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As you heal after breast augmentation, there are certain things you can do to improve your results, feel more comfortable, and get back on your feet more quickly. Knowing as much as possible about post-surgical discomfort, swelling, and what you can do to increase your comfort levels will help you have the best post-surgical experience possible.

How Painful Is Breast Augmentation Recovery?

Pain is relative and what is very painful for one person might seem like only mild discomfort to another. For that reason, it’s difficult to say exactly how much pain or discomfort you’re likely to experience after breast augmentation.

Usually, though “soreness” persists for a few weeks after surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic. Many patients can manage the soreness or other types of discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers.

If you do have more severe pain after surgery, your surgeon can prescribe medication to help. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends only using prescription-strength pain medications for up to seven days after breast augmentation, however.

How to Manage Swelling After Surgery

Swelling after surgery is expected, due to inflammation and the body’s natural healing response. Although it usually is most noticeable several days after surgery, most of the swelling usually goes away on its own within a week or two. 

Even though swelling is a normal part of the healing process, you can try to reduce it if you find it bothersome after surgery. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the area will help reduce swelling.

You might also try eating pineapple, which contains an enzyme called bromelain, known to help minimize swelling, according to Mount Sinai.

How to Manage Post-Surgery Hematomas

A hematoma forms when blood collects outside of a blood vessel, as MedicineNet notes. Hematomas are somewhat different from bruises, which form when blood vessels break under the surface of the skin.

Both hematomas and bruises can develop after breast augmentation. Bruises will usually fade on their own but a hematoma might require attention from your plastic surgeon.

Signs of a post-surgery hematoma after breast augmentation include marked swelling on one side that is completely different than the opposite side. There is usually pain associated with the swelling

If a hematoma does develop, your surgeon will most likely return you to surgery to remove the hematoma and  place a drain to treat it.

What to Wear After Breast Augmentation

Comfort is the name of the game after breast augmentation. You’ll want to wear clothing that is easy to put on and take off and that is comfortable enough to rest and relax in.

What Type of Top to Wear Post-Surgery

Loose-fitting tops that open in front are ideal after breast augmentation. You want your shirts to float away from the body so that the fabric doesn’t irritate the incisions or rub against your sore breasts. Since it might be uncomfortable to raise your arms over your head for several days after surgery, choosing shirts that open in the front and either zip or button up will make for the easiest dressing. A loose-fitting cotton button-up shirt or a zip-up hoodie might be a good choice. If you choose a shirt with a zipper, make sure the inside of the zipper won’t rub or irritate your skin or the area around the breasts.

What Type of Bra to Wear After Breast Augmentation

The best bra after breast augmentation is no bra! Your breasts will need time to settle into place and heal and a bra can interfere with the process.

What Type of Bottoms to Wear Post-Surgery

Comfy bottoms are the way to go post-breast augmentation surgery. You don’t have to reach for the sweatpants, but if you do, no one will judge you. Track pants or leggings are good picks, as are loose-fitting shorts or even a loose, flowing skirt. 

Save the jeans for after you’re fully recovered. You don’t want to have to lounge around in anything too constricting. 

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Scarring After Breast Augmentation

Scars are part of the process with any surgery. As the skin heals, it produces collagen fibers, which are different in texture from the rest of the skin, according to WebMD.

How much scarring a person will have after surgery and how visible the scars will be depends on several factors, not all of which are under the surgeon’s control. Plastic surgeons do their very best to minimize scarring and to place incisions in hidden locations, such as around the nipples or in the breast crease.

Where Are Breast Surgery Scars Located?

Where breast surgery scars end up depends on several factors. First is the type of surgery you choose to have. The scars from breast reduction, for example, are usually in a different spot than scars from breast augmentation.

Generally speaking, during a breast reduction or a breast lift, the surgeon will make what’s called an inverted T incision. This type of incision goes around the nipple, down the middle of the breast, and then horizontally under the breast.

The inverted T incision can also be used during breast augmentation. Alternatively, your surgeon might make an incision in the armpits or under the breasts. A rarer incision is one that runs up to the breasts from the belly button. No matter where the scars are located, one thing remains the same. The scars won’t be visible to anyone when you are fully clothed. In some cases, the scars will be concealed well enough that they might not be noticeable even when you’re wearing a sleeveless top or low-cut shirt.

