Getting a breast augmentation can be exciting. Breast augmentation recovery though? Usually less so. While some women bounce back fairly quickly, others are out of commission for a week or more. Whatever your breast augmentation healing time, it pays to be prepared. We’ve rounded up the essential breast augmentation recovery tips for avoiding post-op pitfalls (swelling! Constipation!) and making your downtime more manageable.
According to Dr. Kelly Killeen, a double-board-certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California, it’s very important to prepare your home for your initial recovery before your breast augmentation surgery. “Stock up on healthy foods and make sure you have enough pillows to keep you comfortable while sleeping on your back, with your head elevated, for a few days,” she says.
It helps to store snacks at waist level so you don’t have to reach up—straining muscles and stitches—to grab the trail mix. Also, “make sure you have all the medications and supplements that were recommended to you, already on hand.” Other items to have within arm’s reach: lip balm, bottled water, tissues, and baby wipes (for freshening up before you’re allowed to shower), the remote (with a fresh set of batteries), and your cell phone.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a great pillow during this stretch, when it’s vital to keep yourself upright, at a 45-degree angle, to reduce swelling and bruising. Dr. Killeen finds body pillows or pregnancy pillows to provide the most comfort, “as these large, long pillows can help keep you from accidentally turning on your side at night,” she says. Wrapped around your lower back, they can also prop you up, to minimize swelling—and resulting tenderness—during your recovery. “Consider purchasing a small pillow to place under your seatbelt for the first few weeks, to make driving more comfortable,” she adds.
If you’ve been wondering how to make swelling go down after breast augmentation, the herbal supplement Arnica montana is a great first step, but Dr. Killeen says that you need to have a high dose for it to actually be effective. “The small pills that are commonly found in the pharmacy just won’t be enough,” says Dr. Killeen. “Your plastic surgeon will almost certainly carry a good arnica supplement, and it’s worth the extra money.”
Another proven breast augmentation recovery tip for quelling swelling: get moving. “I recommend patients be up and around as much as possible—people who lie in bed and do not move see more swelling and pain,” says Dr. Killeen. “Returning to your normal activity and using your body as normally as possible is key when recovering from any surgery.”
When you get the all clear to shower (often the day after surgery), surgeons generally recommend using a soft, nonabrasive washcloth and antibacterial liquid soap. After patting dry, apply a shea or cocoa butter–based moisturizer, to soothe tight post-op skin.
Your breast augmentation healing time is hardly an opportunity to hone your cooking skills. Be smart about breast augmentation prep and stock up on easy-to-prepare foods. If cooking comes easy, make and freeze your favorite dishes ahead of time. But don’t stress over this—GrubHub exists for a reason.
Constipation is common following surgery, but there are easy ways to prevent it. “First, avoid taking narcotics, if at all possible, as these are usually the main reason patients become constipated,” says Dr. Killeen. (Anesthesia is another big instigator.) During your breast augmentation surgery recovery, “you need to walk, walk, walk, and walk some more—patients [who] are up and around are less likely to be constipated.”
Watch what you’re eating as well. Dr. Killeen suggests adding high-fiber foods to your diet. “I recommend dried fruit—apricot, cranberries—as most people actually like this and it’s a natural form of fiber,” she says. Remember though: “Fiber can actually be constipating if you do not drink enough water along with it, so stay hydrated during your recovery.”
As odd as it sounds, she also recommends keeping track of your bowel movements. “No one is comfortable talking about pooping—we get it—but you need to let the embarrassment go and tell your doctor if you have a day without a bowel movement,” explains Dr. Killeen. “Getting things back on track is easy in this circumstance—but if you wait a week, it’s not fun getting things moving again.”
In planning for your breast augmentation surgery recovery, your doctor will provide you with a post-op bra that’s soft, breathable, and easy to remove—wear it for the first few weeks of your recovery. You’ll then graduate to an underwire-free sports bra (consider a zip-up front closure—you’ll have trouble reaching around to your back). When you finally hit the three- to six-month mark, you’ll likely get the green light to pencil in some proper bra shopping. You’ll want to get professionally sized in order to make the investment worth it.
To reduce post breast augmentation swelling and bruising, snuggle up with an ice pack directly following surgery. Twenty minutes on, 20 minutes off will be your mantra for about three days. “Ice packs are very helpful,” says Dr. Killeen. She likes the gel kind that stays soft and flexible when frozen. “These mold to your chest well and can be reused over and over.” Make sure you get them good and cold the night before surgery.
While breast augmentation healing time will vary from person to person, Dr. Killeen says that patients generally experience the most swelling in the first three to five days. Swelling subsides rapidly from there, so by four weeks out, it’s mostly gone. However, it can take three to six months for implants to fully drop and settle into their final position.