Updated August 2018
You've envisioned how your breasts will look after surgery, but before you get those oh-so-excellent final results, you'll go through several breast augmentation recovery stages.
Breast augmentation recovery timeline
Days 1-3: Need for support
Expect the muscles in and around your breasts to feel tight and sore. Though this can feel abnormal, it's your body healing the tissues injured during the breast augmentation procedure.
The potential after-effects of anesthesia, nausea, swelling, bruising, pain, nipple sensitivity and discomfort will limit your ability to care for yourself. Though your surgical team will use many techniques to reduce these symptoms, your support person will provide for much of your needs over these first few days. This means transportation, ensuring you take your medications as prescribed, following your surgeon’s post-op care directions, carrying or lifting, and assisting you with some of your most basic needs like getting to the restroom.
You will likely be provided with a post-surgical bra, which is an elastic compression garment. It is designed to support your new breast implants and help prevent complications like bottoming out or implant extrusion. It will also reduce pain and swelling and place downward pressure on your breasts to keep your implants from riding high.
Week 1: Post-op depression and "boobie blues"
Activity is limited to short walks around your room or home every other hour. This movement, though small, will aid in blood circulation and guard against blood clots. Sorry, ladies, no sexual intercourse. Increasing your heart rate could result in delayed healing or developing a hematoma or serouma—all of which raise your risk of capsular contracture, infections, and necrosis.
As for your breasts, they won’t look perfect immediately after surgery. Your implants may appear high, distorted and more like pectoral muscles than breasts. Your nipples will likely point downward. As swelling decreases and your muscles/tissues heal, you will start to see these shape changes change. But while you're experiencing "ugly breast syndrome", you might find yourself with post-op depression or the "boobie blues".
For the past seven days, your body has had to adjust to a significant surgery, and you have had to take several medications and limit your daily activities. This is, of course, frustrating when all you want to do is feel normal and get back to your day-to-day routine. Plus, you have to deal with the emotional changes that come from seeing your body in a different light/fashion—you essentially have two foreign bodies on your chest, and it's hard to soak it in when you've only seen your breasts a certain way for so long.
Weeks 2-3: Life slowly returns to normal
Life is slowly returning to normal. Except for extremely physical occupations, many women can go back to work around this time. You may increase your physical activity and exercise according to your doctor's instructions. By week three, most women are still told to avoid heavy lifting and any activities that involve the chest muscles but can do light cardio and lower body workouts.
Most women no longer require pain medication at this point in your recovery, and most bruising will be gone. Swelling will continue to dissipate. However, the nerves in your breasts are stretching, so you many experience shooting pains (zingers). The biggest complaints women have at this healing stage are itchy skin, firm implants, low nipples and awkward shape.
Breast implant results timeline
After three weeks you'll likely be anxious to see more results. We're happy to tell you that you will. While there's still some adjusting and change to go through, you're moving closer to the finish line. Here's the timeline to your final implant results.
Weeks 4-5: Breasts that look more like breasts
By this time, the swelling has subsided enough to give you a better idea of what your final results will look like. Your implants will look more like breasts, but they are not perfect yet and can still look very different from each other. Women with overs may have a rounder and softer shape at this time, while women with unders may notice that the implants have dropped, the nipple is coming into position, but the sides of their breasts are still not rounded and feel firm.
Since every woman heals and adjusts to her implants at a different rate, your surgeon will advise you on limitations for lifting, the best sleeping positions and which garments to wear. Incisions are often closed in this time frame, too. If so, this is the best time to start scar care with surgeon approval. Check with your surgeon concerning bathing, swimming, and hot tubs. If your incisions are healing well, you may be able to submerge in water.
Week 6 to month 3: cha-cha-cha-changes
Your surgeon will likely lift all physical activity restrictions at this point, but you will need to purchase a properly-fitted post-breast augmentation sports bra before returning to medium- to high-impact activities.
Your implants will still continue to change shape and softness, but the overall volume of your breasts will be what they are going to be. Many women find they are almost completely recovered and have the breast implant appearance they desire. Continue scar care to reduce the appearance of your breast augmentation scars.
At this time, you may find yourself changing bra sizes. Because your breasts are continuing to change and settle, you may have to remeasure your bust and redetermine your cup size over this period, which means purchasing new bras. To help with savings, purchase only one to two bras as needed, at least until you're six months out from your surgery.
Around six months, your breasts will drop and fluff, which means the tissues have completely relaxed and the skin has stretched to allow the volume of the implant to fully occupy the pocket. Still, you will have smaller, less noticeable changes in shape and softness until one-year post-op. Your scars will continue healing and diminish over time, with proper care.
You can now increase your bra shopping and selection.
The results are (pretty much) in. Most women see their final results before or by the one-year mark, but you still have nature to contend with, so to speak. Variations can be caused by pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding, menopause, weight loss or weight gain. Any of these can alter your breast tissue, though they won't affect the actual implants themselves.
Through your lifetime, you may decide to switch size, shape or type of implant, or even have a breast lift. For this reason, it's important to have your breast implant ID card as it contains all the information you need about your breast implants, including their size, type, and placement date. Continue seeing your surgeon for routine follow-up care, rupture screening, or implant replacement.
Factors that affect breast augmentation recovery time and results
Every woman is unique, and there are many factors that can alter your specific recovery timeline. These are factors that can slow (or speed up) your breast augmentation recovery and results:
Your overall health
Your overall health and any medical conditions will be an important consideration in your recovery. Women who are more active and physically fit report faster recovery from surgery, as do those who eat a healthy, balanced diet. Talk to your plastic surgeon about how your health condition could impact your recovery.
Pain levels and perception
Your pain tolerance is also a key factor. Pain can influence how a woman perceives how her recovery is going. Some women need pain medication longer or at different doses. Your plastic surgeon is the best judge of how your recovery is progressing.
Women who have experienced pregnancy may also recover faster. The natural hormone changes of pregnancy will have stretched their skin and breast tissue. This can decrease discomfort and allow them to have a larger implant and recover more quickly.
Having a breast lift and augmentation
Having a breast lift in addition to implants will lengthen recovery time, change post-op complication risks and change some aftercare guidelines. Having both procedures performed means more tissue will be dissected, so your body will need more time for recovery.
Your implant size
Larger implants require more surgical time due to increased surgical dissection. This can increase discomfort and lengthen recovery time. Larger implants can stretch the skin and breast tissue more than smaller implants do, so this will affect how you feel during recovery and how your results will look.
There are different placement options for implants, each with varying pros and cons. Over the muscle implants do not require the pectoral muscle to be incised, so women experience a shorter recovery time and less postoperative pain. Final implant placement, softness, and shape will occur much faster also.
Under-the-muscle implants can lead to longer recovery time and more postoperative pain. Final shaping on the breast is slower while the muscle over the implant stretches to accommodate your new shape.
Surgical philosophy differs on the use of breast implant displacement exercises or massage. Your surgeon may instruct you to use these techniques to reduce pain, help the implants settle faster, soften the breasts and ultimately shorten the time required to see your final result. Consult your surgeon before starting a massage routine.
Still have questions about breast implant recovery and results?
Check out our frequently asked questions for more info on what to expect after breast surgery. Our FAQ is based on the most common questions posed to our nationwide network of plastic surgeons.
You can also get direct answers from real plastic surgeons—it’s fast, free, and confidential. Check out our surgeon Q&A.
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