Breast Augmentation Checklist: Know What to Do and When

Make your breast augmentation experience as positive as possible by preparing yourself for the weeks leading up to your surgery, as well as those that will follow. With these handy tips and suggestions, you'll know exactly what to do and when.

Pre-breast augmentation checklist

If you thought you were home free after scheduling your surgical date, think again. You'll be preparing for breast augmentation. There's a lot of work left to be done. If you're going to get everything accomplished, you'll need to be organized and focused. This pre-breast augmentation checklist will help you do just that. Ready?

A month before breast augmentation surgery

A month prior to your surgery, you'll need some preparation and short-term conditioning, including:

  • Menstrual cycle. If your menstrual cycle is due around the time of your scheduled surgery date, tell your surgeon. Some surgeons do not like operating if the patient is on their period, while others don't mind. Also, some surgeons prefer you wear a pad versus a tampon during surgery if you need it, so ask what their preference is.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, quit for four to six weeks before breast augmentation surgery. If you cannot quit, cut back as much as you possibly can. This is especially true if you are having a breast lift. Smoking reduces the oxygen levels in the blood, which will inhibit healing. In patients having breast lifts, this could lead to necrosis (tissue death).
  • Build abdominal strength. Do abdominal exercises to help strengthen your core muscles. You will be using them a lot after surgery, so the stronger they are, the better. Also, stretching your upper body, as well as strength training with low weights, will help with your posture and strength level.
  • Find a support person. You will need a support person to take you to the surgical facility and home after breast augmentation surgery. He or she will also stay with you for at least 24 hours, and ideally during the first 48 hours. This is very important. You won’t know the extent of your physical limitations until after the surgery, and you need someone who will ensure your comfort and safety.
  • Eat clean. You need to maintain a well-balanced, nutritious diet both before and after your breast augmentation to promote proper healing and reduce recovery time.
  • Treat illness quickly! If you are ill, even from something such as a sinus infection or cold, address it immediately. An illness could postpone your surgery. Patients must be in good health prior to a breast augmentation to prevent complications.
  • Get tested. Get your pre-operative tests out of the way, including a mammogram, which is required for women who are older than 30. Test results must be in your surgeon's office no later than three days before your pre-operative visit.
  • Get time off work. You'll need an average of 5-7 days to recover before you can return to work, more if you have a physically demanding job. Ask your surgeon how long you should take off based on your occupation, and find out what physical limitations you may have on the job when you do return.

Two to three weeks before breast augmentation surgery

Spend these weeks doing the following:

  • Shop for your post-surgical bra. While you'll receive a post-operative bra right after surgery, many women purchase a more comfortable bra or camisole and a tank top (with built-in bras, of course) that they can wear for the first four to six weeks. Get recommendations from your surgeon on what offers the most support without sacrificing comfort.
  • Take it easy. It's time to relax a little. Avoid exercises that could lead to shoulder, back, neck, arm, pectoral or abdominal injury.
  • Stay healthy. Guard yourself against illness by frequently washing your hands and staying away from large crowds or those who are ill.
  • Take inventory. Tell your surgeon about any and all medications, herbs or supplements you are taking, including birth control. They will likely advise you to stop taking these for at least two weeks prior to your surgery, as they can increase your risk of bleeding and other complications. Some surgeons recommend not taking them for 30 days prior to surgery, so check with your surgeon regarding the types of medications you need to avoid.
  • Inquire. Ask your surgeon if you can take Mountain arnica (Arnica Montana) for bruising and swelling after the surgery. Ask your surgeon about this prior to surgery, and only take it with their approval.
  • Put down alcohol. For two weeks prior to breast augmentation surgery, you will want to refrain from drinking alcohol. Booze not only weakens your immune system (thus increasing your risk of illness), but it thins your blood and dries out your skin. You want your skin to be lax enough during surgery to stretch over your implants and soft enough for effective suturing.