What Affects Scarring?

Some people develop more visible scarring than others, for a range of reasons. Your age, your genetics, and your skin type can all influence the way the scars look in the long run. 

For example, people with darker complexions are more prone to keloid scars, which are scars that grow beyond the border of the original incision. People with lighter complexions might have more of a contrast between the color of the scar and their skin color, making them more visible.

If you’ve spent years sunning yourself, you might be more likely to develop highly visible scars after surgery compared to someone with limited sun damage. How elastic the skin is will also affect the appearance and visibility of breast surgery scars.

How to Minimize Breast Surgery Scars

Before Surgery

While you might not be able to fully prevent the formation of scars after surgery, you can attempt to minimize their appearance. What you should do to minimize your scars depends on how far along you are in the healing process and how visible the scars have become.

Early on, some women find that taking preventative steps, such as eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water, helps the body heal after surgery and reduces scarring. On the other side of the coin, some habits can interfere with your skin’s ability to heal, making scarring worse.

For example, it’s important to quit smoking or using other types of tobacco products a few weeks before and after breast surgery. Nicotine limits blood flow and blood flow is crucial for proper healing.

You might also need to avoid certain types of medications and supplements before breast surgery. For example, some types of pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can increase bleeding, which can, in turn, affect scarring. Your surgeon will let you know what medicines and supplements should be avoided.

After Surgery

After you’ve had surgery, there are a few things you can do to treat your scars and minimize their appearance. Following any post-surgery instructions from your plastic surgeon will also help keep scars to a minimum. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with directions on how to clean and care for the incision sites. 

You might be able to apply topical creams or ointments to the scars after your incisions have fully healed. Silicone products or vitamin E creams might help to reduce the visibility of scarring. It’s worth noting that you should wait a few weeks after surgery and after the incision has healed before you try massaging the scar or applying vitamin E. Ask your surgeon for advice. Also, remember that the scars will likely fade significantly over time.

If you do end up with raised scars or with keloid scars after your surgery, there are in-office treatments that might help. Laser treatments can help to reduce the size of a raised scar, for instance. Some patients also have success with steroid injections for prominent scars. Your plastic surgeon can recommend options to you and help you choose the one that will be the most likely to make your scars less noticeable.

Breast Surgery Scars Do Fade

Right after your surgery, don’t be alarmed if your scars are bright red and angry-looking. They will fade quite a bit over time as your body heals. Usually, the scars will fade to thin, barely-visible lines within twelve months of the procedure. It’s also worth noting that the careful placement of the scars, usually within a natural skin crease, will help them to be less noticeable from the beginning.

How to Maintain Your Breast Implants

There is nothing positive about the term “high maintenance.” However, while it is easy to assume that once you have breast augmentation, you’re set for life, breast implants do need a bit of tending to from time to time.

Your implants will not become high maintenance if you take good care of them. Every so often, check on them to make sure things are going well.  Following the advice of your surgeon will help you enjoy your implants for years to come.

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Massage After Breast Augmentation Is a Must

Breast augmentation involves the creation of a pocket for the implant to rest in. Your body will heal after the surgery, which sometimes causes the pocket to become smaller and the scar tissue to get tougher. Massaging the breast area regularly, and performing exercises that should be demonstrated to you after the surgery will help ensure the pockets stay open and keep the scar tissue soft. Implant massage reduces the risk for capsular contracture, a complication that can occur when the scar tissue clamps around the implant and squeezes it. Routine massage also helps to create a natural-feeling breast. Your surgeon will most likely tell you to massage the area frequently, about every 30 minutes, for the first six weeks after the surgery (during waking hours).  After the first six weeks, you’ll be advised to keep massaging at least twice a day to keep the pocket wide and the scar tissue soft.  It is also a good idea to continue to massage your breasts long-term, especially after you get up and right before bed. If you have any questions about how to massage your breasts after implants, reach out to your surgeon’s office. They will be happy to help!


