Breast augmentation can help you feel more confident about your appearance by increasing the size of your breasts. If you’ve long had difficulty finding clothing that fits or have felt embarrassed about being “flat-chested,” breast augmentation can help.
Like many other plastic surgeries, breast augmentation is an invasive procedure. It requires a fair amount of downtime afterward so the body can heal and the implants can settle into their optimal position. There are several breast augmentation recovery stages, from immediately after the surgery to several weeks or months later. If you’re considering having surgery to increase the size of your breasts and are wondering “how long does it take to recover from breast implants?” here’s everything you need to know about the post-operative and recovery process after breast augmentation.
What to Expect After
Breast Augmentation Surgery
What is breast augmentation recovery like? Well, every person’s body is unique, which means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide to what to expect after breast augmentation. Instead, you should look to your surgeon and this guide for general advice on the recovery process. Although your experience might differ from your friends’ or relatives’ experience, there are a few things you can expect in the weeks after your surgery. It’s normal to have some discomfort in the area around the breasts after surgery. The discomfort can be due to the incisions or from the breast tissue getting used to the implants. Swelling occurs after surgery as part of the body’s natural healing response.
During breast augmentation, the plastic surgeon makes incisions in the skin near the breasts. Right away, the blood vessels in the area begin to form clots to keep you from bleeding too much.
White blood cells travel to the area, according to WebMD, to help fight off bacteria and prevent infection. As the white blood cells do their job, it’s natural for some swelling to appear.
Often, the swelling gets worse several days after surgery. Most of it usually diminishes within a few weeks, however. Discomfort after breast surgery can actually be a good thing. If you feel shooting pains near the incision, it can be a sign that the area is healing and your nerves are regaining sensation.
Managing Pain and Swelling
After Breast Augmentation
Although swelling and pain can be signs that your body is working hard and healing itself, you don’t want to be in constant discomfort during the recovery period. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce swelling and relieve pain during the initial part of your recovery. Applying a cold compress to the area around your incisions will help bring any swelling down. You can ice the area for about 40 minutes at a time, then take a 20-minute break. Although we’re using the term “ice” here, we don’t mean you should put ice cubes or an ice pack directly on your skin. Ice is actually too cold and will make you more uncomfortable. Instead, wrap an ice pack in a thick towel or fill a bag with ice cubes, then wrap it in a towel before applying it to the area. Cold helps bring down swelling but heat makes inflammation and swelling worse, according to the Cleveland Clinic. During the first days after surgery, avoid using anything too warm on the area near the breasts.
That includes taking hot showers or using a hot washcloth when bathing. You have a few options for managing pain and discomfort after breast augmentation. It helps to be aware of your own level of pain tolerance going into the surgery. Some people find that they can tolerate pain quite well and only need an over-the-counter medication. Others prefer a prescription medication, which can be a little stronger, to help them manage post-surgical pain. Different types of medicines treat pain differently, as the Mayo Clinic notes. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Some medicines, such as opioids, change the way your body perceives pain. You might be concerned about taking opioid medications to help manage pain after breast augmentation. If that’s the case, you have other options. Your plastic surgeon can prescribe an NSAID or other pain reliever to help you cope with the pain.
Your recovery experience will change as time goes on. Here’s what you can generally expect during the recovery time for breast augmentation, from the hours right after surgery to several weeks afterward. Reviewing breast augmentation recovery timeline photos can give you an idea of how you’ll look as your body heals.
FIRST 24 HOURS
You’ll most likely be given general anesthesia, which will put you completely to sleep during the surgery. After the procedure is complete, you’ll stay in a recovery room while the anesthesia wears off. As you wake up, you might feel a little out of sorts or groggy. Once the anesthesia has fully worn off, the surgeon will most likely clear you to go home the same day as your breast augmentation. You’ll want to make arrangements with a relative or friend beforehand so that you have someone to drive you home and stay by your side overnight. During the first day of recovery, you can expect to have some swelling, bruising, and discomfort in the chest area. Your surgeon will recommend that you not wear a regular bra during this time (and for several weeks afterward), to help the implants settle into the pocket of tissue. You may be instructed to wear a special support garment, however. If you find the discomfort severe enough, you can take acetaminophen or a pain reliever prescribed by your surgeon.
