4 days post op breast augmentation, and it’s all been a whirlwind.
There’s been so much to do—so many people to talk to, and so many things to think about. I’m still in a bit of a daze from everything that’s happened, but I have to admit: I’m feeling great!
The surgery went very well, and my doctor did an amazing job. The pain was manageable (thank goodness), and now that I’m finally starting to heal, I can see that the results are going to be fantastic.
I’ll be back in the office next week!
4 days post op breast augmentation
Small or large, round or narrow, side set, teardrop or asymmetrical, breasts come in any number of shapes and sizes. But for those who aren’t happy with the breasts they were naturally dealt, breast augmentation has long offered an opportunity to change them.
As one of the most consistently popular cosmetic procedures of recent decades, breast augmentation has come a long way since the experimental surgeries of the early 20th century and since the advent of breast implants in 1961. The operation is among the most recognizable examples of plastic surgery and has come to play a pivotal role in shaping the cultural understanding of the space for many years. Yet, even as roughly 200,000 Americans underwent breast augmentation in 2020 alone, confusion persists around its recovery process, and many patients remain unsure of what to expect after the procedure.
How long does recovery take following breast augmentation?
While recovery time can greatly differ depending on the specifics of your procedure, your health, and after-care, there is a general timeline that often rings true for breast augmentation.
“Depending on the technique used, recovery can be three weeks (with subglandular augmentation, my preference) or three months (with submuscular technique, which is much more painful and involves cutting your pectoralis major muscles and stretching them over an implant),” explains Karen Horton, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco and ASPS member.
Is there anything you should avoid before surgery to minimize recovery time?
Contrary to popular belief, recovery actually starts before you even have your breast augmentation. Although patients aren’t at all limited in their physical activity in the days and weeks leading up to the surgery, there are certain medications and supplements that should be avoided.
“The main offenders for increasing bleeding and bruising with surgery are anti-inflammatories,” Dr. Horton says, referring to aspirin, ibuprofen, and the like. There are also a number of vitamins and supplements, like vitamin E, fish oil, ginkgo biloba, and garlic, that you should avoid for two weeks before (and after) surgery. “In concentrated forms, they can increase bleeding in some studies.”
What is the first week of recovery like?
As with any surgery, breast augmentation carries different points of recovery in the days, weeks, and months that follow. Immediately following the operation, rest and icing will be top priority.
“Ice is your best friend in terms of keeping swelling down and helping to control the pain, and that’s the process I do with my patients now,” says Anureet Bajaj, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and an ASPS member.
Drains can significantly speed up recovery time, as they remove wound fluid rather than forcing the body to absorb it, but in most breast augmentation surgeries, they are not needed.
“After a breast augmentation, most women don’t have any drains, and the incisions are all healed,” says Dr. Bajaj. “So, theoretically, there shouldn’t be a whole lot to deal with.” The one thing that may come up, however, is itchiness around the incisions during the first 24 to 48
And although it’s natural to think of bedrest as necessary in the first few days following surgery, Dr. Bajaj says this is not actually the best course of action after breast augmentation.
“I think the conception of being bed-ridden or on bed rest can be misleading because you really want to be up and about and walking,” she notes. “It makes you feel better because it keeps the blood moving. The more sedentary and stiffer you are, the more you almost freeze up, and the more painful it is.”
It may sound ambitious, but according to Dr. Bajaj, it should only take between three to five days to get past this first stage of recovery.
“Typically, with breast augmentation, most people should be able to glide within three to five days. And if you have a desk job, you should be able to go back to work within three to five days,” she says. “So, if things are done appropriately, it’s very reasonable to be able to do that.”
To be on the safe side, though, it may be wise to plan for up to a week.
“I recommend one week off of work for subglandular augmentation and longer if the muscles were operated on (i.e. revision surgery) or if the patient has a physically demanding job (firefighter, police officer, nurse, surgeon),” Dr. Horton advises.
How much pain can you expect?
The pain experienced after breast augmentation is subjective and will depend on a variety of factors, but it can be helpful to have a rough idea of what to expect.
