Breast Augmentation Recovery: Tips + What To Expect
Originally Published January 3, 2017. Updated May 13, 2021 to include additional recovery tips as well as information on avoiding complications.
Quick Summary: Breast augmentation recovery experiences can differ greatly from patient to patient. Most patients will be able to return to work and performed light activity 7 days after surgery. Normal activity can resume within 2 weeks, while normal physical activity (excluding chest targeting exercises) can resume in 4 weeks. By 6 weeks, the implants settle and the final result is realized. Continue reading to learn more about recovery timelines and tips.
The experience of recovering from breast augmentation surgery can differ greatly from individual to individual. This is understandable as every individual woman is different both in terms of their body’s natural recovery response and their pain tolerance. Additionally, procedural variables such as surgical technique used, type of implant used, size of the implant, and implant placement (above vs. below the muscle) can impact the recovery process.
While each patient’s breast implant recovery experience is unique, full recovery from breast augmentation surgery takes an average of 6 weeks. Understanding what to expect during your breast augmentation recovery can help you prepare and may even accelerate healing. Keep reading for a timeline of what to expect, tips for a speedy recovery, and advice on reducing risk of complications.
This article will give you a simple understanding of what to expect during breast augmentation recovery, along with a few tips on making the process easier (and faster).
Breast Augmentation Recovery Timline
The following time table lays out the basic milestones of the recovery process. Keep in mind that your experience may differ:
1 Day Following Surgery
Immediately after your surgery, your surgeon will apply protective bandaging (I usually use a soft cotton brassiere and an implant stabilizing bandeau) and transport you to a recovery room. It’s normal to feel sore, tired, and groggy as you awaken from the effects of anesthesia. Because you’ll still be on pain medications, you’ll need someone to drive you home and stay with you throughout the first night.
1 Week Following Surgery
You’ll feel the most uncomfortable during the first 2-4 days after your surgery. Your surgeon will have likely sent you home with muscle relaxants and pain medications, and possibly antibiotics. If you’ve received narcotic pain medication, you should be able to discontinue use after your first few days at home.
Pain is experienced differently by everyone, but most patients report feeling tightness or muscle soreness in the first week. This is accompanied by swelling, which is normal and should significantly subside after 7 days.
Follow all post-operative instructions carefully provide by your surgeon, including instructions for wound care and which bras, bandages or compression garments are ok to wear. The use of a surgical bra and compression bandages will help minimize discomfort and protect the wounds. Some individuals may feel nausea from the anesthesia utilized in procedure. By the 2-day point it will be ok to take a shower.
Within the first week, you’ll see your surgeon for a follow-up appointment. If you experience excessive pain, bleeding or fluid leakage before this, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Most patients will be able to go back to work and perform light activity. However you should avoid bending, lifting, and other forms of strenuous movements.
2-4 Weeks Following Surgery
During this time, you should feel comfortable resuming light daily activity, including gentle exercise such as walking. Most women begin feeling pretty normal and can perform many normal daily activities without any pain. Any vigorous exercise should continue to be avoided. Avoid exercises that incorporate the upper body, as your incisions will still be healing. I typically incorporate a breast massage regimen during this period.
If your job does not involve strenuous physical activity, you may return to work during this time. Any daily activity which requires moderate to intense physical activity or heavy lifting should be avoided for the first 3-4 weeks.
1-2 Months Following Surgery
After the first 6 weeks, you will likely have regained the full range of motion in your upper body, although you may still feel nervous about intense exercise. At this point, most patients feel well enough to gently begin normal exercise (although exercises that specifically target the chest should still be avoided). Be sure to receive permission from your doctor before resuming heavy lifting, high-impact activities, or strenuous movement of any kind.
Most people are able to safely and confidently return to their pre-surgery level of exercise (physical activity) 8 weeks after their breast augmentation procedure. Patients can also sleep on their abdomen and sides, and wear an underwire or push-up bra of their choice. The implants are usually “fully settled” and your final result is realized.