FIRST FEW DAYS
During the first few days after surgery, you can expect to see some amount of swelling in the area, as well as bruising. It’s not uncommon to feel discomfort, which you can manage with pain relievers. You’ll want to be careful about showering or bathing during those first few days, 5 minute showers with warm not hot water are best.
It’s very important to rest up during the first few days after your surgery. Along with taking time off from work, you might need someone to help you if you have small kids at home. It’s particularly important that you have a relative, partner, or friend stay with you at all times during the first day after your surgery, in case you need anything.
As the first week after your surgery goes on, you’ll notice that you start to feel a bit more like your old self and up for more activity. You can usually resume some activity around the end of the first week, but not too much. Taking short, non-strenuous walks each day is usually fine after the first day. You probably shouldn’t attempt more vigorous activities, including things like cooking dinner or cleaning your house. Your plastic surgeon will show you how to do breast implant exercises to help keep the pocket in the chest wall open and to reduce the risk of capsular contracture or other complications. You’ll want to do the exercises frequently during the initial recovery time after surgery and should continue to do them as instructed for as long as you have the implants.
FIRST FEW WEEKS
Usually, by the end of the first month after surgery, people who have had breast augmentation are starting to feel back to normal. You should have considerably less discomfort in the breast area and swelling and bruising will have gone down a lot.
AFTER THE FIRST MONTH
At the one-month mark, you might be wondering if it’s appropriate to resume activities such as exercise or playing sports. While some people might be healed enough to get back to the gym after four weeks, others might need a little extra time. Generally after four weeks we allow lower body exercises to occur but ask that patients refrain from upper body exercise for a full six weeks. You can also start to wear a bra again around the sixth week of recovery. It’s worth keeping in mind that shopping for a new bra at this stage can be a bit challenging. It can take several months before your breasts settle into their final size, and a few months before swelling has fully gone down.
Breast Augmentation Recovery Time
When Are You “Back to Normal?”
After your surgery, it’s only natural to wonder how long you’ll need to recover from breast augmentation and when you’ll be able to resume your favorite activities again. Although the exact timeline is different for everyone, here’s a general guide to when you can resume certain routine activities:
- Bathing: It is perfectly fine to take showers after your surgery as we cover your incision with a waterproof dressing. Quick showers with warm, not scalding hot water are best. After the tape is removed from your incisions you may bath or shower as you normally would.
- Driving: You definitely won’t be able to drive home the day of your surgery. When you can get behind the wheel of the car again depends on whether you take prescription pain relievers or not. You should avoid driving while on the pain relievers or when taking any medicines that make you feel drowsy.
- Sex: As a general rule, you’ll want to wait about two weeks before having sex again, though how long you should wait depends on how vigorous the sex is. During sex, ask your partner to be gentle with your breasts, at least during the first few months after surgery.
- Getting Dressed: You can wear clothing immediately after your surgery but might want to stick to button-down or zip-front shirts for a while. It can be uncomfortable to lift your arms over your head during the first few weeks after breast augmentation.
- Eating and Drinking: You can eat and drink as normal pretty much right away after surgery. To help reduce the risk of constipation, which can develop if you take certain pain relievers, try to eat a high-fiber diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is very important to refrain from eating salty foods after surgery. Salt makes you retain fluid so you will stay swollen longer and consequently be more uncomfortable longer.
- Sleeping: If you aren’t a back-sleeper normally, you can usually return to sleeping on your side or stomach within two weeks after your surgery.
- Working: How soon you can get back to work depends on the type of job you have. You might be comfortable returning to an office job after a couple days. If your work is more strenuous requiring heavy lifting or other physical exertion, you may need to take a month or so off.
- Exercise: Like working, how soon you’ll be able to return to exercise after breast surgery depends on what you normally do. A gentle walk is fine starting a few days after surgery but you’ll want to avoid going to the gym for at least a month. You might feel comfortable starting slowly, then increasing the duration of your workouts as time goes on.
- Wearing a bathing suit: It’s best to postpone swimming in a chlorine pool for at least six weeks after surgery. Going into a salt water pool or the ocean after two weeks is fine. Swimming as exercise should be avoided for six weeks. Sunning or tanning your incisions should be avoided for one year following surgery to avoid hyperpigmentation.
- Pregnancy: You can safely get pregnant after breast augmentation and many women can breastfeed with implants. How long you wait to get pregnant after your surgery is up to you. If you know you want to have children soon, you might decide to postpone breast augmentation until you are finished breastfeeding, as pregnancy and breastfeeding can change your results.
