Updated August 2018
Want to know what's involved in the breast augmentation process? This step-by-step guide takes beginners through the breast augmentation journey, from research to your post-op appointments.
The 9-step breast augmentation process
The breast augmentation process comes with several steps. The first seven will show you how to prepare for breast augmentation surgery, while the last two will tell you what to expect the day of surgery and in the post-op appointments that will follow.
Step 1: Breast augmentation research
Getting a breast augmentation is a big decision. It's not unusual for women to spend months researching the ins and outs of breast augmentation surgery and breast implants before deciding whether or not to have the procedure. Therefore, this should be your starting point.
During your research, you'll want to look at:
- Breast implant types (saline vs silicone)
- Breast implant shapes (round vs teardrop)
- Breast implant profiles (low, medium and high)
- Breast implant textures (smooth vs textured)
- Breast implant placement (over the muscle vs under the muscle)
- Breast implant incisions (periareolar, inframammary, transaxillary and transumbilical)
- Breast implant sizes
- Before and after photos
Investigate many sources, including the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and don't make the mistake of cutting the research phase short. Plastic surgeons have different skill sets and preferences when it comes to implant placement, shapes, and types. If you are informed about all of your options, including the pros and cons of each, you'll be better able to find your perfect match of a surgeon and get the results you want.
Step 2: Find a qualified surgeon
Your research phase isn't quite over yet. Once you've considered your breast implant options, you'll need to find and research plastic surgeons. Surely you will know to sift through their website, look at reviews and perhaps pin down some patients you can consult with, but you need to dig deeper. Check state medical boards and verify American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certification, the surgeon's license to practice and their hospital privileges.
Specifically, state medical boards will tell you whether the plastic surgeons have had malpractice suits, disciplinary actions taken by the board, hospital disciplinary actions and suspensions, and more. The ABPS serves as the gold standard for plastic surgery. A surgeon certified by the Board has gone through rigorous testing to prove their qualifications.
Step 3: Breast augmentation consultation
Once you have a handful of plastic surgeons you feel are qualified to perform your surgery, set up private consultations to discuss your goals. Come prepared with your own research, questions and "goal photos" so you don't enter the consultation blindly. What's most important is that you consider what breast implant size and type you want before your consultations, but remain realistic and open to hearing the surgeons' recommendations.
The surgeons will examine/measure your breasts and advise sizes, shapes, and profiles according to your breast width diameter (BWD). You'll then be given a special bra to which you can place and try on breast implant sizers. If equipped, the surgeons will also use Vectra 3D or Axis 3D technology to scan your anatomy and render images of what you'll look like with each shape, size and profile the two of you discussed.
Expect to discuss implant placement, incisions, risks, benefits, possible complications, solutions to those complications and cost. Some women find it helpful to take notes. When they go back and compare these notes later, they can often settle on the surgeon they think will best achieve their goals.
Step 4: Make a decision and schedule your surgical date
By now you should be ready to make a decision. If you find that breast augmentation is right for you, your next step is to schedule your surgical date. Before you do, however, make sure you have a sound plan to finance the procedure and have requested time off work. Most patients are able to get back to light-duty work by week two. Check with your surgeon to see when he will clear you based on your occupation.
Step 5: Find a reliable support person
The first week of breast augmentation recovery will be the hardest and most limiting physically. You will need to find a reliable family member or friend to care for you. This person will have a critical role in your initial healing process. They will ensure you take your medications as prescribed and follow post-op care instructions, carry and lift objects, prepare your meals, care for your children (if you have any) and assist you during walks.
Step 6: Breast augmentation pre-op appointment
You will have a pre-op appointment approximately two weeks before breast augmentation surgery. Your surgeon will go over your medical history, the breast implant options you've chosen, the logistics of what will occur on the day of surgery and post-op instructions. You'll also receive your prescriptions, which should be filled before the big day.
Pre-op photos will be taken and both the surgeon and staff will answer any additional questions you have. This is the perfect time to learn more about breast augmentation recovery and get useful tips that past patients have found helpful.
Double-check that your doctor's practice uses every technique available to avoid complications such as infection, bleeding, scarring, and loss of nipple sensation.
Step 7: Get prepared
In the days and weeks leading up to your surgery, you will need to make preparations. There is a lot to do, so you'll need a breast augmentation checklist to stay focused and ensure everything is checked off.
Step 8: The day of breast augmentation surgery
You'll need to arrive at least one hour before surgery. Your support person should be with you as they will be responsible for your transportation needs. Breast augmentation is an outpatient procedure, so you'll go home the same day.
Your surgeon will meet with you to take final measurements and make markings on your breasts. These will be his guide during the augmentation. You'll confer with an anesthesiologist who will ask about your general health and prior experiences with anesthesia so she can provide the right treatment. Next, a nurse will talk to you and your support person about aftercare. You'll then go back to the operating room, where you'll be given an IV that delivers anesthesia, antibiotics, and anti-nausea medication.
The surgery will take approximately one hour.
Directly following your procedure, you will be wheeled into a recovery room where trained nurses will make sure you’re comfortable as you slowly come out of anesthesia. Once the surgeon and staff find you to be all-clear, you will be sent home with your support person and a set of instructions.
Step 9: Breast augmentation post-op visits
Surgeons have varying follow-up routines but, generally speaking, patients are seen the day after surgery, at one or two weeks, at three months, at six months and at one year. You will then have an annual check-in.
During your visits, your surgeon will check for:
- Proper healing
- Any complications like hematoma, infection or capsular contracture
- Breast implant settling (drop and fluff)
You will receive instructions along the way regarding post-surgical bras, incision care, physical activity, sleeping positions, breast augmentation scar care and lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking and alcohol) that could impede healing. Use these appointments to raise any concerns or discomforts you're having; your doctor can offer solutions.
Want to learn more about the breast augmentation process?
If you want to know more about the breast augmentation process—either before or after your surgery—conversing directly with plastic surgeons is one of the best ways to be informed.
Women also find it helpful to join breast augmentation forums to hear from real women who've had the procedure. They understand the fears, the excitement, the conundrums and breast augmentation recovery better than anyone. Also, they often post links to key pieces of information that solve your most pressing questions.