeks After Surgery — Your doctor will probably advise you to continue your displacement exercises during this period, likely encouraging you to gradually increase your amount of exercise and 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.
- 4 – 6 Weeks After Surgery — 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 start wearing your regular support, sports, or push-up bras at this time and resume your normal exercise routine.
- Several Months After Surgery — By this point you will be able to see if your results have met your expectations. Scar tissue will begin to heal and you’ll be able to resume aerobic activity and heavy lifting. It’s widely recommended that you schedule 1 or 2 follow-up appointments at this point to consult with your doctor about the results. He or she will observe the incision site and breast fold to ensure proper healing and 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 as this could reopen your wounds and cause infection and slow healing.
- Give your implants time to settle. At first they will appear in a higher position but 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 lack of sensitivity 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, so you should perhaps consider waiting until your babies are weaned before undergoing augmentation.
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