Video: Katie Corio Discusses Her Recovery Experience
Most patients will experience some degree of pain after their procedure, specifically within the first few days. The severity of pain you will feel depends upon your tolerance for pain and the surgical technique used. Some women feel little to no pain whereas others will have to manage their pain level using prescription painkillers. Typically patients who opt for implant placement below the muscle have a more painful (and lengthy) recovery compared to going above the muscle.
Right after the procedure, it is completely normal for the implants to feel hard and sit in a high position, sometimes to the point where the nipples can point downward. Over time, the implants will begin to soften and settle to a more desirable position. At about the 6-week mark the breasts will begin to take on a more settled appearance.
The development of stretch marks from breast implants is rather rare and typically only occurs when larger sized implants are used. In the event that stretch marks do develop there are some laser treatments that can help minimize their appearance.
Unfortunately, scarring after breast augmentation surgery is permanent. However, a skilled plastic surgeon will place the incision in low visibility areas like under the breast fold, around the areola line or within the armpit. Our plastic surgeons offer effective scar care protocols combining the use of silicone tape (or gel) with other clinically proven topical agents.
Tips for a Speedy Breast Augmentation Recovery
Proper Wound Care
Above all, follow your doctor’s advice on post-surgical care. During week one, your bandages will likely stay in place. Your doctor or her/his clinical staff will be the first to remove them at your follow-up appointment. At this appointment, you’ll learn how to best care for your incisions while they heal. Proper wound care is critical to avoid excessive scarring.
Eat, Drink, and Sleep Well
Rest as much as possible, especially during the first two weeks. As you recover, proper hydration and nutrition will ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to build new tissue and heal your wounds. Eat a variety of healthy, whole foods and drink plenty of water each day. Adequate protein intake is important as your body needs the amino acids they provide for healing purposes.
Go Slow with Post-Surgery Exercise and Activity
Listen to your surgeon, and to your body, when it comes to post-surgery exercise. Easy walking can begin as early as day 2, and can actually help your body heal. Anything more intense than that must be mindfully and slowly introduced. Avoid high-impact exercise or upper body strengthening until you are fully recovered.
Thoughtful Bra Selection
Adequate breast support is key for successful long-term results, so finding the proper bra to wear during recovery is very important. I’ve found that soft cotton bras work the best in the first few weeks. Sports bras should be reserved for exercising. Avoid underwire bras completely for at least the first month.
Self-massage can help prevent scar tissue from forming around the breast implant, keeping the tissues supple and pliable. It may also help manipulate the breast into an ideal shape and position as you heal.
Tips to Avoid Complications
Possible complications after breast augmentation surgery include the following:
- Excessive bleeding or fluid loss
- Infection at the incision site
- Abnormal scarring
- Asymmetric breasts
- Breasts which sit too high on the chest (do your massage!)
- Breast or nipple numbness or ongoing pain
- Implant visibility, dimpling, or folding
- Scarring around the implant
- Implant leakage
- Complications with breastfeeding
Follow Your Surgeon’s Guidance
To reduce your risk for the above complications and improve your chances of a smooth recovery, follow your surgeon’s post-surgical advice closely. It’s common to become impatient with self-massage, avoidance of exercise, or the recovery process in general. But strict adherence to your surgeon’s guidelines will improve your outcome significantly.
Listen to Your Body
If you experience severe pain or nausea soon after surgery, or if your bleeding seems excessive, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Excessive pain and bleeding, or swelling that gets worse instead of better, can be a sign something is wrong. Early detection will reduce the risk of severe complications.
When reintroducing movement, stop if you feel pain or excessive discomfort. There’s no reason to push yourself quickly through your recovery. Let your body take the time it needs to properly heal, and you’ll see markedly improved long-term results.
Additional Resources On Breast Augmentation Recovery
- RealSelf.com Q&A Center
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- Emily Duncan’s Breast Augmentation Experience
- Great Blog On Breast Augmentation Experience by Lara Clevenger