Your Guide to Breast Lift Recovery

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Your recovery from a breast lift (mastopexy or mastoplexy surgery) is based on several factors, including your personal pain threshold and whether or not your breast lift was done as a stand-alone procedure. Your breast lift recovery may be more involved, for example, if you had other plastic surgery procedures such as augmentation with breast implants, breast lift with auto augmentation or breast reduction performed at the same time as your breast lift. Your surgeon should go over the specific details of your breast lift surgery and recovery with you during your consultation visit and your preoperative appointments.

There are many steps you can take both pre- and post-op to help manage your recovery and minimize your breast lift risks. Take some time to familiarize yourself with them and discuss them with your surgeon prior to surgery.

Incision Care During Your Breast Lift Recovery

Dressings or bandages will be applied to your breast lift incisions. Keeping these incisions dry until they have closed is important.

You will need to see your surgeon a few days after your breast lift to change your surgical dressings, and possibly remove any stitches. If drains — small, thin tubes that collect any excess blood or fluid — were used, your surgeon will remove them during this same visit.

You will also likely be told to wear a compression garment after your breast lift. During your first postoperative visit, your surgeon will instruct you on when to start wearing a soft, supportive bra in lieu of the compression garment.

Swelling and Bruising

In general, expect swollen and bruised breasts after your surgery.

You may be swollen for up to three to four months. What helps? An elastic bandage or support bra can reduce swelling and support your breasts during your breast lift recovery. If your breast swelling lingers, consider increasing your fluid intake, consuming less salt and engaging in regular exercise such as walking.

Ask your surgeon what he or she recommends to help minimize bruising. Some homeopathic products such as Arnica montana or bromelain may help reduce both swelling and bruising. Gently applying warm compresses to your breasts may also be helpful.

Does It Hurt?

Most women do report some initial discomfort after breast lift surgery. Your surgeon can prescribe painkillers to help relieve any pain you may feel. Do not take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen after surgery as these drugs increase bleeding risk. You may also experience a temporary loss of sensation in your breasts.

Activity Restrictions During Breast Lift Recovery

Walk around as soon as possible after your breast lift. Early ambulation helps reduce the risk of developing blood clots. That said, do not bend or lift any heavy objects (including your children or pets!) until your doctor tells you it is safe to do so.

You can usually return to work within a week, but this may take longer if you have a physically-demanding job. Most women can resume all normal activities within a few weeks after breast lift surgery, including exercise.

Personal Hygiene

Sponge baths are necessary until your incisions are closed and your stitches are removed. You may not be able to wash your hair for a while because you won't be allowed to raise your hands above your head. If you must wash your hair, ask for assistance.

Scar Care

Breast lift surgery will involve scars. The scar patterns vary based on the type of breast lift surgery that you choose.

Certain scar-minimizing products may help scars fade. These include silicone sheeting, topical silicone gels and creams and surgical tape. If you have a history of developing problematic scars, discuss these options with your surgeon in advance. It usually takes about six months for your breast lift scars to fade.

Sleeping Tips for Recovery

During your initial breast lift recovery, sleeping may be challenging. Try propping up your back and head with two or three fluffy pillows, or a specially-designed wedge-shaped pillow available at most surgical supply stores. This elevation of your upper body can help reduce swelling and pain.

Additionally, a pillow placed under your knees can prevent you from rolling over onto your chest during the night. Some women place pillows alongside them to create a recovery "nest" of sorts for the same reason.

Breast Lift Aftercare Instructions

An important aspect of your breast lift recovery is caring for your healing breasts. Your surgeon should give you specific instructions on what topical medications to apply to your breasts and the oral medications you can take, such as analgesics and antibiotics, to reduce your risk of postsurgical pain and infection.

It is important to monitor your temperature and take your prescribed antibiotics as directed throughout your breast lift recovery. Taking your temperature regularly can help identify an infection in its earliest stages, should one occur.

Your surgeon will also discuss the step-down plan for supportive garments with you. He or she will also let you know when you can start wearing regular and underwire bras again. Jumping the gun on this could result in complications.  

Make sure you are clear about everything that is expected of you during your breast lift recovery. Following your surgeon's instructions carefully will help minimize your risk of complications.

Breast Lift Recovery: What to Have on Hand

Planning ahead for your breast lift recovery can make life much simpler. Since your physical activities will be restricted during recovery, it's a good time to pamper yourself and catch up on things you haven't had time to enjoy lately.

Stockpile movies or pre-recorded programs you've been meaning to watch, or novels and magazines that have been piling up; all will keep your mind occupied as your body heals. A fully-charged iPod, cell phone and/or laptop can also help you pass time and stay connected during your breast lift recovery.

Recovery can be a challenging time both physically and emotionally. Consider asking friends or family members to call or drop by, but keep in mind that it may be best to schedule these visits several days or more after your surgery. This will give you time to get past the lingering effects of the anesthesia you received and closer to feeling normal again.

Before surgery, stock your refrigerator with healthy recovery foods, including pre-made meals, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of caffeine-free beverages and water. It's best to avoid processed foods, which are often high in sodium that can contribute to fluid retention and swelling. Staying well hydrated will not only help your body heal, but it will also flush out residual anesthesia and medications from your system.

As you heal, your arms will have a limited range of motion, so store all the supplies you'll need during recovery where they're easily accessible (that is to say, at counter level, not in overhead or very low cabinets). Remember: no heavy lifting or high reaching until your surgeon clears you!

Finally, be sure to fill any prescriptions from your surgeon beforehand so they are waiting for you after your surgery. A little forethought can go a long way toward making your breast lift recovery as smooth as possible.

If, after considering all the pros and cons of surgical breast lift, you're interested in checking out breast lift alternatives, read about them in our in-depth article.

  • Greenwald 50x50

    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Cosmetic Surgery Associates of New York
    166 5th Ave
    Second Floor
    New York City, NY 10010
    (800) 905-5438
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  • Greenwald 50x50

    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Cosmetic Surgery Associates of New York
    10 Chester Avenue
    Second Floor
    White Plains, NY 10601
    (800) 905-5438
    Learn more
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  • Grace 50x50

    Douglas Grace, B.Sc., MD, FRCSC

    The Grace Clinic
    481 John Street, Suite 200
    Burlington, ON L7R2K8
    (905) 336-9636
    Learn more
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