How Bad Is The Pain After Breast Augmentation
Breast augmentation is a surgery that increases the size of a person’s breasts. It’s also known as augmentation mammoplasty.
In most surgeries, implants are used to enhance breast size. Fat from another part of the body can also be used, but this method is less common.
People typically get this surgery to:
- enhance physical appearance
- reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy or another breast surgery
- adjust uneven breasts due to surgery or another condition
- increase breast size after pregnancy or breastfeeding
People seeking male-to-female or male-to-nonbinary top surgery might also get breast augmentation.
Generally, recovery takes about 6 to 8 weeks. It may take more time depending on how you heal and your overall health. Every person is different, so it’s best to talk to a surgeon if you’re concerned about the recovery process.
Read on to learn about what you can expect during breast augmentation recovery.
Breast augmentation recovery time
In most cases, recovery lasts about 6 to 8 weeks. Here’s what the timeline may look like:
Immediately after surgery
Most breast augmentation surgeries involve general anesthesia. This means you’re asleep during the procedure.
Once the surgery is done, you’ll be transferred to a recovery room. You’ll slowly wake up as a team of medical professionals monitors you. You’ll likely feel achy and groggy.
If the implants were placed under the pectoralis muscle, you may experience tightness or muscle aches in the area. As the muscles stretches and relaxes, the pain will decrease.
Hours after surgery
After a few hours, you’ll feel less sore and sleepy.
You can usually go home after several hours, but you’ll need someone to drive you.
Before you leave, your surgeon will wrap your breasts with a bra or elastic band. This will support your breasts during recovery. Your surgeon will also explain how to care for your incision sites.
3 to 5 days
During the first 3 to 5 days, you’ll likely experience the most discomfort. Your doctor will have prescribed medication to help control the pain.
You might have minor bleeding at the incision sites. This is normal. But if you’re concerned about any bleeding, talk to your surgeon.
As you approach 1 week, you may be able to manage the pain with over-the-counter pain medications.
The pain should be minimal after the first week.
With your surgeon’s approval, you can gradually return to light daily activities.
Next few weeks
During this time, you’ll still have some soreness and swelling. But it should slowly get better.
If you have a physically demanding job, you’ll need to be out of work for 3 weeks or more. You’ll also need to avoid heavy lifting and intense physical activities, like running.
After about 2 months, you should be nearing full recovery, though this depends on how well your body heals.
Your doctor will let you know if you can resume normal activities.
As with all types of surgery, breast augmentation poses potential complications.
General surgery complications include scarring, wound infections, and bleeding problems, like blood loss. It’s also possible to go into shock or develop issues related to blood clots.
Anesthesia can also trigger an allergic reaction, but this is rare.
Complications specific to breast augmentation include:
- scarring that changes the breast shape
- asymmetrical breasts
- breast pain
- breast numbness
- undesired or poor cosmetic results
- nipple changes in appearance
- breast or nipple sensation changes
- breast cellulitis
- breasts appear to merge (symmastia)
- incorrect position of implant
- implant is seen or felt through the skin
- skin wrinkling over the implant
- fluid accumulation (seroma)
- scarring around the implant (capsular contracture)
- implant leak or break
- breastfeeding problems
- breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma
- breast implant illness
To heal some of these complications, you may need surgery to replace or remove the implants.
On average, breast implants last about 10 years before the shell ruptures or leaks. You’ll eventually need surgery to replace or remove them.
Types of breast augmentation surgery
There are two main kinds of breast augmentation:
- Cosmetic breast implants. A silicone or saline implant is inserted behind the breast tissue or below the pectoralis, or pushup, muscle.
- Reconstructive surgery. If your breasts were removed in another surgery, breast implants or fat tissue from another part of the body can be used to rebuild them.
Breast augmentation can be combined with a breast lift, or mastopexy. This surgery changes the shape of your breasts, but it doesn’t alter the size.
Tips for a healthy recovery
Successful breast augmentation depends on how well you heal. To increase the chances of a smooth recovery, you can:
- Wear recovery bras. Follow your doctor’s instructions. Recovery bras provide support and manage pain and swelling.
- Care for your incisions. Depending on your surgeon’s preference, you may have to wear a bandage or apply ointment. Always follow the directions.
- Take your medication. During the first week, pain medication will help you feel more comfortable. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take the entire course.
- Prepare your home before surgery. Before the procedure, finish any housework and meal prep. You’ll need to rest when you’re back home in recovery.
- Wear loose clothes. Loose-fitting, breathable clothes will help you feel more comfortable.
- Avoid intense activity. Strenuous movement can delay the healing process.
