How long is the recovery after breast augmentation?
One of the things that people are afraid of and running from in life in general is pain, suffering, and not being able to be themselves. That is why even the smallest procedure like a tooth extraction can scare a full-grown man. The first thing anyone asks when they know they will be going through an operation whether it simple or complicated is: How long will the recuperation be? Even if breast augmentation is a surgery of choice and you are the one who wants it, you still need to know what to expect after and how long until you will be able to get on with your life and be able to show off your new assets.
Factors that influence recovery
There are some important aspects you will need to decide and discuss together with the plastic surgeon, and these include size of the implant, placement of it, type of incision, and type of implant. The first three factors could have an impact on your recovery period.
Implants come in various sizes and even projections, and they are measured in cubic centimeters (CCs) and not cup sizes as one would think. You cannot walk into a surgeon’s office and ask for a cup D, because there are factors to be taken into consideration. Keep in mind that cups are for bras that are worn on the exterior, whilst implants are placed inside your body.
In order to establish what size of implant best suits you, the doctor will perform a series of measurements taking into consideration your tissue elasticity, natural amount of breast tissue available, chest width, etc. After this, he will correlate and recommend the best size for your figure and health. You will be able to try on the sizes using a special bra called a sizer. This way you will get a better feel and look of what will this recommended size be on you and how close to your expectations it would be. You should follow the exact recommendations of your surgeon or least try to stay as close to them as possible. If your implants are oversized, you risk developing some complications that will make the recovery longer and even lead to a new revision procedure. Implants might settle in a longer time if they are too big, the muscle could stretch too much, and you might develop some unwanted conditions.
Regarding the placement of the implant, there are three possible types that are used for this: subglandular, subpectoral and submuscular. Each type of placement presents advantages and disadvantages. The subglandular placement means that the implant will be placed in a pocket made behind the mammary gland and in front of the muscle. This is said to be the most painless solution and with the shortest recovery. It is usually picked by women that are very active and exercise regularly because the muscle will not influence the position of the implant or exert tension on it when used intensively. The disadvantages of this placement are mostly related to the fact that the implant is somewhat exposed, being protected only by the glandular tissue. This might lead to the rippling of the implant or an increased vulnerability to capsular contracture.
The subpectoral and submuscular involve the same kind of placement: under the pectoralis muscle, where one is a partial placement under the muscle (subpectoral) and the other is a placement firmly under the muscle (submuscular). Both placements will require a longer time to recover. Also, the pain will probably be much more intense than in the case of the subglandular type. The reason is that the doctor will have to manipulate the muscle during surgery, so it will cause more pain and swelling. Some say that this method is best for effective future mammograms because it protects the implants and offers a complete image of the glandular tissue of the breast.
Regarding the incision, there are several options. Most surgeons will use and probably also recommend the inframammary incision, which is made in the lower crease of the breast. It is easier both for the doctor and the patient. The doctor can clearly see the whole breast pocket and can position the implant correctly. For patients, this type of incision results in a shorter recovery time and a barely visible scar since it is always out of sight.
The other type of incision frequently used is the periareolar one, around the nipple. However, this is not really a good fit for larger implants because it gives little space to insert them into the pockets. Then there is the transaxillary incision, which is made under the armpit. This a difficult choice, because it involves using some small camera to be inserted in the pocket and allowing the surgeon to see how he can place the implant in the right position. In this case, the recovery will be longer, and you even might need to spend one night in the hospital. There is a fourth option but it is almost never used since it causes too much pain, stress, and difficulty for both parties involved that no one considers it. That is the transumbilical incision, which is in the upper part of the belly button.
The actual recovery
Breast augmentation is usually a simple plastic surgery and does not pose any major issues or complications. That is why most of these operations are held in an outpatient facility or clinic and rarely into a hospital. You will get to the clinic in the morning and go back home in the evening. Only in rare cases will the doctor keep you in the clinic overnight for observation if you have high blood pressure, excessive bleeding, etc.
Your doctor will recommend a period of two days of complete rest, a time when your incision needs to start healing, the initial swelling and bruising will go down, and the pain will cede. You will need to get help in these two days because you will not be allowed to lift your arms over your head or carry anything with your arms. The best thing to do is to have someone take care of you a couple of days, someone to talk to and ask for help when needed, to give you medicine or help fetch things you need. You will not need to lie in bed or stay still all day unless you feel sick. On the contrary, the doctor will advise you to move around the house to get your circulation moving and prevent any complications.
Pain will be present, for some more and for others less, but it will be there. Depending on its degree, your desires, and the doctor’s recommendations, you will be prescribed some pain medication for about five days after your operation. There are other methods to manage pain like pain pumps (small pumps that irrigate the surgical area with pain medication), ice packs that also help with swelling, anti-inflammatory medication, etc.
You will be able to return to work in one to two weeks after the operation. Most people return after just one week, provided their job does not involve any strenuous activity. You must take into consideration that even if elective, it is still a surgery, your tissue was cut, there has been trauma to your body, so it will take a toll on your general state. Some recover quickly after a surgery and others take longer. So, think well ahead and plan according to what you know is best for you.
Swelling will persist for some time after the surgery. It will go down significantly in the first couple of weeks, and then by week six it will mostly disappear. Some degree of swelling might persist for up to four months, but it will be a slight one and not noticeable, and that should not bother you in any way.
For the first six weeks after the surgery, you will not be allowed to exercise or lift any heavy objects. Only after this time, you will be able to go back to your exercise routine and usual activities without risking any complications. Another important factor is the way you sleep at night: you will have to sleep on your back for about two months. Sleeping on your belly or on one side might stretch the incision and significantly increase swelling.
Apart from the actual recovery with all the pain, swelling and discomfort, there is also another important aspect to discuss. Your breasts will not look immediately exactly as you pictured them. They will seem too uplifted and fake, and they will probably feel more rigid than normal. That is because the implants need time to settle. The muscles and tissues must gradually relax and allow the implants to stay in their intended place. Eventually, the implants will drop and their density and look will feel normal. This process happens during the first 4 to 6 months, but in some cases, it could take even a year.
During recovery but also after, it is crucial to pay attention to all the signals your body sends you: any abnormal pain or swelling or look or tightness should not be disregarded. Whenever in doubt, call your doctor, make an appointment, and put your mind at ease. It is better to call for nothing, than later be sorry for not being able to prevent complications or some other unwanted surgery.
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