Know When to Wear a Post-Surgery Bra After Breast Augmentation

Wearing a bra after surgery might seem like a good idea to keep your new implants in place. But really, the opposite is the case: it’s typically recommended that you skip the bra for the first six weeks or so. Wearing a bra can keep your implants from settling into their natural position on your chest. After the first six weeks, it will be a good idea to put on a supportive bra again. Look for one that provides a good amount of support, with a wide band.  If you are used to working out regularly, you will want to make sure you get a quality sports bra in your new size too. A supportive sports bra will feel pretty tight when you first put it on. However, it needs to be tight enough to keep your breasts in place during any sort of high-intensity physical activity.


Go for Check-Ups, No Matter What

Your plastic surgeon is going to want to see you fairly regularly after your surgery.  After you are healed, you won’t be required to go yearly for exams, but you will still want to check in from time to time to make sure all is well with your implants. If you have saline implants, you might not require imaging, as any leaks will be clearly visible (the implant will deflate), but the in-person exam is still a good idea. Along with getting imaging performed as needed, it is a good idea to routinely check in with your surgeon to discuss how you feel about your implants. After a few years, you might want a change, and to go either smaller or larger, for example. You will feel better knowing if your implants are in good shape and what options are available should you want a change. Finally, it’s important to monitor the health of your breasts, even with implants.  Your doctor will most likely recommend getting a clinical breast exam every few years, or possibly every year, depending on your age. After age 40, a regular mammogram might also be recommended, depending on your risk for breast cancer.


Be Cautious About Other Treatments When You Have Implants

If you are seeing a different doctor for another treatment or standard procedure, it is important to mention your implants. There is a small risk of infection when you have implants, and your doctor might want to prescribe antibiotics to considerably lower that risk. For example, if you are about to get your teeth cleaned by a dentist, there is a rare, yet potential chance that the bacteria found in your mouth during the cleaning can get into your bloodstream.  This could travel to the area of the implant and cause problems. Since it’s a foreign object, your implant might be a more likely target for infection than other areas of the body. Although women with implants often see their dentists for years with few problems, it is always better to be safe and disclose your implants to all the medical professionals you work with.

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What Not to Do After Breast Augmentation

What you do and what you don’t do during the breast augmentation post-op period will have a big impact on the overall results of your surgery and can play a role in whether or not your implants will develop any complications down the road. Even if the instructions your surgeon gives you seem a little out there, it’s important to follow them to a T to increase your chances of having a great result.

Your surgeon will give you specific advice, but here are a few basic things to avoid after your surgery.

1. Wearing a Bra

The advice not to wear a bra might seem strange to you. After all, if your breasts are bigger, they are going to need more support than ever before. But during the first few weeks after surgery, your implants will need time to settle into place and the pocket needs to be lined with the capsule that will form. Wearing a bra, particularly a super supportive underwire bra, can interfere with the settling process and cause the capsule to form only arround the breast implant instead of arround the entire pocket. We want the breast implant to move freely inside the capsule so the breast feels and acts naturally.


2. Drink Alcohol While Taking Medication

There are a few reasons to avoid alcohol right after breast augmentation. For one thing, it can interact with any pain relievers your surgeon prescribes. For the sake of your well-being, skip the glass of wine while you’re taking meds. You may also want to continue to avoid alcohol for a few weeks after you’ve stopped taking pain medication. Alcohol can cause your body to retain fluids. You will likely be swollen enough as it is after your breast augmentation. Drinking can make the swelling worse.


3. Skip Your Exercises

During breast augmentation, your surgeon will place the implant between the chest muscle and the lower part of the breast or under the muscle. They will create a pocket of space in the area to make room for the implant. As your body heals from the surgery, a capsule of scar tissue will form around the implant. Ideally, the capsule will stay loose and supple. If it doesn’t, a condition known as capsular contracture can occur. In severe cases, the contracture can cause the breast to look distorted and can be very painful. To help lower the risk for capsular contracture, your surgeon will show you how to do a number of breast implant massaging exercises after your surgery. It’s important to do these exercises daily, as directed, to improve healing and reduce the risk for complications.


4. Go to the Gym

Although massaging exercises are a must post-op, there are some exercises you’re better off avoiding for some time after surgery. Any sort of strenuous exercise, such as lifting weights at the gym, going to a Barre or Pilates class, or going for a run, needs to be avoided for at least a month after breast augmentation. Your surgeon will let you know for sure when it’s OK to take up exercising again. Although you can’t go to the gym during the first few weeks after surgery, that doesn’t mean you should be a couch potato during that time. Some light activity, such as taking a walk around your neighborhood, is OK. In fact, going for a walk every day is usually recommended, since it will help you bounce back, reduces swelling, and can help prevent blood clots.