RECOVERY AFTER BREAST AUGMENTATION UNDER THE MUSCLE VS. OVER THE MUSCLE
During breast augmentation surgery, a plastic surgeon can place the implants over the chest muscle, a technique known as subglandular placement, or under the muscle, known as submuscular placement. There are pros and cons to each option and one might be the better choice for one patient but not for another. The placement of implants also affects the healing process. During submuscular placement, the implant is positioned beneath the chest muscle, creating a more natural appearance even in patients who do not have a lot of natural breast tissue. The muscle more fully covers the implant, disguising any ripples or irregularities. Submuscular placement is also less likely to cause capsular contracture. During subglandular placement, the implants are positioned on top of the muscle, beneath the natural breast tissue. Subglandular placement can be more appropriate for patients who have a lot of natural breast tissue. When the technique is used in people without a lot of tissue, the implants tend to be visible. One other advantage subglandular placement has over submuscular is that the recovery process is often shorter. The positioning of an implant on top of the muscles means a smaller incision and a reduced need to manipulate the tissue. The surgery itself is usually shorter, too. Although subglandular placement has a shorter recovery time, many patients find that they prefer the more natural look and feel of submuscular placement.
How to Prepare for Breast Augmentation Recovery
The more you do in advance to prepare for the recovery period after your breast augmentation surgery, the more comfortable you’ll feel and the more you’ll benefit from your downtime. Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself, your family, and your home for the recovery process.
Clear Everything With Work
Some employers are great about granting time off for surgery or medical leave. Others might be more hesitant to give you the time you need. If you’re thinking that your recovery time might qualify for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, it’s important to understand that the Act often doesn’t cover plastic surgery or surgery for cosmetic reasons. For that reason, you might want to schedule a meeting with HR to find out what you’re allowed to do. It might be that your employer lets you use vacation time to cover the days you’ll need off after breast augmentation. If you don’t have enough vacation days remaining, you might be able to take unpaid days off. Since many employers require ample notice before employees take days or weeks off, it’s a good idea to get your time off requests in as soon as you know the date of your surgery.
Make Arrangements for Pets and Children
Pets and kids are great but can complicate things when you’re trying to rest and recover after breast augmentation. If you have a four-legged, furry friend at home, you might want to arrange for them to have a little vacation while you recover. Hire someone to care for your dog or cat so that they don’t try to cuddle with you during your recovery and disrupt your healing. If you can’t find someone to watch your pet at their own home and you don’t want to kennel them, consider keeping the door of the room you’ll be in closed during the recovery time.
Have other members of your family handle walks and feedings so it’s one less thing you have to worry about. How you manage childcare while you recover will depend on their ages. Older kids can stay home and go about their lives while you rest. Younger kids might need more attentive care. If that’s the case, consider sending your young kids to stay with their grandparents for a week or so or schedule a trip for them to visit their cousins. If that’s not an option, have your partner take on childcare duties or hire a temporary nanny.
Prepare Your Bed
During the first few weeks after your surgery, you’ll want to avoid putting pressure on your breasts. You’ll also want to keep them as elevated as possible to help bring down swelling. That can mean changing your sleeping position. If you’re usually a side or stomach sleeper, you’ll want to get used to sleeping on your back. To help yourself do that, stock up on pillows to surround yourself at night so you don’t flip over. If you share a bed with a partner or spouse, consider sleeping in separate rooms for a little while, if possible, for everyone’s comfort.
Stock up on comfy clothes
The more comfortable your clothes are during the recovery period, the happier you’ll be. Now’s the time to stock up on clothes you can easily slip on and off, without having to lift your hands above your head. Stretchy, soft zip-up or button-up tops are the way to go. Leggings and joggers are ideal, too. Definitely skip the underwire bra for now and any other garments that might be very constricting or confining.
Make a List of Activities
You’re most likely going to have about two weeks or so to relax and rest during your recovery. You might find that you get a bit bored during that time. To stave off boredom and to keep yourself from staring aimlessly at your phone, it can be helpful to have a list of things you can do during recovery. What’s on the list will depend on where you are in the recovery process. During the first few days, you might be content to catch up on Netflix or reality TV. After a couple of days, you might find that you enjoy reading an engaging book or completing crosswords. After a week or so, a short walk around the block might be fine, or you might find yourself back in the kitchen, doing some light cooking. When planning your list, think of your favorite, relaxing hobbies, such as knitting, embroidery, or making scrapbooks. Getting creative will help you make the most of your downtime!
