Many women see the perfect before and after pictures on multiple surgeons’ websites and expect the same result on their body. The chance of immediate perfection is slim. When the post-op bra or surgical dressings are removed, they are in shock with what they see in the mirror: two funny-shaped objects inside of their body instead of beautiful, fully healed breasts. Their excitement and happiness quickly fade away and, if they were not prepared, they can become very upset and disappointed.
Before you find yourself let down, here's what you need to know and understand about the "normal" recovery process.
The Highs and the Lows of Postoperative Breasts
Healing from a submuscular breast augmentation can really take a toll on your state of mind if you are not fully prepared for what your newly enhanced breasts will look like. The phrase “drop and fluff” is not something that many surgeons are familiar with; however, it is a very common phrase many women use to describe what happens to their breasts after surgery.
During the first few days after your breast augmentation, your breasts may look a little odd to you. At your first postoperative appointment, your surgeon will tell you that they look normal. What your surgeon means is that your breasts look normal for the stage that you are in.
Swelling after surgery is common; it can take weeks to months for the swelling to disappear completely. The swelling may linger on one side longer than the other as your body heals from surgery.
Recovery Timeline Following Breast Augmentation
Here is a sample timeline of what you can expect after surgery based on general post-augmentation experiences:
1 day to 1 week
Your breasts may look boxy, compressed, unusually high, and your skin may be very tight and shiny.
Your implants are still very much compressed under the muscle.
You will notice that your breasts become much softer and the feeling of having a foreign object inside have subsided. The implants are settling into the pockets created by the surgeon.
Around this time, your breasts will start to feel more natural and develop more of a natural shape. The muscles begin to relax and the high upper pole will smooth out. Your surgeon may give you the OK to wear a bra of your choice.
6 months and beyond
It is possible that your breasts may have reached, or are close to reaching, their final shape and size by now. Most women will reach their final results within three to six months, and some can even see changes up to a full year.
If after 6 months your breasts are still very uneven, contact your surgeon to set up an appointment to make sure everything is healing properly. Your surgeon will examine you to rule out capsular contracture or a stubborn muscle that did not allow the implant to settle properly.
Common Topics Women Have Questions About Post-Breast Augmentation
Stretch Marks: Prevention and Healing
Not everyone will get stretch marks after a breast augmentation. Unfortunately, no one can predict who will get stretch marks, and they cannot be prevented either. Stretch marks are not just located on the surface; they develop deep within the layers of your skin in a space called the dermis. The dermis is located between the epidermis (surface) and the subcutaneous layer (dense connective tissues). It is the “elastic of the body” and, if the dermis tears, it will form a scar, known as a stretch mark.
Preventing stretch marks is impossible. Lotions, oils, or dermarolling will not prevent nor correct the torn elastic fibers of the dermis. If you have implants that are larger than your breast tissue and skin can handle, the chance of developing stretch marks will increase.
Just like a paper cut can itch when it is healing, your breasts may itch after your augmentation. This is common and it is a part of the healing process. Your skin has been stretched, your nerves are regenerating, and your incisions are trying to heal. Itchy skin and incisions is usually a good sign of the wound;s healing properly.
If you notice a rash, you could be having an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the surgical tape. Do not remove the tape yourself as germs from your hands could cause an infection. Contact your surgeon if you have excessive itchiness or any signs of a rash.
Massaging: Is It Recommended?
Whether or not you will be given instructions to massage will vary by surgeon. If you have textured breast implants, you will not be instructed to massage your breasts. Textured implants need to adhere to the scar capsule. Massaging would eliminate the purpose of the textured surface.
For smooth implants, it depends on your surgeon’s postoperative instructions. Some surgeons tell their patients to massage and some will not allow their patients to massage. When you are faced with the dilemma of massage or not to massage, you should always follow your surgeon’s advice.
Bathing and Showering: A Word on Water
Every surgeon has their own instructions for you to follow, and it is very important to always follow your surgeon’s post-op rules. Once your surgeon has cleared you for a shower, you may shower as usual, but you cannot take a bath or submerge your incisions into any body of water until your surgeon has given you clearance. Though the incisions are sutured, there could be tiny openings. Therefore, until the incisions are fully healed, which could take a few weeks, they are still considered an open wound and must be treated as such. If the incisions are submerged in water too early after your augmentation, your implants can be exposed to bacteria that get inside of the tiny openings. This can lead to an infection or capsular contracture. Should an infection arise, your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics. In rare cases, the implant must be removed to allow your breast(s) to completely heal, and it could be months before a new implant is placed.
When showering, your incisions will most likely get wet. This is OK. Gently pat them dry after your shower. Do not rub them.
Bra and Cup Size
One of the most popular questions amongst pre-augmentation women is, “What will my bra size be?” This is a difficult one to predict, even for your surgeon. Cup sizes are not always what they seem. The cup will vary by band size. If you ask for a 34C and you measure a 28C, you will not be a C cup after your breast augmentation. Most women are wearing the wrong size bra to begin with, so estimating a bra size post-augmentation would be impossible—it would even be difficult if you are wearing the correct bra size as no two women are alike.
Surgeons cannot accurately predict or promise a cup size. You should take a couple of goal pictures with you to your consultation to show your surgeon. Your surgeon may use Axis 3D or Vectra 3D to show you what you would look like after your surgery. Whether you bring in goal pictures or 3D images your surgeon shows you, pictures are the best way to make sure that you and your surgeon are on the same page.
By Emily Ballew
Created September 2016