Breast reduction recovery – how long it takes and everything else you need to know
By dramatically altering the size and weight of your breasts, breast reduction surgery can be a life-changing procedure. And while the hard part of surgery is over, taking your recovery seriously is also important, and following a few rules can make a huge difference.
So, how long does it take to recover from the surgery and what else do you need to know?
In this article:
Duration of results
Back to work
Full recovery time
Four to six weeks
22,500 SAR to 33,700 SAR
Two to four hours
What is breast reduction surgery?
Breast reduction surgery, also called reduction mammoplasty, can alleviate a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms associated with having larger breasts, and improve your quality of life.
While having large breasts is celebrated by some and a dream for many, for others they can be a source of back or neck pain, a barrier to enjoying sports, and something you may feel you want to hide.
Breast reduction surgery works by removing tissue, fat, and skin to reshape and reduce the size and weight of the breast. For those unhappy with the size of their breasts, it can give you a new lease of life.
How long does breast reduction surgery take to recover from?
The surgery itself lasts between two and four hours. You should be able to leave the hospital and go home that same day, but you may need to stay overnight.
The recovery journey can be different for everyone, depending on how quickly your body heals, but usually looks something like this:
Your breast reduction recovery will likely involve some pain, inconvenience, and discomfort which will get easier over time. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication and recommend ways to help. It’s a good idea to stock up on paracetamol and ibuprofen before your surgery so you can focus on resting as soon as you get home.
- During the first 24 hours, it’s likely you’ll experience considerable soreness and have very limited movement in your back and shoulders. You’ll be able to get up and walk about but should rest as much as possible.
- After 48 hours, you’ll be able to wash again – but avoid getting your dressings wet for at least the first week. You may still need help to get dressed.
- After one week, your dressings will be removed with the surgical tape left intact. You can shower again, allowing the water to run over the tapes. Make sure they are patted dry before replacing your bra. You should be able to return to a desk job, or drive. But you should avoid physically demanding jobs, strenuous exercise, and heavy lifting.
- After two to three weeks, you will be able to have a bath again. Your surgical tape can be removed, and you can start to moisturise and massage your scars.
- After four to six weeks, you should be able to resume your normal activities, but your energy levels may still be low, so limit your activity until you feel up to it. After the first month you should also be able to start enjoying the results of your surgery. Any prior back and neck pain should reduce as you adjust to your new breasts, and you’ll be able to wear better fitting clothes and underwear.
- After six weeks, you no longer need to wear the surgical bra at night. You can also swim again.
Breast reduction surgery aftercare tips
Stock up on surgical bras
While not the most glamorous of underwear, you’ll need to wear a surgical bra straight after your procedure. This is to protect the gauze, bandages, tubes, and dressings beneath, and to hold your repositioned breasts in place.
You should wear these for at least six weeks, day, and night, so more than one is advisable. It can be removed to shower but should be otherwise always worn. After six weeks you no longer need to wear the bra at night and can be fitted for a normal bra, but it is advisable to avoid under-wires until three months after surgery.
Short-term symptoms and how to care for them
Your breasts are likely to be sore, red, and sensitive after your procedure. Ice packs wrapped in a towel can help numb and soothe the area and reduce any swelling.
You should also expect some fluid drainage and crusting from the surgery, which can be alleviated with gentle washing and moisturising. Be careful not to aggravate the area when washing – using a damp cloth can help.
Another thing you can do to help heal a little faster is reducing your sodium intake (so avoid alcohol) and drink plenty of water to aid reducing any painful swelling.
Ongoing symptoms to be aware of:
- Some women may experience numbness to the breasts, while others might experience hypersensitivity.
- Breasts swell during menstruation, so your first period after surgery is likely to cause pain. This may continue for subsequent months too.
- Breast feeding may no longer be possible if your surgery involves detaching the nipple and milk ducts. This is rare, but something to consider and chat to your surgeon about before having the procedure.
- Your breasts may also feel uneven and lumpy after your surgery. This may be due to different healing rates between each breast but can sometimes be permanent.
In most cases, some form of visible scarring will be around forever – but this normally fades over time.
Generally, your surgeon will place their incisions in areas where scarring won’t be as visible, such as on the underside of the breast or around the areola. Any scarring should fade to look white and less visible over the coming years but may be red and sore initially. After around 12 to 18 months, you should have a good idea of what your scars will look like going forwards.
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