- Eat nutritious foods. A healthy diet will help your body recover. Consume lots of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.
How to find a surgeon
The most important part of preparing for breast augmentation is choosing the right surgeon. This ensures your safety and overall success of the surgery.
When selecting a surgeon, look for:
- Board certification. Pick a plastic surgeon who’s certified by a board under the American Board of Medical Specialties, or more specifically, the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The surgeon should specialize in breast augmentation.
- Cost. Be cautious of extremely inexpensive options. While budget and cost certainly matter, it’s best to prioritize your safety and comfort.
- Patient results. Read testimonials from people who’ve had the procedure. Look at before and after photos.
- Customer service. Take note of how the surgeon and staff make you feel during the consultation.
Visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website to find a board-certified plastic surgeon near you.
Breast augmentation recovery usually takes 6 to 8 weeks. It might be longer if you develop complications, like an infection or implant leak.
To ensure a smooth recovery, follow your surgeon’s instructions. Wear the recovery bra, and care for your incision sites as directed. Be sure to get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet. In about 8 weeks, you should be fully recovered and ready to resume normal activities.
Breast Incision Healing Stages
As with any surgery, a breast lift involves incisions in the skin. Incisions put you at risk for scarring — your skin’s way of building new tissues and healing the wound.
However, there are ways to minimize scarring before, during, and after a breast lift.
Your first step is to find an experienced and certified plastic surgeon. Portfolio shopping can help you see the work a surgeon is capable of, as well as identify the results you’re going for.
Working with an experienced surgeon can ultimately reduce your risk of complications known to cause scarring. They can also teach you how to protect and treat your skin postsurgery.
Keep reading to learn more about the different techniques available, the scars they might leave, and how to minimize their appearance.
Different techniques leave different scars
When it comes to scarring, not all breast lifts are the same. Your surgeon can recommend a specific lift according to what you want addressed, including sagging, size, and shape.
As a rule of thumb, the less you’re trying to correct, the fewer incisions and subsequent scars you’ll have. You can gain a better idea of what a surgery looks like by going through your surgeon’s portfolio of work.
A scarless lift is the least invasive lift available. Instead of making incisions into your skin, your surgeon will use a system of electrical currents or ultrasound to heat up the fat cells and skin of your breasts. This causes the tissue to tighten and firm, creating the desired lift.
Although it’s technically scar-free, this procedure only works for women who have minimal sagging.
The crescent lift also results in minimal scarring. One small incision is made with this surgery. It runs halfway across the top edge of the areola.
It works best for women who have minimal sagging and don’t have excessive breast tissue leftover from a recent pregnancy or weight loss.
However, the procedure is typically reserved for women who are also getting a breast augmentation. The lift will help boost sagginess, while augmentation directly increases the size of your breasts. It also fills out the often deflated skin that occurs with aging and weight loss and after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
If you have more moderate sagging, your doctor might recommend a donut lift. Like a crescent lift, there’s only one incision made, so the scar is somewhat minimized.
The incision is made in a circle around the areola.
Donut lifts are often done in conjunction with a breast augmentation. They’re also beneficial for women who are looking to reduce the size of the areola. Because of this, the procedure is also called a periareolar lift.
A lollipop (vertical) lift is designed for women who want some reshaping done while also correcting any sag. It’s one of the most common types of lifts.
During the procedure, your surgeon will make two incisions in each breast to help remove extra skin and reshape them. The first incision is made from the bottom of the areola to the crease below the breast. The second incision is done around the areola. This is where the “lollipop” shape comes from.
If you have significant sagging, your surgeon may recommend an anchor lift. This type of lift involves the greatest degree of scars, but also yields the most significant sagging and reshaping transformation.
During surgery, your doctor will make one horizontal incision along the breast crease. One incision is in between the crease and the areola. The other is around the areola edge. Because this surgery is more extensive, it may result in more significant scarring.
A horizontal mastopexy involves horizontal incisions only. In theory, this helps minimize visible scarring along the areola and breast line. Once the incision is made, your surgeon will pull excess tissue from the bottom up through the breast and out through the incision.
This procedure works well for extensive sagging. It also works well for women who want to move their nipples upward.
What will the scarring look like?
Incisions made during cosmetic surgery are usually thin. Shortly after the wounds heal, you may be left with a red, raised line along the edges of the incision. Over time, the scar color should fade to pink and then to white. They should also flatten out in texture. This scar lightening will take several months up to a year after surgery.
Scarring tends to be most visible in people with extremely dark or light skin. The scars may also become more noticeable if they’re subject to direct sun exposure. Be sure to wear sunscreen every day.
