If you’ve covered all the recovery basics, you should already know that you’ll need to wear a surgical bra following breast surgery.
Granted, medical bras aren’t the sexiest of undergarments, but they’re extremely useful during the healing process. Wearing the right medical bra provides two major post-op benefits: support and compression. This helps stabilize the breast implants, increase blood circulation, and prevent swelling.
Choosing the type of bra that’s right for you all depends on the procedure you’re getting. You’ll want to shop around before your operation — here we explore the main options, and answer some frequently asked questions to help ensure that you purchase the style and size that’s best-suited to your unique needs.
Why do I need a post-surgical bra?
Surgical bras are designed to keep you comfortable throughout your recovery, and help prevent the following complications:
- Shifting of implants
- Excessive post-operative pain
- Stress of the skin
- Excessive swelling
Most women who undergo breast surgery are aware of its risks, one of them being lymphedema. This common breast augmentation complication is a buildup of soft tissue caused by damage to the lymphatic system.
Roughly 70% of all breast surgery patients develop lymphedema. When properly treated, this common condition isn’t a cause for concern. However, it can lead to infection and more serious complications when nothing is done about it.
Seromas may also appear when the body doesn’t properly eliminate excess fluid. This condition, which is especially common following breast implants and mastectomy surgery, occurs when small pockets of clear fluid form after the lymph nodes have been compromised.
Some post-surgery bras come equipped with unique removable drainage pouches, which make it easier to manage post-op drainage tubes.
What kind of bra should I wear after breast augmentation?
Your doctor may provide you with a post-surgical compression bra, or suggest that you purchase one yourself. Either way, they will most likely discourage you from wearing an underwire bra during recovery, and will instead recommend that you choose a seamless bra.
Recovery bras should be comfortable and form-fitting, without compromising the shape of your new breasts. Since you’ll be required to wear a bra around the clock, it’s important that you choose one with adjustable shoulder straps and breathable fabric to manage moisture.
Generally speaking, it is important to choose a bra that meets the following criteria:
- No underwire
- Breathable fabric
- Adjustable straps
- A pressure-free fit
Choosing the right bra will also depend on where your doctor performs the incisions. If the under-breast incision method is used, you’ll want to consider purchasing a bra that doesn’t put strain or pressure on that area.
What are the different types of recovery bras?
Medical compression bras come in different shapes, fabrics, and size. Determining which model is best for you is an important aspect of post-surgery healing and comfort. Most bras used following breast reconstruction or augmentation are made from latex-free fabric to help prevent skin irritation and minimize the risk of allergic reactions.
In many cases, your doctor will recommend a front-zip or Velcro closure bra so that you don’t have to lift your arms every time you want to remove it.
- Front-closure bras
Opting for a classic post-surgery bra is a good option for ideal support, compression, and comfort.
Brands such as Marena, Wear Ease, Carefix, and RxBra offer breast augmentation and mastectomy bras with front closures — typically a row of hook and loop closures or zippers at the front — so that you can easily slip in and out of them.
They also often have stretch fabric and adjustable straps for additional comfort, and some even feature adjustable band sizes to help accommodate swelling.
Front-closure bras are often recommended by doctors who use the axillary or underarm incision technique.
- Sports bras
Many women are most comfortable in sports bras after surgery. As long as it provides ample support and compression, a sports bra can be a good option.
Make sure to choose one that’s made of breathable fabric, with no underwire. In some cases, your doctor may recommend switching from a surgical bra to a sports bra a week or two after surgery.
- Mastectomy bras
Certain models of post-op bras are specifically designed for mastectomy patients following breast cancer treatment. These bras feature pockets to hold a breast prosthesis or forms. Many patients use these bras to hold their breast forms long after surgery, but they’re also designed to promote healing.
- Compression vests
This type of bra, also called a surgical vest, is similar to a traditional post-surgery bra but extends further down the waist, similar to the appearance of a vest.
Your doctor may recommend purchasing a compression vest if they think that you need extra protection around the incision sites. For example, if your doctor uses the inframammary (or breast fold) approach beneath the breast, they may recommend a post-surgical vest so that the incisions are not disturbed.
- Breast bands
Breast bands are placed above the breasts in order to keep the implants from migrating upwards, or to give a more full appearance to the upper pole of the breasts.
Bands help shape and support the breasts, but don’t help with discomfort or provide compression. For these reasons, they’re often used alongside a breast surgery bra.
- Body shapers
These types of compression garments are similar to Spanx and other shapewear, but are specifically designed to provide support and promote circulation following surgery.
They come in an amazing array of styles, from classic front-closure bras to full-body shapers. Post-surgical shapewear is often recommended for those who have had breast surgeries, tummy tucks and butt lifts. They’re often stretchier and more form-fitting than traditional surgical bras.
How long should I wear a surgical bra after breast augmentation?
This depends on the type of surgery and its intensity. Some doctors require patients to wear compression garments for just four weeks following surgery, while others recommend wearing them for as long as three months.
In most cases, your doctor will require you to wear the garment for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although you may be tempted to remove your bra during surgery recovery, don’t — this can slow and complicate the process.
What is the best sports bra to wear after breast augmentation?
This depends on where your doctor performs the incisions, and how much compression is required. No matter which type of sports bra you choose, you will want to make sure that it has two basic features: adjustable straps (swelling and inflammation may warrant adjusting your bra’s size throughout recovery), and a seamless design.
Plenty of manufacturers make surgery-specific sports bras that can be used to provide the right amount of support and compression during the healing process.
What size should I buy?
Sizing your post-surgery bra may be a little bit complicated. In fact, sizing most of your bras will be a whole new experience if you’re expecting dramatic results, whether that means larger or smaller breasts.
The key to choosing your post-surgical bra size is to go off of your projected cup size, and then add one to your current band size. Use the brand’s size chart and your projected measurements before purchasing.
Some doctors may recommend investing in affordable sports bras in various sizes so that you have a good option on hand. Choosing a bra that will provide some give — a stretchy style with adjustable straps and removable cups — will help ensure that your bra adapts to your shape post-surgery.