Meal Plan and Prep
You’ll be happy to have a well-stocked fridge and freezer during your recovery period. If you usually do the cooking at home, prep a few meals in advance and freeze them so that all you need to do is pop them in the oven before eating. If you often rely on takeout or restaurant meals, keep in mind that those options tend to be high in sodium and might not be the best choice when you’re healing after surgery. A convenient but healthier option might be to hire a personal chef to prep high-fiber, low-salt, delicious meals for you to enjoy as you heal.
Build up a Support System
Although you don’t have to tell the world about your decision to have breast augmentation, you might want to let at least a few people know what’s going on. Build a support system so that there are people to call when you’re feeling tired or emotionally exhausted while at home. Your support system can also give your family members a break from caring for you. Even if you don’t end up leaning on them, it’s nice to know that there are people out there who love you and will be there for you when you need them.
Drawbacks of Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation
Even if the pets are away and the kids are at Grandma’s, you might be surprised at how dirty your home gets while you’re recovering. If you usually handle much of the housework and don’t want to put your spouse or partner in charge while you rest, it can be a good idea to hire a house cleaner to tidy up for you.
Schedule A Consultation
WEAR LOOSE, COMFORTABLE CLOTHES ON THE DAY OF SURGERY
After the surgery, your breasts will be swollen, sore, and wrapped in bandages. That tight little tank top likely won’t fit you at this point, nor would it be very comfortable if you did try to wear it home. Dress in comfortable, loose-fitting clothes before you head to your breast augmentation surgery so you can have the right thing to wear on your trip home.
Before your surgery, make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated throughout the process. Any major surgical procedure that uses anesthetics can leave you feeling nauseated or disoriented. Drinking water ahead of time can sometimes help prevent some of these side effects. Make sure you follow your plastic surgeon’s advice on eating and drinking before your surgery.
HAVE SOMEONE ELSE DRIVE
On the day of your surgery, have a friend or family member drive you to and from your surgical appointment. Following your procedure, you will still be heavily sedated and unable to drive on your own. Taxis and public transportation are also not considered a safe way for you to get home, so your doctor may not allow it. Remember that this is for your safety, not your inconvenience, so make arrangements ahead of time for a slow, successful transition home to recover.
EAT BEFORE TAKING ANY PAIN MEDICATION
Some pain medications can lead to nausea or vomiting, especially if they are taken on an empty stomach. Unless your doctor or pharmacist specifies that your medication must be taken without food, you should try to pair your medications with a meal or snack. After your breast augmentation surgery, you won’t want the extra strain of nausea or vomiting on your body as it heals.
Take Only Those Medications and Supplements That Your Doctor Prescribes
Some medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements can interfere with anesthesia, pain medication, proper healing, and more.
To avoid unnecessary complications throughout your surgery and healing process, make sure you avoid any medications that your plastic surgeon advises against taking. These often include:
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAID pain relievers
- Vitamin E, and some other vitamins and supplements
You should stay away from anything on the list for at least two weeks prior to and two weeks following your breast augmentation surgery.
Skip the Bra for Now
As mentioned above, fat transfer breast augmentation is a two-part process. First, the surgeon removes fat from one area of the body. How much fat they will remove depends on your goals.
You might be able to slim down a specific area significantly if that’s what you want. However, keep in mind that there is a limit to how much fat can be extracted for safety and good results.
After the surgeon cleans the fat, they inject it into the breasts. In some cases, fat transfer is used along with implants to enhance the breasts and create a natural appearance. It can also be used on its own.
Hold Off on Exercise
If you’re athletic and active, you might be itching to get back to the gym or your workout routine quickly after surgery. But it’s best to wait for at least four to six weeks before you resume any strenuous activity, such as going for a run or lifting weights. Lifting your arms above your head or putting any sort of pressure on the chest area can interfere with the healing of the incisions. Running raises your blood pressure and can put a strain on the incisions.
Since you can’t wear a bra for those first six weeks, any running or exercise you do will cause your new breasts to jostle and move. That movement can interfere with the final shape and size of your breasts. If the thought of being housebound or limited to just sitting around for six weeks fills you with dread, don’t worry. You can still participate in low-impact activities.
