Ten Tips for a Comfortable Breast Surgery Recovery
Breast augmentation is now the leading surgical procedure in the United States, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), with more than 350,000 breast augmentations performed in 2012. It is an outpatient procedure typically taking between one and three hours.
Just because breast augmentation is cosmetic and not a major surgery, that doesn’t mean it’s not a complex procedure requiring special care and recovery time. Like all surgeries, there will be a certain amount of pain and discomfort involved, and the recovery process could take anywhere from two weeks to a month.
Most doctors will talk to you about what to expect during and after surgery, but their concentration will be on major details like incision care and how to avoid complications and infections. Make sure you follow the entire list of your doctor’s before- and after-surgery recommendations! Here are ten more tips that will help you feel more comfortable during your home recovery.
1. Buy a Good Reading Pillow
Most doctors recommend sleeping in an upright or reclined position on your back for at least one week after surgery. You might think that propping up a bunch of pillows would do the trick, but a pile of pillows can fall over when you move. Invest in a good reading pillow with armrests and an adjustable headrest. With this support, you won't roll onto your side during the night.
2. Find Someone to Help You
You will definitely need some help after surgery. And I’m not just talking about someone to drive you home afterwards. Most surgeons recommend no driving for one week post-surgery. You’re going to be under the influence of anesthesia and pain medication, so you’ll need to have someone to watch and take care of you for at least 24-48 hours after surgery. This will involve everything from cooking your meals to helping you brush your hair. You are not allowed to lift heavy things for at least 6 weeks after surgery, so if you have kids (especially younger ones), go ahead and give Grandma a call. If you have a dog, make arrangements for someone to walk them for at least a week or two. And you’re probably not going to feel up to cleaning that litter box or aquarium either.
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3. Prepare Meals in Advance
If you don’t have any help or your significant other’s cooking abilities are limited to eggs and eggs only, then it’s a good idea to prepare and freeze some meals. Plan ahead when you go to the grocery store and buy all of the necessary items and your favorites beforehand. Make sure you buy enough to last at least two weeks. If you don’t feel like cooking, then it’s a good idea to have some delivery menus handy.
4. Fill Your Prescriptions
Be sure to get your prescriptions (antibiotics and pain medications) filled prior to your surgery. Most doctors will allow you to do this. If you have problems with constipation, let your doctor know. Constipation is a common side effect of pain medication and anesthesia. You can always use over-the-counter laxative starting two days after surgery. Also, you will most likely deal with moderate to severe bruising. Make sure you have enough Arnica gel at your house since it helps tremendously with bruising.
5. Buy Bras in Advance
Make sure you go shopping for bras before your surgery. Most likely, your doctor will send you home with a medical bra, but you’ll regret it if you don’t have a cute bra lined up to wear the next day. Make sure to buy a comfortable larger bra (avoid underwires) like a sports or genie bra. Your breasts are going to be swollen after the surgery and will continue to change over the next few months so don’t buy more than one or two bras. More than likely, you’ll need a different size in a month.
You will feel tired right after your surgery but soon you will want to be entertained. Have a good supply of magazines, books, and movies available within reach. And one more tip: If you tend to get emotional during movies, you might want to avoid drama and comedies. Laughing and crying could be quite painful in the first few days.
7. Clean Your House
You probably requested a few days off work for your post-surgery recovery. If you think this is going to be an opportunity to catch up with your household chores, you are mistaken. You really need to rest and give your body a chance to heal. Make sure you do all the cleaning prior to the surgery. Change your bed sheets and do the laundry and the dishwashing a day or two before so that you don't have to worry about it for a while.
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8. Easy-To-Wear Clothes
After surgery, you will be swollen and your regular clothes probably won’t fit. Sweatpants are perfect to slide on. You’ll also need shoes that don’t require you to bend over, so find your slippers and flip flops. Choose a shirt or sweater that can be zipped or buttoned up the front. Remember, it will be uncomfortable or even impossible for you to pull a shirt or sweater over your head without any help for at least a few days.
9. Ice Packs and Heating Pads
Make sure you consult your doctor about ice packs. Many women swear that ice packs help enormously with swelling. You can also substitute bags of frozen peas or corn. You will need four bags: one for each breast and two to stay in the freezer ready for use. Heating pads are great for your back. You will feel quite uncomfortable lying on your back for days and the heat will definitely ease the discomfort.
Make yourself a goodie bag a few days before your surgery with little things that you use on an everyday basis. These can be any items like lotion, lip balm, headbands or hair ties, a little mirror, and even a little makeup. Your care provider may not be able to find your favorite headband or lipstick, so save yourself the trouble and put these items aside ahead of time.
More Tips for a Speedy Recovery
Lindy on June 26, 2015:
Another helpful hint is to put dishes, glasses and any food items you'll need for the first week or so down on the counter so you don't have to reach up into the cabinets. Divide up the milk into smaller than that one gallon jug - it's going to be too heavy to lift for the first few days at least. Really - you need help the first 4-5 days at least.
Cynthia Harris from Northwest Louisiana on September 28, 2014:
I agree with the information that you provided however for me when I purchased bras in advance I had to wait to wear them until after the swelling was gone.
Rebecka Vigus from Nancy KY on March 16, 2013:
Sounds like things every woman should know ahead of time. Thanks for sharing.
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on March 15, 2013:
This sounds like very useful information. Now that hospitals send people home so soon after surgeries, it gives a false impression that it's all "minor" and the person will feel fine as soon as they get home. Even people who have heart surgeries go home in as little as 3 days, in so much pain and in need of help that they can barely function without someone taking a family leave or a lot of friends. It also seems the the doctors underplay how bad the person will really feel in the beginning, so it's good to be prepared by somebody who knows. Voted up.