Recovery Time for Breast Surgery

First Week

For the first couple of days after you return home from your breast reduction or breast augmentation, you should get plenty of rest. During this time, you are likely to have:

  • bruising and tightness,
  • a limited range of motion in your shoulders, which may require someone to help you with certain tasks like putting on clothes,
  • some soreness and swelling, which you can treat with ice and pain medication, and
  • a small amount of fluid leakage from your incisions, which will go into your gauze or drains, if you have them.

First Two Months

You may have increased or decreased nipple sensation for the first couple of months. Some swelling and tightness may still be present as well.

Three to Four Months

You may feel shooting pains, tingling, or other strange sensations in your skin for the first few months. You may experience some asymmetry since each breast may heal at a different rate.

Three to 12 Months

You will begin to notice your final results around three months after surgery. However, you may continue to have subtle changes throughout the 12 months following your surgery.

Breast Surgery Scars

The look of your scars largely depends on the type of breast surgery you have. In general, your scars will be  swollen for awhile after surgery. However, they will eventually fade to thin, slightly discolored lines over the course of one year. While the incision location can help to conceal the scars, it’s possible the scars may always be noticeable. Your surgeon can share ways to help your scars fade and soften.

For breast reduction surgery, there are two scar patterns you may have depending on the surgical technique used.  They may include:

  • An anchor-shaped scar — A circle around your areola, a vertical line from under your areola to the bottom of your breast, and a line along your breast crease.
  • A scar that looks like a lollipop — A circle around your areola and a vertical line from under your areola to the bottom of your breast.

What to Expect After Breast Surgery

What to Wear

You will wear a surgical bra for three to four weeks after your surgery. You should only remove the bra to shower or to wash it. In the beginning, it’s also best to wear shirts that are easy to put on and take off, such as loose button-down shirts or zip-up hoodies. After three to four weeks of wearing the surgical bra, you can transition into a soft, supportive sports bra.

Showering & Bathing

You can resume a daily shower two days after surgery. Do not soak in a bathtub, pool, or hot tub until your incisions heal or your surgeon says it’s okay.

How to Sleep

For the first week after surgery, you should rest and sleep on your back, with extra pillows to prop you up. This can help with swelling.

Do not sleep on your stomach until your surgeon says it’s okay. If you want to sleep on your side, you should:

  • wait until three to four weeks after surgery and
  • alternate sides at first to help with swelling. 

Physical Activity & Exercise

  • Start walking the night of your surgery to help reduce your swelling and risk of blood clots and constipation.
  • For three to four weeks after surgery, avoid strenuous activity and repetitive arm motions, and do not lift, pull, or push anything over 10 pounds. This is so your incisions can heal properly.
  • Begin stretching and performing range-of-motion exercises for your upper body three weeks after surgery.

When your surgeon clears you, you can resume your daily activities.

Driving & Returning to Work

In general, you should not drive until you’ve been off of prescription pain medication for at least 24 hours and can safely operate a vehicle in traffic. 

Most people are ready to drive and return to work within one week. For work that requires heavy lifting, it may take longer or require temporary restrictions. Before you drive or return to work, it’s best to get your doctor’s approval at a follow-up visit.

Follow-Up Appointments

Your plastic surgeon will want to see you every one to two weeks for at least one month after your breast surgery. We will remove bandages and drains, if you have them, within the first week. For more details about your individual recovery, please speak with us directly.

If you're considering a breast reduction or breast augmentation, please call our office at 801-581-7719 to schedule an appointment with one of our plastic surgeons who are highly qualified to perform these surgeries.

Greg Hobson, MD, on Good Things Utah About Breast Surgery Recovery