You can take walks throughout the day, for example. Take it easy as you reintroduce exercise to your life. Start slowly and stop when you feel tired. Don’t feel that you need to push yourself. It’s better to do less exercise than you’re used to than over-exert yourself and disrupt your recovery.
Relax, Rest, and Recuperate at Home and Avoid Routine Activities
You might be thinking you’ll just jump into your usual routine a day or so after you have your breast augmentation surgery, but it’s impossible to predict how long your body will need to properly heal. It’s also unlikely that anyone could heal that fast.
Instead of leaving lots of things to do after your surgery, plan ahead and check off your regular errands and housework before your surgery date. Minimizing your stress after surgery is essential to a successful recovery.
What to Avoid During
Recovery from Breast Augmentation
The recovery period after breast augmentation is a time to rest and relax. While there are definitely things you can do, such as eating healthfully and drinking a lot of water, there are some things you want to avoid.
Number one on the list of things not to do during recovery from breast augmentation is smoke. That includes tobacco and marijuana, as well as any products that contain ingredients found in cigarettes, such as vape pens or nicotine patches. Smoking constricts your blood vessels and delays healing.
You might also want to avoid drinking alcohol, at least during your initial recovery period and when you are taking any pain medications. Your surgeon will let you know when you can safely drink again.
If you’re not sure if something should be avoided during recovery or when it’ll be ok to resume certain types of activities again, your best option is to ask your plastic surgeon. They want you to enjoy the best results and to heal as quickly as possible after your surgery.
Breast Implant Exercises During Recovery
Before you return home after breast augmentation, either a nurse or your surgeon will show you how to perform breast implant exercises. These exercises are a crucial step in helping your implants settle into place. Performing the exercises regularly, both during and well after the recovery period will also help you avoid complications such as capsular contracture.
Usually, you should go through the exercises every day. During the first six weeks after surgery, you’ll want to massage the implants every 30 minutes. After the first six weeks, it’s recommended that you perform the exercises at least twice a day.
During Breast Augmentation Recovery
Properly caring for your incisions after surgery will help them heal well and reduce the visibility of any scarring. Your plastic surgeon will give you specific instructions for incision care. You might be directed to clean each incision, apply a special cream to protect them, or leave them alone.
If you aren’t sure what to do with your incisions, please ask your plastic surgeon for more instructions.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR SURGEON DURING RECOVERY
Your plastic surgeon will most likely want to see you for a follow-up a few days or weeks after your surgery. At the follow-up visit, they’ll check out your incisions and the positioning of your implants and remove sutures, if necessary.
There are a few instances when it’s a good idea to follow up with your surgeon, even if you don’t have an appointment scheduled. If you notice pus or bleeding around the incision or develop a high fever, it can be a sign of infection. Call your surgeon for advice right away.
Breast Augmentation RecoveryFAQ
The recovery experience after breast augmentation is likely to be slightly different for each person. Usually, you can expect some swelling and mild discomfort during the first few days. With rest and time, you’ll begin to feel better and see your results.
The initial recovery period after breast augmentation takes about two weeks, but you’ll most likely want to hold off on some activities, such as exercise, for at least a month, if not longer, after your surgery.
When you can go back to work after your surgery depends on the type of job you have and how you feel. If your job mostly involves sitting at a desk, you might be able to go back after a week or so. If your work involves a lot of movement or lifting, you might need to wait longer.
The recovery process is the same whether you choose saline or silicone implants. Since a surgeon can make a smaller incision when inserting saline implants, patients might notice that it takes less time for the incision to heal.
Not wearing a bra while you recover from breast augmentation gives the implants the chance to settle into place, creating a more natural appearance.
The recovery process will change as each week goes on. During the first week, you’ll want to take things as easy as possible. About four weeks after surgery, you’ll be able to resume most of your activities.
If you’re interested in seeing photos of patients after breast augmentation, your surgeon can provide you with before and after pictures.
Flash recovery breast augmentation or rapid recovery breast augmentation are methods of performing the surgery that are designed to reduce recovery time afterward. You can ask your plastic surgeon for more information on the methods used to reduce recovery.
Dr. Paul Vitenas specializes in breast surgery in Houston, Texas. To learn more about the recovery process following breast augmentation, call 281-226-9920 to schedule a consultation today.