5. Smoke or Use Tobacco Products

If you smoked before your breast augmentation, your surgeon most likely had you quit a few weeks before the surgery. It’s also important to continue to avoid smoking for several weeks after breast augmentation. Along with having many drawbacks for your health, smoking can interfere with the healing process after surgery. Nicotine slows down blood flow, which can make it more difficult for your incisions to heal or can make scars more visible. It can also put you at a greater risk for complications during your recovery period.


6. Sleep on Your Side or Stomach

Sleep on your back after breast augmentation, even if you’re usually a stomach or side sleeper. Sleeping on your back minimizes pressure on the implants and can help with healing. You might also find that sleeping with your chest slightly elevated helps reduce swelling more quickly. To keep yourself slightly elevated, prop up several pillows under your back. Another option is to sleep in a recliner, rather than in a bed. If you’re wondering “after breast augmentation, when can I sleep on my sides again?” the answer is soon. Usually, it’s safe to go back to stomach or side sleeping after a couple of weeks. Your plastic surgeon will give you a more accurate idea of when it’s fine to resume your preferred sleep position.


7. Have Sex

Even if you have a naturally high sex drive, you might find that you aren’t interested in sex for a while after the surgery. Your body is likely to be sore or you might not feel comfortable enough to have sex immediately after surgery. That’s perfectly fine, as it’s better to postpone any sort of sexual contact for at least a few weeks after your breast augmentation. After a couple of weeks, when you do resume sexual activity you might find that your breasts are still a bit tender, so be sure to communicate that with your partner.


8. Take a Shower

It is perfectly ok to take a shower after a breast augmentation as the incision site is protected with a waterproof tegaderm. Showers of 5 minutes with warm not scalding hot water are best and encouraged.


9. Take Aspirin

Pain relievers can help you manage discomfort or soreness after your surgery. But some types of pain medication should be avoided following breast augmentation, at least during the first six weeks. Aspirin thins the blood and can make you more susceptible to bleeding. If you’re not sure which types of medication are safe to take immediately after surgery, you can always ask your surgeon for more guidance.


10. Be Sedentary

Some movement is advisable starting a day or two after your surgery. It’s fine to walk around your house or even to take a walk around the block. If you don’t move at all or spend all day sitting or lying in bed, there’s a chance that blood clots will form in your legs. Keep your blood flowing by making an effort to get up and walk a little bit throughout the day.


11. Sun Yourself

It’s a good idea to minimize sun exposure whether you’ve had breast augmentation or not. The sun’s UV rays accelerate the wrinkling and aging process and can also increase your risk of skin cancer. The sun’s rays can darken the incisions near your breasts, causing long-lasting, if not permanent hyperpigmentation. While you might be looking forward to showing off your new figure in a bikini on the beach, remember to take all regular sun precautions. Wait at least a few weeks before spending time in the sun. When you do go out in a bikini or swimsuit, apply lots of sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 30. If possible, spend the day under an umbrella or, better yet, wear a rash guard with UPF protection.

How to Stay Positive After Breast Augmentation

You might expect to be absolutely thrilled or even over-the-moon after breast augmentation. You’ve done your research and have taken the time to invest in yourself and in a surgery that will help you feel more confident. Although plenty of women are extremely happy after their breast surgeries, it’s also not uncommon for some women to feel a bit sad or to develop post-surgical blues, known as postoperative depression.

Postoperative depression has some things in common with postpartum depression. Both occur after what are usually positive life events. Both can also severely interfere with your quality of life. There are ways to help prevent or minimize the feelings of sadness that can occur after surgery. Here’s what you can do to keep a positive outlook after your breast augmentation.

Lean on Your Support Network

The more people you have to lift you up and support you during your recovery after breast augmentation, the better. It’s not only important for your emotional and mental health to have a group of people to support you, it’s also important because you might need some physical assistance after your surgery. This is particularly true on the first night after the procedure. You’ll want to have at least one friend or relative around to help you get home and to stay with you in case you need any help.

