If you’re considering breast reduction surgery, you may be wondering: “What comes afterward?”
The truth is that breast reduction recovery is different for every patient, but most women have similar basic experiences after their surgery. Your recovery timeline could vary from the one below, but you should expect the same stages in the order listed. If not, it may be time to call the doctor. (More on that later.)
It Takes Time to Recover
The most important thing to keep in mind for your breast reduction (reduction mammaplasty) recovery is that it will take time. Don’t expect to jump right back into your normal activities.
Like any surgery, breast reduction requires a period of recuperation when you won’t be able to do everything you want to do. You probably won’t be able to work, and you will be very sore.
Breast Reduction Recovery Timeline
Days one to three
Your plastic surgeon will not allow you to drive yet, so make sure you have a ride home from the surgery. You may awaken groggy, and you might be nauseated. If you are excessively nauseated, ask your doctor about medications you can take.
You will awaken in a recovery garment that you will need to wear for the next several weeks in place of your regular bra. You will probably notice swelling and bruising; this is normal.
Your plastic surgeon will send you home with post-surgery instructions. These should include no heavy lifting for the first several weeks, instructions on how to put on and remove your post-surgical garments, and any other restrictions that will aid in your healing.
Weeks one and two
While you will probably be uncomfortable, your plastic surgeon will ask you to walk short distances right away, such as from room to room of your house. Movement decreases the risk of post-surgical blood clots.
You may tire easily and may need help around the house during this time. You might also need help removing and putting on your post-surgical garments, as you will probably feel very sore. Take medications as prescribed by your doctor, and if you are fatigued, take naps during the day.
Your swelling and bruising may begin to go down somewhat toward the end of this period, or it may take a little longer for you to notice these changes.
Weeks three and four
You should begin to feel significantly better now. Your doctor may clear you to drive and to go back to work. Swelling should be down quite a bit, and your bruises should begin to fade. You will probably still be restricted from lifting heavy objects.
You should be back to all your normal activities provided you have healed well. Make sure to ask your plastic surgeon whether you’re ready to go back to working out, lifting heavy objects, and any other activities you plan to engage in.
Two months and beyond
Your scars will continue to fade and bruising should be gone by now. You may experience some slight residual swelling for several months.
How to Help Ensure a Smoother Recovery
It’s not possible to predict everything that can happen after your breast reduction surgery. However, there are a few basic things you can do to try to ensure that things go in your favor.
- Have a thorough consultation with your plastic surgeon beforehand. It’s important to be honest. Make sure you mention your medical, drug, and alcohol history, your family history, and any current issues.
- Don’t smoke. Statistically, smokers have a harder time with surgery recovery than non-smokers.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Ask a friend or family member to drive you to and from your surgery.
- Ask a friend or family member for help around the house for the first two weeks after surgery, such as preparing meals and doing light house cleaning.
- Prepare meals in advance so all you need to do is pop them into the microwave and reheat them.
- Get plenty of fluids during your recovery. Water is your best bet.
- Follow all of your doctor’s post-surgery instructions. Do not take ANY medications your doctor has not approved.
When to Call the Doctor
If you’re in generally good health and follow all of your doctor’s instructions, and if you have chosen a reputable and experienced plastic surgeon, your risk of complications should be relatively low.
However, even the most compliant patient who has selected the best surgeon can experience complications. Be sure to call your doctor if:
- You run a fever over 100°F.
- You have excessive pain that is not alleviated with rest and prescribed medications.
- Your incisions aren’t healing.
- Your incisions are redder than they were initially and/or are painful and itchy.
- You have internal chest pain (not breast pain).
- You have unexplained chills or sweating.
- You have swelling of the legs.
Preparation Is Key
Remember: the better prepared you are for the time after your surgery, the better your chances are of a smooth recovery.
Be sure to stay in communication with your doctor and attend all post-surgery appointments. Your doctor needs to monitor your progress week by week.
Knowing what to expect can help both you and your doctor with your recovery. Follow all of your plastic surgeon’s directions so you can make sure your breast reduction recovery is as easy as possible.