The week of breast augmentation surgery

In this final week of preparation, get ready for these last minute to-dos:

  • Fill those prescriptions. Your surgeon will give you prescriptions prior to surgery, so get them filled now. Ask your surgeon if he will prescribe anti-nausea medication and/or Valium (or something equivalent) to take the night or morning of surgery. Anti-nausea medication can prevent vomiting brought on by anesthesia, while the Valium will relax you.
  • Form new sleeping habits. Practice sleeping on your back, sides and/or propped up on pillows, because you will be sleeping like this for approximately six weeks after your surgery.
  • Stock up on entertainment. You won’t feel like doing much of anything for the first few days or even a week after breast augmentation surgery, so have a good supply of magazines, books, and DVDs on hand. Comedies are not recommended, especially if you have implants placed under the muscle, because they make you laugh, which causes your pectoral muscles to tighten/contract.
  • Shave early. Since you must avoid lifting your arms above your shoulders after surgery—this could lead to your surgical incision opening—and will be in no condition to bend low or hunch over, you need to shave your underarms and any other regions at this time. Shaving results in mini abrasions to the skin that can boost bacterial levels and your risk for infection, which is why it is best to do this well before your augmentation. If you are having an armpit incision (transaxillary) or navel incision (transumbilical), you need to shave two or more days before.
  • Avoid pregnancy. For obvious reasons, a breast augmentation cannot be performed on a woman who is pregnant, so a pregnancy test will be performed before surgery. If it turns out you are pregnant, you will need to wait to have your breast augmentation six months after you've finished breastfeeding.

A few days before breast augmentation surgery

This is the time you must spend preparing your house and stocking up on the following necessities:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water in the days prior to your surgery. This may help ward off nausea after your augmentation.
  • Get the cotton nightgown ready. Have easy-to-wear clothes ready, including button-up shirts, leggings, and your comfiest pajamas. Consider stacking everything up on your dresser or nightstand to minimize strain on your arms opening and closing drawers.
  • Clean the house. Clean your house and do all your laundry a day or two before your surgery so you don't have to worry about it for a while after your breast augmentation.
  • Tuck those elbows. Walk through your house with your elbows held close to your sides. This gives you an idea of how you'll feel for the first few days after surgery.
  • Move things lower. Anything you cannot reach, such as snacks and dishes, you will need to move to a more accessible location.
  • Shop for groceries. Go grocery shopping, enough to last a couple weeks. In case you don’t have much of an appetite during post-op, stock up on simple and light foods such as crackers, pudding, soup, applesauce, fruit, etc. Nutritional drinks like Ensure or Boost will give you the vitamins and nutrients your body needs if you really don't feel like eating anything.
  • Get fruity, not leafy. Buy four bags of frozen fruit (vegetables smell bad when they start thawing) to use for swelling. Two of these bags can be kept in the freezer while you are using the other two. You can also use crushed ice in a Ziploc bag or purchase reusable ice packs from the drugstore.
  • Stay moisturized. Purchase a vitamin-rich body cream or lotion to use on your breasts before and after surgery. This may help prevent breast stretch marks and soothe dry, itchy breasts caused by stretching of the skin. If you use it after surgery and have nipple or crease incisions, take good care not to get lotion on your incisions until they are completely closed, otherwise, you risk getting an infection.
  • Notify all relevant persons. If you are staying at a hotel for the first 24 to 48 hours after your breast augmentation procedure, you will want to call and make sure they are prepared for your arrival. Also, ensure your contact person is on the same page with you and understands all of your post-operative needs/instructions.

The day before breast augmentation surgery

This is the final stretch of your highly-anticipated journey! If you remain focused, you can finish out strong by doing the following:

  • Get a hot compress. You'll want a heating pad after breast augmentation. Place it near your couch or bed for your back, as it may get sore due to your sleeping positions post-op, Do not put a heating pad on your breasts. They will most likely be numb, and you could inadvertently burn yourself.
  • Put your surgeon on speed dial. Make sure you have your surgeon’s phone number, as well as emergency and/or after-hours numbers, stored into your cell phone and posted next to any landlines.
  • Nail polish? Remove it. Remove any nail polish from your fingers and toes. Your surgeon sometimes monitors your oxygen levels by looking at the color of your nail bed.
  • Don't forget to document it. Take some “before” photos from the front and sides so you can document the change.
  • Use recommended soap. Use the surgical soap provided by your surgeon the night before and the morning of your surgery.
  • Put the snacks down. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Sleep. Get plenty of rest and relaxation the night before your expected surgery.

The day of breast augmentation surgery

All your preparation has led to this day. Here's what you need to do just before your procedure:

  • Prepare multiple rest areas. Put clean sheets and pillowcases on your bed. Make up your couch with sheets, blankets, and pillows so you have multiple places to rest.
  • Stay clean. Take a shower and wash your hair.
  • Stay comfortable. Wear loose-fitting clothes to surgery. A button-down or zip-up top with leggings and slip-on shoes are preferable.
  • Remove all non-essentials. Remove makeup, body piercings, jewelry, hair clips and contact lenses.
  • Keep your security pillow on-hand. Take a pillow with you for the ride home, for added comfort.
  • Remind your surgeon. Reiterate to your surgeon the details of your augmentation, such as your implant type, size, etc.

