It’s been 4 weeks since I got my breast augmentation and I’m so excited to share with you all of the details!
You may remember that I had my consultation with Dr. [name] in April, where we discussed what I wanted to get out of the procedure (more volume, a more full shape) and what kind of implant would work best for me. He recommended 375cc silicone implants, which is what I went with.
I decided to go ahead with surgery in May because it was just too hard to wait any longer. The waiting game was killing me! Plus, my boyfriend had already booked his flight back home to visit his family in June, which meant that if we waited until then it would be another 3 months before he could come back again.
I think this is one of those things where you just have to make a decision and stick with it—you don’t want to keep putting it off because then you’ll just get more anxious about getting it done. Once we made the decision, we were ready for action!
4 weeks post 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 hours
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.