“From what I remember, the pain and discomfort wasn’t like a sharp pain,” Dr. Bajaj recalls of her own breast augmentation. “I remember feeling like I had done 150 pushups and that my chest was just really sore. To me, it felt like muscle soreness after the biggest workout of your life, and that’s how I describe it to my patients.” She warns her patients that they will feel especially sore the morning after the operation and that when they first wake up, they aren’t going to want to move.
Many women who’ve undergone breast augmentation also report feeling some muscle soreness whenever they move or raise their arms in the days after surgery. “Your pectoralis is connected to your humorous, so any time you move your arm, you may feel some soreness in your chest,” says Dr. Bajaj. You also may experience a burning sensation around incisions in the immediate aftermath, but this should subside fairly quickly.
When can you return to normal activity?
It takes only about a week to heal enough from surgery to return to work (if an office job) and most activity, but there are certain things, namely exercise, that require waiting a bit longer.
“I usually tell patients they can start working out at about three weeks post-op, and that means legs and arms but no chest,” Dr. Bajaj explains. “I remember the first time I went running again, it was about two weeks after surgery, and I felt like my breasts were going to fall off my chest. So, I tell my patients that when they first start doing any type of cardio that’s really bouncy, that’s what it will feel like, and they might want to wear two bras.”
And although you may be super excited to show off your new breasts in a cute bra, you will be somewhat limited on the type.
5 Stages of Healing after Breast Augmentation
Breast augmentation is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed in the United States. Each year, hundreds of thousands of women experience the life-changing benefits associated with an improved breast appearance.
Before moving forward with your procedure, it’s important to understand what to expect during every stage of the process. Breast augmentation is major surgery, and there is a significant recovery period. While the overwhelming majority of women find that it’s worth undergoing this lengthy healing process, you should be aware of the road to recovery that lies ahead of you.
Stage 1: The Day of Your Surgery
Breast augmentation is performed on an outpatient basis, and you will return home the day of your procedure. Since you’ll still be under the lingering effects of anesthesia, you’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home. It’s also important to have someone around the house for the rest of the day in case you need assistance.
You’ll need to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated on this first day of recovery. We recommend that you set up a comfortable recovery area prior to your procedure. It should include:
- Extra pillows and blankets for optimal comfort
- A place to easily access water and snacks without bending over
- Plenty of entertainment (movies, books, music) to keep you occupied while you relax
We recommend that you prepare some healthy, nutritious meals in advance that you can easily reheat since you won’t feel up to cooking. You should also fill all prescriptions in advance so that they’ll be on-hand when you get home from surgery.
Stage 2: First 5-7 Days after Surgery
This is typically the most uncomfortable phase of your recovery. It’s common to experience:
- Bruising and swelling around the breasts which will gradually subside as you heal
- Discomfort which can be managed with pain medication
You should start feeling much better towards the end of this first week of recovery. Dr. Lee encourages light walking as soon as you feel up to it. This will facilitate proper blood flow and help prevent blood clots. Always listen to your body and rest if you feel you need to.
Stage 3: 1-3 Weeks after Surgery
During this phase of recovery, you will be able to gradually resume your regular routine. In general, most women are able to return to work within one to two weeks after breast augmentation. If your job requires heavy lifting or other strenuous physical activity, you may need to take additional time off to ensure your body is sufficiently healed.
Bruising, swelling and discomfort should have substantially subsided by this point. Dr. Lee will carefully monitor your recovery and let you know when it is safe to resume normal activities and light exercise. Light cardio activities can be incorporated into your routine at this point, but you will still need to refrain from strenuous activities. When resuming exercise, it’s important to start slow and gradually ramp up your efforts as your body gets stronger.
Stage 4: 4-6 Weeks after Surgery
By now, you will be sufficiently recovered to begin adding more strenuous activity back into your routine. Always wait until Dr. Lee tells you it is safe to resume specific activities to prevent complications.
Intense cardio and lower body exercises can be resumed after about four weeks. However, you’ll need to refrain from heavy lifting and chest exercises until you are roughly six weeks out of surgery.
Stage 5: Final Results
It can take as long as three to four months before you are able to see your final results. This is due to the fact that it takes time for your breast implants to settle into their proper position and for all residual swelling to subside. While you’ll want to experience your new appearance as soon as possible, it’s important to be patient during this process.
Dr. Lee recommends waiting to purchase new bras and bikinis until your final results are visible since your breast size and appearance may still undergo slight changes for several months.
