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Image of a sand clock representing recovery time for breast augmentation

Recovery time for breast augmentation – everything you need to know

If you’re unhappy with the shape and size of your boobs, you’re not alone. Breast augmentation, or boob jobs, makes up 15 per cent of all cosmetic procedures worldwide.

And the decision to go ahead with surgery isn’t always purely size-related. Whether you have asymmetrical breasts, or they need rebuilding after surgery or cancer treatment, all reasons are valid.

But there is an operation to go through before you enjoy the feel of your new body and it’s important to know the facts. So, what is the recovery time is for breast augmentation? And how can you care for your breasts post-op?

Breast augmentation recovery time – how long does it take?

The truth is, it can take up to a full six months to completely recover from breast augmentation surgery – but most people can go about their daily lives after a few weeks.

Of course, all bodies are different, and you might find your breasts heal much quicker than this or need a little longer to fully recover. But the important thing is that you listen to your body. Only you can know what you’re capable of during this time, and when you should take it easy.

Naturally, you’ll likely face some discomfort for the first few weeks of recovery, so try not to push your body too much. Drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and avoid picking up heavy items and doing strenuous exercise.

Most people find they need to take time off work for the first few weeks of recovery. This is perfectly natural – your body has just gone through a serious surgical procedure. You might also struggle to drive a car because seatbelts can be painful.

Your surgeon will recommend a post-surgery bra – whether it’s medical or a sports bra. You’ll need to wear this 24 hours a day for six to eight weeks, so it’s important to find one that’s comfortable and breathable. Invest in a couple for washing purposes. It could be months until your breasts start to look and feel like a natural part of you, so it’s a good idea to have a few options.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. Ask your loved ones to help with any tasks you may struggle with, such as cooking, cleaning, or caring for children. You’ll also be invited for a regular check-up with you surgeon to see how you are recovering, and they can offer any tips to help you manage any discomfort.

Everyone experiences pain differently. If you are struggling with your post-op recovery, speak to your surgeon about any medication that may help ease your discomfort.

The four stages of breast augmentation recovery

Most people go through four stages when recovering from breast augmentation surgery, but there’s no ‘normal’ way to recover. Instead, this should be used as a guidance on what a typical experience may look like.

Stage one – waking up from surgery

When: A few hours after your operation.

How you will typically feel: Tender and disorientated.

How your breasts will typically look: Inflamed and red, wrapped in a dressing.

Breast augmentation is typically done under general anaesthetic. Once the operation is completed, you’ll be taken to a recovery room while you slowly wake up.

As you come around from your surgery you may feel a little disorientated, achy, and tender. After a few hours, you should be feeling more alert and aware of your surroundings, and you may be allowed to go home, however, this depends hugely on the clinic and their recommendations.

Stage two – recovering at home

When: A few days to a few weeks after surgery.

How you will typically feel: Sore, tired, with some discomfort and pain.

How your breasts will typically look: Swollen, tight, and bruised.

The first few days of recovery are often the most challenging, as many patients now experience the most discomfort and pain, especially at night. You’ll need to sleep on your back. This is where extra pillows will come in handy to prop your sides and lift your legs, making you as comfortable as possible.

Ask your doctor for some painkillers if you are struggling to sleep and remember to get enough rest and drink plenty of fluids.

There may be some bleeding at this stage. This is a normal sign of recovery but speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Light movements and walking can help get your blood flowing to avoid clots and speed up recovery at this stage. But if your symptoms worsen, it may be a sign that you are doing too much too soon.

Stage three – a return to normal

When: One to eight weeks after surgery.

How you will typically feel: Still sore with some tingling sensation.

How your breasts will typically look: Full, firm, and rounded.

You can usually go back to work and resume your daily activities at this stage. You should also begin to regain sensation in your nipples and breast tissue – this can often feel like pins and needles.

It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about when you can resume more vigorous exercise, such as cardio. Again, if you notice any pain, it could be that you are moving too quickly with your recovery. If this happens, try to take a step back to give your body the chance to heal.

Stage four – embracing your new figure

When: Two to six months after surgery.

How you will typically feel: Recovered, with full feeling in your breasts.

How your breasts will typically look: Firm and full, in their final position and shape.

Once the swelling has subsided and your implants have ‘dropped’, you’ll be ready to see the results. At this point, you can swap out a sports bra for an underwired bra and can sleep on your stomach or side again.

You may occasionally feel a slight discomfort or tingling in your breasts – this is normal as your body adjusts to your new shape.

Breast augmentation recovery tips

Good news – modern medicine means our bodies recover much more quickly from surgery than they did a few decades ago. But this doesn’t mean you won’t have a few days of pain and discomfort.

This can leave you feeling fed up and exhausted, but it won’t last forever. In the meantime, here are some of our top dos and don’ts for easing discomfort and possibly speeding up recovery.

Get plenty of rest

We cannot stress the value of rest enough in daily life – just check out our guide to why rest and sleep are important for your health – never mind after major surgery.

Those first few days at home are crucial. The more you relax and let your body heal, the quicker you’ll be on your feet and going about your life again.

Have a TV show you’ve been dying to binge-watch? Or a pile of books screaming to be read? Now’s your chance. Make sure you have a comfortable spot on the sofa or bed, propped up by plenty of pillows, and let your mind and body relax.

If you have children and have the offer of some home help, take it. Better still, organise some overnight stays elsewhere – you or them – if possible. You do not want them jumping on you – or even coming in for a big hug – in these first few days.

Don’t put on a brave face

We’ve all gritted our teeth and put on a brave face at one point or another – it’s part of being human. But, in this case, you could be just delaying your recovery.

If the pain is unmanageable, help is available. Over-the-counter medication can help, or your doctor may be able to prescribe something stronger.

The same goes for if you are struggling to do basic tasks, like making lunch. Speak to a partner, family or friends and ask them to stop in and check on you for the first few days. It can help take the pressure off and give you more time to heal.

Stick to a healthy diet

If you want to try and speed up your recovery, plenty of water and green vegetables are the way to do it.

Cashews and almonds are also proven to be great food sources for skin healing, while pumpkin and sesame seeds can help your tissues regenerate.

Some people often feel nauseated or lose their appetite for the first few days. It may be best to stick to plain and simple meals and lots of water until your body settles.

Don’t overdo it

Staying in bed and watching TV may sound like a great idea in theory, but in practice may leave you feeling restless and eager to get back to your daily routine.

When you feel up to it, you can start resuming some more gentle activities, like going back to work and light exercise (walking for example), but if you feel any resistance or pain, stop. For more strenuous exercises, wait for the all-clear from your surgeon.

Managing your side-effects

  • Nausea – your doctor may be able to prescribe anti-nausea tablets if you are still feeling queasy after a few days.
  • Bruising and swelling – creams and ointments can help reduce your swelling and bruising after surgery.
  • Scarring – after the initial swelling has gone down, you can start to massage the breast area. This can improve blood flow and help prevent scars forming. At a later stage, you can investigate further treatments to help with scarring such as microneedling or laser but leave this for way down the line.

Did you know?

  • The most common age to get breast implants is 35 to 50 years old, with just under half of all patients falling in this age bracket.
  • Breast implants have an end date. They can last up to 20 years, but around 20 per cent of patients will need surgery to replace or remove them in just eight.
  • Women typically spend between seven and 10 years thinking about breast augmentation before getting the surgery.

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