Part 2: What you can really expect during a breast augmentation recovery
It kept getting easier
To read Part 1 of my recovery timeline, follow this link.
As a former plastic surgery patient, I know how important it is to understand what to expect when recovering from surgery. It can be overwhelming (or at least it was to me) to think not only about my recovery from surgery, but also all the precautions and steps I'd need to take and how they would affect my lifestyle, albeit temporary. Below, I continue my recovery from breast augmentation surgery from day eight to day 30.
Following my first post-op appointment on day seven with my plastic surgeon and American Society of Plastic Surgeons member, Adam Kolker, MD, there were a few exercises and guidelines I needed to begin implementing. I was able to ditch the surgical bra for a supportive sports bra (although exercise was still off the table). Dr. Kolker recommended a few sturdy, structured sports bras (I personally liked the SheFit and Brooks the best) to wear during this stage.
My breasts were still sitting high on my chest – called upper pole fullness – which is normal for the first two weeks of recovery. To reduce the swelling, I was instructed to wear a compressive strap around my upper chest for 12 hours a day. Dr. Kolker showed me exactly where to place the compression strap at my post-op appointment and he marked the exact spot on the strap where I was to fasten it.
Most importantly, Dr. Kolker reviewed the implant displacement exercises that I needed to start performing at home, four times a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and right before bed), in order to prevent capsular contracture. Neither the exercises nor the strap hurt, but they definitely felt weird at first, especially the exercises, which are designed to push the implants around their pockets. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about performing the exercises – I didn't want to strain anything – and erred on the slower and gentle side, but I became more comfortable as the days went on and doing the exercises throughout the day became as second nature as washing my hands.
Although exercise was still off-limits, Dr. Kolker encouraged me to start taking walks around the block throughout the day and routine, everyday tasks, like washing my hair and opening doors, were becoming easier, too (although heavy doors would still send a quick shock through my torso).
Day nine was the first day I went to bed without Ambien (my prescription was only for a few days). I was nervous that finding restful sleep would be a challenge because I still needed to sleep sitting straight up, but it wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as it was that first week. I managed to sleep for a few hours at a time before waking up and realizing that I was leaning a little too far to one side or that one of my pillows slid down and needed to be readjusted – all easy fixes, and the body aches that these inconveniences ignited, disappeared once the issue was corrected.
Day 10 to 13
Nothing terribly of note occurred: I performed the displacement exercises religiously and every day, I had more energy and less chest pressure than the day before.
I had my second post-op appointment Dr. Kolker. After an examination, we discussed the second stage of recovery. I could start to wear normal bras as well as a bathing suit for short periods of time, which was music to my ears since it was the end of June.
Exercising was now allowed, but with exceptions. I could weight train my lower half, but no arms or anything that could engage my chest, like push-ups. Or I could do light cardio, but still needed to be mindful about bouncing, so I rode a stationary bike.
I was to continue wearing the compressive strap and performing the displacement exercises. Dr. Kolker cautioned that it is generally around this time that patients are excited by how great they look and feel (me) and can sometimes push it. It's important to keep in mind, he said, that I had major surgery just two weeks ago. He also said to listen to my body; it would tell me immediately if I was overdoing it. And Dr. Kolker was absolutely right – after a beach day on July 4th (day 18), my chest began to ache and I was so relieved that I brought a sports bra along, just in case.
I rode the stationary bike for 25 minutes and was surprised by how out of breath I felt, but I was happy to be moving my body. I also noticed that my breast swelling had significantly reduced.
The aforementioned beach day where I began to feel chest aches after spending a few hours in a non-supportive bathing suit. After swapping my bikini top for a sports bra and tank, the soreness slowly vanished.
Sleeping has gotten far easier. I still need to be propped by pillows, but instead of five pillows, I just need two. I can't sleep on my side just yet, but I've gotten used to sleeping on my back and leaning to one side no longer causes body aches that wake me up.
My first day back with my personal trainer. We did a lot of modified strength training exercises and avoided arms completely.
My one-month follow-up with Dr. Kolker. After an examination and taking photos, he said I could retire the compressive strap as well as one of the displacement exercises, although I needed to continue doing the other two. My upper pole fullness, breast firmness and any lingering swelling had reconciled almost completely.
I'm lucky that recovery was uneventful overall. In fact, I am still shocked by how quickly I started to feel like myself after such a serious surgery – so much so that I became one of the many breast augmentation patients Dr. Kolker warned me about who prematurely returned to a normal life activity. In my case, spending all day at the beach in unsupportive clothing tipped the recovery scales – but as Dr. Kolker said, your body will tell you.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.