Breast Augmentation Recovery – What Should You Expect?

Reviewed by Walter Erhardt, MD

Your breast augmentation recovery begins the moment you exit the operating room. Exactly how long this journey takes varies based on your own resilience, the type of breast augmentation surgery you've had, and whether it was done alone or in conjunction with another surgery such as a breast lift or as part of a mommy makeover.

Everyone's recovery experience is unique, but some generalizations do apply.

Today, nausea is infrequent even if your surgery was performed under general anesthesia. Medications to curb postoperative nausea are readily available in case they are needed.

During breast augmentation the skin and breast tissue are stretched and separated, and the implants are inserted through incisions. As a result, pain and swelling are somewhat universal after breast augmentation with breast implants. This can usually be controlled with prescription pain medication and ice packs.

Maximum swelling usually occurs at 48 hours and then begins to recede, but don't be surprised if you are somewhat swollen for three or four months after your breast implant surgery. Recovery after breast lift with implants also involves significant swelling. An athletic or support bra can help reduce this swelling. Certain herbal remedies such as Arnica montana or Bromelain may help with any bruising that occurs during your breast augmentation recovery. Ask your surgeon what, if anything, he or she recommends for post-surgery bruising.

Breast implant placement, whether under or on top of the chest muscle, also plays a role in the degree of soreness and pain you will experience following your breast augmentation surgery. This pain is usually treated with prescription pain killers. Some over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications may also be helpful. Your surgeon should give you a list of those OTC medications that are OK to take after breast augmentation, and those that are not. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen increase bleeding risks and should be avoided.

You may experience a temporary loss of sensation in your nipples, but this should return to normal as your breasts heal.

Breast Augmentation Recovery – Aftercare

Your surgeon may prescribe antibiotics to take after your surgery to reduce your risk of developing an infection. Take these as directed for as long as directed, completing the full course of the medication. Precise antibiotic regimens may vary based on your surgeon's experience and preference.

Your breast surgeon may have placed one or more drains in your incision to remove excess fluid. These may stay in place for up to a week. Make sure you are clear about how to care for and empty these drains. Your surgeon will remove them during your first postoperative visit.

Your surgeon should give you instructions on how to keep your incisions/suture line dry.

You must sleep on your back with your upper back and head elevated in the days after your breast augmentation. Avoid heavy lifting or straining. It is important that you walk around as soon as you are able; this reduces your risk of developing a potentially life-threatening blood clot in your leg. These clots can dislodge, travel through the bloodstream and reach your lungs.

You can typically return to work within a week, and to full activity within a few weeks. Your surgeon should go over what you can and can't do once you are officially discharged. Following this advice will lower your risk of breast augmentation complications.

Breast Augmentation Recovery – Scars

There will likely be scars after breast augmentation, but they are typically small and inconspicuous. Your surgeon's goal is to make them as unnoticeable as possible. Scars are based on the incision pattern used for your surgery. Inframammary and periareolar incision scars are on the breast. Scars from transumbilical breast augmentation (TUBA) incisions are hidden in the belly button. (TUBA is often called bellybutton breast augmentation or scarless breast augmentation.) Transaxillary incisions are done under the armpit, so scarring from these incisions is also concealed. Some people may develop keloids or lumpy, raised scars. Your surgeon may have advice on how to prevent keloids and minimize any scarring.

Breast Augmentation Recovery Takes Time

It takes time for the swelling to subside and your breasts to settle. They may sit high up on your chest for several weeks. Ask your surgeon if a strap or elastic bandage can push the implants down and encourage them to drop.

The full results of your breast augmentation won't be visible for many weeks. Revision breast augmentation is an option if you are not satisfied with the look or size of your new breasts, but allow yourself time to heal before even thinking about undergoing surgery again. Most surgeons suggest waiting a minimum of three to six months for revision breast augmentation.

If you're interested in breast augmentation, choosing an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon is important. You can begin here.