What to Expect After Breast Augmentation Surgery
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With all the research and planning leading to your decision to get “new breasts,” you may not have thought about what comes after breast augmentation surgery – other than your fabulous new breasts (and possibly a new wardrobe).
But surgery, no matter how safe or simple, requires recovery. So what should you expect in the days and weeks following your breast augmentation surgery?
After Breast Augmentation: The First Day
Breast augmentation surgery is an outpatient surgery, most frequently performed under general anesthesia. The surgery typically lasts between one and two hours. After surgery, you will spend another one to two hours in recovery to insure you are comfortable, any nausea is under control, and you are adequately awake and alert before you are discharged. You won’t be allowed to drive so be sure you’ve arranged for someone to take you home.
Your incisions will be covered by a small amount of gauze, and a post-operative bra will have been put on you after surgery. Dr. Slack will provide instructions on how to care for your incisions that day and in the coming weeks. Follow these instructions precisely for the best healing and minimal scarring. Most patients will be given a prescription for narcotic pain medications to get you through the first few days.
Your task this first day is simply to rest. It may seem like surgery was “done to you,” but the minute an incision was made for your breast augmentation, your body became an active participant. It immediately got to work to help you heal from the process. So rest and let it do its thing.
After Breast Augmentation: The First Week
Again, your body is hard at work healing your surgical incisions. You should use this week to rest and eat well so your body can recover. Plan on taking at least a few days off from work to relax at home. Avoid any strenuous activity or heavy lifting. If you educate yourself on what to expect after surgery and prepare a little ahead of time, you won’t be caught off guard or be tempted to overdo it.
During breast augmentation surgery, the surgeon makes incisions in skin and muscle. This will cause discomfort, especially in the first few days. You may find that certain movements, particularly pushing and pulling with your arms, make the pain worse. You will be given an adequate supply of pain medication for the first three to five days. Don’t be afraid to use this medication as your surgeon has prescribed it to stay ahead of your pain rather than letting it build up. During this first week let your body heal by using your pain medication and avoiding lifting, pushing, or pulling.
In addition, your breasts will look swollen and feel tight. This typically worsens over the first 2-3 days, stabilizes and then starts to go down between the 1st and 2nd week after surgery. Most of the swelling will be gone by 2 months. You may also feel a squishing sensation or hear a squeaking sound coming from your breasts during that first week. This is completely normal. It’s due to a small amount of fluid around the implant that is typically absorbed by the body during the first week.
Once you start feeling less discomfort, your doctor will likely have you switch to an over-the-counter pain medication like Motrin.
After Breast Augmentation: The First Month
Toward the end of that first week, you should start to feel more like yourself again. Your surgeon will probably clear you to drive and get back to work soon
However, if your job is physical or requires much lifting, you may need a longer period of time before returning to your full workload. You may be tempted to push this, but remember that it is better to be cautious so you can avoid complications and your body can heal beautifully.
During this time, don’t use any bra with underwire. Use the soft undergarments recommended by your surgeon. You don’t want to do anything that will interfere with healing. Tight, ill-fitting, and underwire bras can do just that.
Toward the end of the month, your surgeon will let you know when it is okay to begin low impact exercise. You should be able to build up to your normal routine slowly in the weeks that follow.
After Breast Augmentation: The First Year
By the end of the first month, the swelling becomes less noticeable and the incisions should be healed. However, a small amount of swelling will remain for several months. For this reason, it’s a good idea to hold off on spending a lot of money on new bras or swimsuits until 2 months after surgery. Bras can be expensive and you don’t want to invest in something that won’t fit the same way in a matter of months.
In addition, scars will continue to change throughout the next year and a half. In fact, you may find that your scars look worse before they look better. Know that it can take 12 to 18 months for scars to take on their final appearance. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s regimen for caring for your incisions and scars to minimize their appearance and get the best results.
It’s also important to note that it may take a good part of this first year before your new breasts feel like your breasts. At first they may feel unfamiliar and foreign, but over the coming months they will gradually become part of your body image.
The year following your surgery is a year of healing and change for your new breasts. Preparing yourself ahead of time for what to expect during this “transition” year is important. Equally important is a plastic surgeon you feel comfortable calling if things aren’t going as you expect.