Breast lifts that involve incisions around the areola are perhaps the easiest to conceal. You won’t see these scars even if you’re wearing a bikini top. Most breast lift scars are easily concealed with low-cut tops, too.
As a rule of thumb, horizontal scars made along the breast crease are usually less noticeable than incisions made vertically along the breasts.
Will the scars change over time?
As the healing process continues, your scars will inevitably change over time. With proper care, they should continue to fade and flatten.
It’s also important to avoid behaviors that can make breast lift scars worse. Avoid the following:
- Excessive exfoliation or scrubbing. This is especially the case as the wound is healing.
- Heavy lifting. Avoid heavy lifting in the first six weeks postsurgery.
- Scratching the incisions.
- Smoking. The Mayo Clinic recommends quitting smoking at least one month before surgery to reduce complications.
- Tanning. This will darken scar tissue and make your scars more noticeable.
How to care for your scars and minimize their appearance
One of the best ways to prevent breast lift scars is to help minimize excessive scar tissue from forming. But before you try any home or over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, talk to your surgeon. They can advise you on best practices and further guide your care.
A scar massage is exactly what the name implies. With a scar massage, you gently massage the scars in circular motions, both horizontally and vertically. This is said to help decrease inflammation and pain, while also increasing collagen fibers to flatten out the scars.
According to recommendations set forth by the Moffitt Cancer Center, you can start massaging your scars two weeks after your surgery. You can repeat the massage a couple of times per day, generally for 10 minutes at a time. Once the scar flattens and fades, you likely won’t need to massage it any longer.
Silicone sheets or scar gels
For an OTC remedy, you might consider silicone sheets or scar gels.
Silicone sheets are silicone-containing bandages that help hydrate recent incisions. In theory, this helps prevent overdrying and excessive scar tissue. These bandages may be used to reduce itchiness and pain right after surgery. You can continue use until the incisions heal.
Scar gels, on the other hand, are silicone-based OTC products that don’t have bandages with them. You use these after the incisions heal, and for several weeks afterward. The main purpose is to reduce the size and coloring of the scars.
Like silicone sheets, embrace dressings are silicone-containing bandages. These are applied right after your surgeon closes the incisions. The embrace dressing will help pull the edges of the incision together to minimize scar tissue buildup. They’re worn every day for up to 12 months.
Once your incision has completely healed, you may consider professional treatments for any scarring that’s occurred. Laser therapy can reach the top (epidermis) and inner (dermis) layers of your skin to reduce pigmentation variations.
However, you’ll need more than one treatment to achieve your desired results. For optimal results, your scar may be treated once every other month over the course of a year or longer.
Even if your incisions aren’t directly exposed, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can still seep through your shirt or bikini top. Wearing sunscreen can help prevent scars from darkening in the sun.
You can start wearing sunscreen as soon as the incisions are completely healed. Until then, limit sun exposure.
For best results, wear sunscreen every day and reapply as needed. Wear a minimum SPF of 30. Be sure to opt for “broad-spectrum” sunscreen. These products can protect against the most UV rays.
Can you get the scars removed?
Home remedies can help minimize the appearance of breast lift scars, but the scars won’t completely go away. The scars may even become more visible if you discontinue your home or OTC therapies.
Your dermatologist may recommend professional scar removal treatments if your breast lift scars are severe.
Some of these procedures leave new scars in place of the breast lift scars. In theory, the newly formed scars will be less severe.
This is usually done by:
- Punch grafting. This involves taking a small part of skin from another area of your body and putting it in place of the breast lift scar.
- Tissue expansion. Like punch grafting, this procedure utilizes other tissues to help fill in scars. It works by stretching out the skin surrounding the breast lift scar to even out the area.
Other skin care procedures can help reduce the appearance of scarring. These procedures typically don’t result in new scars, but they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. This can lead to hyperpigmentation.
Consider talking to your dermatologist about the following options:
- bleaching serums
- chemical peels
- laser therapy
The bottom line
Getting a breast lift will likely lead to some amount of scarring, but you shouldn’t expect significant scars.
The best way to prevent severe scarring is to find a surgeon who’s experienced with this type of surgery. Trying to save money on someone who doesn’t have as much experience might cost you more in the long run. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you’ve found the right plastic surgeon.
There are also steps you can take at home to prevent further scarring and reduce the appearance of your scars. Your surgeon may also give you some tips.
Keep in mind that it takes time for your skin to heal. It may take a bit longer for incision scars to fade. But if homecare measures aren’t helping and you’re unhappy with their appearance, see your dermatologist. They can advise you on any next steps.