What Is and Isn’t Normal After Breast Augmentation
Breast augmentation is an ever-popular procedure with sky-high patient satisfaction rates. Most breast augmentation patients are absolutely delighted with their results and have zero regrets—even so, during the recovery period, many patients wonder if things will really turn out as they hope.
After having breast augmentation, it can be difficult to know what is a normal part of the healing process and what might indicate a potential problem. To help you out, we’ve outlined a few of the most common things that patients experience after breast augmentation. Just one caveat before you read on: talk to your doctor if you see or feel anything that concerns you—there’s no substitute for an in-person look at any concerns.
My chest feels really tight, and my boobs feel like they might explode
It takes time for muscle, breast tissue, and skin to adjust to your implants; until these tissues have healed sufficiently, you can expect to feel (possibly intense) tightness in the chest area, particularly if your implants are placed beneath the muscle. Normal postoperative swelling, which peaks about 3 to 5 days after surgery, will amplify feelings of chest pressure. Some women also report that their breasts feel engorged (tender, heavy and inflamed).
How long this lasts: Typically, the more intense discomfort from tightness dissipates over the first one to two weeks after surgery; however, you may experience mild feelings of stiffness and tightness in the chest muscles for a month or longer. The bulk of swelling should subside within about three weeks, although you can expect modest swelling to last about 3 months.
By the 3-month mark, your breasts will be pretty close to their final shape and appearance, although scars will continue to fade for several more months.
When to call your plastic surgeon: If swelling seems severe, especially one one side, or if feelings of engorgement are accompanied by fever and breasts are very warm to the touch, contact your doctor immediately; these are signs of bleeding and infection, respectively.
My boobs look like torpedos and my nipples are uneven
There is a reason that experienced surgeons prefer to include only breast augmentation “after” photos taken at least 3 months post-op in their patient galleries—it takes time for the breasts to “drop and fluff” or settle into their final position and for scars to fade. Initially, your new breasts will probably appear unnaturally high on the chest and may have a stark “torpedo” shape. During the first few weeks of recovery, one breast may seem bigger than the other, and one may appear to drop lower than the other. You may even wonder if your plastic surgeon made a mistake—chances are the answer is no, and your breasts just need more time to heal. These are all normal occurrences after breast augmentation.
How long this lasts: Again, your body needs time to adjust to your implants; post-op swelling can also contribute to asymmetry, as swelling might go down earlier in one breast than the other. Typically, the 3-month mark is when your breasts will be pretty close to their final shape and appearance, although scars will continue to fade for several more months.
When to call your plastic surgeon: If, after 3 months, one or both breasts still appear misshapen, you are experiencing significant asymmetry, or one breast seems unnaturally hard to the touch, consult with your plastic surgeon—these symptoms indicate a possible capsular contracture. If you are still dissatisfied with your breast augmentation results 6 to 12 months after your procedure, you may need to look into breast augmentation revision.
I’m feeling depressed about this whole thing
Ask a breast augmentation patient if she’s glad she did it, and you’ll most likely hear, “YES! But there were a few days in the beginning….” With so much emphasis on the physical aspects of breast augmentation, it’s easy to forget that recovery has an emotional side, too. It’s actually common for patients to go through a brief period of mild depression after any surgery, breast augmentation included.
Post-op “blues” pass after a few weeks, usually after you’ve returned to your normal routine and you’re noticing that your breasts look better every day.
Why? There are a number of possible causes, from anesthesia to pain medications to the disruption that surgery and recovery inevitably make in a patient’s routine. Add to this a 1 to 3 month period where your breasts may look and feel awkward before settling into a more natural position, and temporary feelings of doubt are understandable.
How long this lasts: The important thing here is to be patient; post-op blues almost always pass after a few weeks, when you’ve returned to your normal routine, post-op swelling and stiffness has subsided, and you’re noticing that your breasts look better every day.
When to see your plastic surgeon: If you are experiencing feelings of severe depression at any time, see a qualified professional. If you still feel unhappy about your breast augmentation many months after surgery, it’s time to visit your plastic surgeon. You may just need more time to heal, but there is a chance you’ll want to consider a revision procedure.
I’m having shooting pains in my nipples
As nerve endings heal after surgery, it’s totally normal to feel sharp but short-lived pangs in your breasts, particularly in the nipples. Other strange yet normal sensations and pains during the first few weeks may include chest muscle spasms and upper back pain (usually stemming from a change from your normal sleeping position or hunching your shoulders over to protect your sore chest).
How long this lasts: Intermittent chest muscle spasms after breast augmentation may last up to three or four weeks, until the pectoral muscle has fully adjusted to having an implant beneath it. Shooting nipple pains can last up to 6 months or longer, although you will notice these becoming less frequent and less intense as time goes on.
When to see your plastic surgeon: While mild discomfort is to be expected for the first two or three weeks, severe or persistent pain or discomfort that disrupts your ability to sleep or perform normal allowed activities needs attention: call your doctor.
I’m bloated, constipated and tired
Having surgery is a shock to the system, including the digestive system. Anesthesia and medication can cause nausea and vomiting in some patients, and you may lose your appetite for a few days. Pain medication, as well as a reduction in activity level, can lead to constipation. Bloating and fatigue are also normal after-effects.
How long this lasts: Typically, nausea lasts just a few days and constipation a week or so at most. You can alleviate digestive distress by staying hydrated, taking pain meds only as long as you need them to keep discomfort at a tolerable level, and taking medications with a meal. Also, while exercise is restricted, taking frequent, easy walks will aid in digestion and circulation and help lift your mood.
When to call your plastic surgeon: If symptoms are severe or persist longer than a few days, see your surgeon. The solution may be as simple as adjusting your diet, or your surgeon may recommend a medication to alleviate your discomfort. Do NOT take any diuretics or laxatives without your plastic surgeon’s approval.
Stay in touch with your plastic surgeon
Everyone heals differently, and you may experience all or none of these effects during recovery. If you’re concerned about anything, even if you think what you’re experiencing is probably normal, it’s best to check in with your plastic surgeon.
In the rare event that you’re unhappy with your breasts after augmentation, don’t live with a look you don’t love. Breast revision surgery with a skilled plastic surgeon can offer improvements.
A qualified plastic surgeon will have you return periodically throughout your recovery to assess your progress and answer questions that arise. Typically, you’ll visit several times in the first two weeks after surgery, and appointments are spaced further apart after your initial recovery period has passed.
In the rare event that you are unhappy with the way your breasts look after augmentation, don’t live with a look you don’t love. Book a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon who is experienced in breast revision surgery. Not all issues require a revision, but many do. A skilled plastic surgeon can make improvements, often using the same incision sites made during your initial procedure.
Questions about what to expect after breast augmentation? Call us!
We’ve specialized in breast augmentation and breast revision surgery since 1992. Whether you’re still deciding whether to have surgery or you’ve had breast augmentation and want to make sure you’re 100% satisfied with your look, we will be happy to help you understand your procedure options at a consultation with our board certified plastic surgeons.