Post-op breast augmentation checklist

You've made it! But now you need to know what to expect after breast augmentation. It's a long road to breast augmentation recovery, and you'll need these helpful aftercare tips:

  • Stay fed with your meds. Eat something when you take your pain medication. Sometimes a few crackers don’t do the trick and you will need something more substantial like a sandwich.
  • Don the support bra. Wear your post-surgical bra and compression bands until your doctor tells you otherwise. After this stint, you will need to wear a supportive bra (underwire or push-up) for at least six weeks.
  • Consume fiber. Constipation is common after surgery because of pain medications. Have a mild laxative on-hand, such as Correctol, FiberCon, or Metamucil, but first, ask your doctor before you take it. Continue drinking lots of water, as this will help move things along as well.
  • Avoid certain meds. You can't take certain medications, herbs and supplements (e.g., aspirin, garlic supplements, or ibuprofen) for at least two weeks after breast augmentation surgery. Talk to your doctor if you are considering any over-the-counter drug or vitamin/herbal remedy or supplement.
  • Remove markings. Your surgeon will most likely mark you prior to surgery. You can remove these markings with rubbing alcohol or fingernail polish remover. Make sure you do not get this on your incisions.
  • No alcohol. There's no drinking after breast augmentation, for at least two weeks. Drinking is a blood thinner, and it will put you at risk for post-op bleeding and associated complications like a hematoma. It also dilates your blood vessels, resulting in additional swelling. Finally, taking alcohol with medication can lead to organ damage and difficulty breathing.
  • Watch out for infection. Look out for signs of infection after breast augmentation. This includes, but is not limited to, fever, pus, redness, inflammation, breasts that are hot-to-the-touch, excessive swelling and flu-like symptoms. Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Infections can be very serious, and could potentially result in necrotic breast tissue.
  • Avoid pool dips and baths. Do not submerge your incisions in water until they're completely closed (e.g., don’t go swimming, take baths or get in a hot tub). This could take about two to three weeks. You risk introducing bacteria and/or infection into your incisions.
  • Avoid showering. Do not shower for the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Your surgeon will green light you on this when it is time. Make sure the water isn't too hot, and dry your wounds well. A towel may suffice, but using a hairdryer on a low setting works better.
  • Take it easy...A lot. Get a lot of rest. Even if you feel you’re having an easy recovery, it’s important to remember that your body has been through a lot, and it will take a while for you to heal on the inside. The body needs inactivity and energy to promote good healing, so rest as much as you can. Don't push yourself to do too much, too soon.
  • Document everything. Keep a journal. Write down how you're doing from day to day, the aches and pains you experience, the amount of swelling, etc. This helps track your progress and is a handy reference when you visit your doctor post-op.
  • Don't forget photos. Take “after” photos from the front and sides. This also helps track your progress. You will most likely look at your new breasts often, which makes it hard to notice the small changes that take place daily (in photos with clothing, wear the same outfit you took the “before” photos in).
  • Avoid coffee. You will most likely have swelling after your surgery. Do not take a diuretic (or drink natural diuretics like coffee) unless your surgeon has approved it. Drinking lots of water and moving around a bit will help the swelling dissipate.
  • Numb sensitive nipples. Nipple sensitivity after breast augmentation is normal, especially if you had the periareolar incision. Try numbing creams, nursing pads, and silky camisoles if your nipples are overly-sensitive after surgery.
  • Battle the itch with lotion. If you have itchy breasts, it’s likely due to the stretching of the skin. You can put lotion on your breasts, but be careful to avoid the incisions. Ice packs may help as well.
  • Shape up. Don't slouch. Walk with your shoulders held back. This will save you some back pain. Slouching only aggravates the situation.
  • Deal with post-op depression. You may experience depression after breast augmentation, which is normal due to general anesthesia, pain medications and lack of sleep. This will pass and, again, is normal.
  • Stay strong. You will be the most uncomfortable during the first three days. After that, things will start looking up. It's common to experience more soreness in the morning. However, once you get up and start moving around, those muscles loosen up a bit and you'll feel much better.

Updated May 2017

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