Find Ways to Fill Your Time

You’re going to need to take some time off from work or other activities as you recover from breast surgery. Getting off of your usual schedule can really throw you for a loop, so it’s a good idea to find meaningful ways to fill your time. That initial recovery period after breast augmentation might be an ideal time to pursue a new, quiet hobby. You could learn a new skill, such as painting or knitting. You can also use your recovery time to catch up on books or movies you haven’t gotten a chance to read or see yet.

Eat a Healthy Diet

It’s a good idea to stock your kitchen the right way before you have surgery. Prep quick and easy meals and snacks so that you don’t end up eating pizza or other types of unhealthy takeout while you recuperate. Getting plenty of fiber and other nutrients will help you feel more comfortable as you heal. A healthy diet will also help your body heal more quickly after surgery. It’s also important that you drink plenty of water and stay hydrated following your procedure.

Let Yourself Rest

You need to give yourself permission to rest after your surgery, as getting plenty of sleep will help your body heal. In some cases, women struggle to rest after breast augmentation because they find it difficult to find a comfortable position for sleeping. It’s a good idea to make your bed extra comfortable, by adding pillows and blankets if needed during your recovery period. You will want to sleep on your back, so be sure to have pillows on either side of you to keep you from rolling over in your sleep.

Keep a Journal

Journaling can help you gather your thoughts and process your emotions. If you’re feeling down after surgery, write down how you feel. You might also consider keeping a journal that focuses on the positive things in your life. Every day, make a list of a couple of things you are grateful for or things that brought you happiness.

Get Help if You Feel Down

Most importantly, if you do feel sad or depressed after your breast augmentation, seek help. Your surgeon can reassure you that what you’re feeling and the swelling and bruising you might be experiencing are normal and will subside. It can also be helpful to speak with other women who have had breast augmentation to learn more about how they coped with recovery. You might even consider speaking with a therapist who can help you sort through your feelings.

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Post-Surgery FAQ

Is breast augmentation recovery painful?

When can I sleep on my side after breast augmentation?

How long after breast augmentation can I swim?

How long after breast augmentation can I have sex?

What can I do if breast massage is painful after breast augmentation?

Will I get stretch marks?

Will stretch marks fade after breast augmentation?

When can I buy new bras after breast augmentation?

Is breast augmentation recovery painful?

Many people describe the recovery period after breast augmentation as somewhat uncomfortable. How much pain or discomfort you experience will depend on your body’s response, your pain tolerance, and what you do to prepare. There are ways to manage pain and make recovery more comfortable.

When can I sleep on my side after breast augmentation?

Usually, you’ll want to wait at least two or three weeks before sleeping on your side again after breast augmentation. Sleeping on your back minimizes pressure on the breasts and helps aid the healing process.

How long after breast augmentation can I swim?

Your plastic surgeon will let you know when it’s safe to go swimming again after surgery. Usually, you can expect to start swimming around the time you can start up vigorous exercise again, around four to six weeks after breast augmentation.

How long after breast augmentation can I have sex?

Wait at least two or three weeks before having sex again after breast surgery. You might find it too uncomfortable to have sex before then.

What can I do if breast massage is painful after breast augmentation?

Massaging the breasts is important for reducing the risk of capsular contracture and for helping the implants settle into position. If you find massage after breast augmentation painful, talk to your surgeon. They might recommend taking medication or using a gentler touch.

Will I get stretch marks?

If you’re looking at breast augmentation stretch marks (post-surgery images) and are concerned you’ll get stretch marks after your own surgery, keep in mind that the healing process is highly individual. Some people get stretch marks, while others don’t. If you’ve gotten them in the past, such as during pregnancy, there is a chance that you will get them after breast augmentation.

Will stretch marks fade after breast augmentation?

Stretch marks do typically fade after surgery, although how long it takes for the marks to fade can vary from patient to patient.

When can I buy new bras after breast augmentation?

Give your breasts time to heal and your implants time to settle before buying new bras. You might want to schedule a bra fitting at a lingerie or department store to be sure you’re buying the correct size for your new breasts.

If you have more questions about what to expect after breast augmentation, Dr. Paul Vitenas, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Houston, Texas, can answer them. Dr. Vitenas specializes in breast procedures and has more than 30 years of experience helping women get natural-looking results. To schedule a consultation, call 281-226-9920 today.

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