Just one week ago I underwent a breast lift procedure that totally transformed what I used to call my “tube sock” breasts. As the aesthetic content manager for an aesthetically focused media outlet, I can tell you that I’ve seen more before and after images than most. I know what a good breast surgery result looks like because I’ve seen thousands. I’ve also spent hundreds of hours doing my own research for my procedure in the form of the countless articles I’ve written with some of the best surgeons in the industry.
Even with that extensive background, I’ve experienced so many things that no one ever talks about. Here, I break down the top “what the heck is going on” recovery questions I’ve come across with some solid advice from my very qualified sources.
Don’t Look at Your Breasts for Like a Month
Hours after the procedure that took my DD breasts down to about a C cup (we still don’t know), I immediately questioned what I had done. Gone were the “tube socks,” but in their place were two very firm, highly placed mounds that reminded me of my junior high years. “Did I go too small? What happened to my chest?” I wondered as the anesthesia wore off. My fears, my doubts, and my instinct that I went too small was totally premature, as I quickly learned you’re not supposed to really look at them for a while—except to monitor your incisions—until they’ve taken their proper shape.
“Significant swelling can be expected in the first several week and much of it will subside after four to six weeks,” says Vero Beach, FL plastic surgeon Jimmy H. Chim, MD. “About 80 percent recovery is expected to be achieved after six weeks and the remaining 20 percent will take the rest of the year,” he explains. “Every patient is different, but at about 3 months, the results will be pretty close to final.”
So, if you’re not totally healed, don’t scrutinize your new breasts that closely. They will change from day to day and week to week of your recovery.
Even When You Feel Good You’ll Get Really Tired Really Fast
On days two through five of my recovery, I was feeling good in spurts, but then I would get really tired. Once I got to the one week mark, I thought the exhaustion would fade. Not so, says New York plastic surgeon William Lao, MD. “You have to remember that surgery is a controlled damage to the body, so your body needs time and energy to recovery after such controlled trauma.”
“Although the incisions look nice after surgery, a lot of dissection and work was done underneath,” adds Dr. Chim. “Your body is expending a lot of energy to heal and this will make you feel tired.”
“Patients feel so tired because even though they are resting their body is consuming a huge number of calories in order to heal, says Newton Centre, MA plastic surgeon Joseph Russo, MD. “It’s like running a marathon and using up all of your reserves. It takes approximately one month to feel normal.” Following doctor’s orders to the letter will get you on the fast track to feeling better faster. “Take pain medication as needed,” adds Dr. Lao. “Try to ambulate daily will actually speed up the recovery.”
Sometimes Putting On a Shirt Can Stress You Out
While all doctors tell you to limit your movements during this critical healing time, doing regular everyday things can fall under the category of extraneous movement. I found myself sitting down on my bed to regain my strength after just putting on my clothes. You don’t have to be bringing in groceries or trying to lift a young child to pull in the wrong area, so try to stay still and do less during this important week. “I wish all patients would restrict lifting, pushing, pulling and reaching,” says Reno, NV plastic surgeon Tiffany D. McCormack, MD. “I commonly place implants under the pectoral muscles and this muscle is attached to the shoulder. If done too early or aggressively, these activities can increase the risk for swelling, asymmetry and even bleeding after surgery.”
Have All of Your Meal Prep Done Ahead of Time
Call me crazy, but one thing I did before surgery was change my air filter for my AC unit. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do ordinary household tasks for a while, so I made sure to have anything that needed my attention done beforehand. While I had planned my wardrobe for my first few post-op days, I didn’t think far enough in advance about having a two-week supply of meals ready. It’s important to have your fridge stocked and your bed made before your surgery date. “I recommend going into surgery extremely organized,” adds Dr. McCormack. This may mean having meals prepped ahead of time, support lined up to help with children, taking time off of work and lining up friends and/or family to take over and let you rest and recover stress free.”
You May Get Emotional and That’s Totally Normal
For some people, the exact result you’re going to get can be seen beforehand with 3D imaging. “Typically our patients are very happy with the change, we use a 3-D system to simulate their expected result so the new size change does not come as a surprise,” notes Dr. Lao.
For others, like me, I had no idea what my breasts would look like, so my initial response was shock. That’s totally normal. I’ve always had large breasts, so to see them smaller made me feel like they weren’t mine. My biggest hurdle after surgery wasn’t any pain, which was surprisingly minimal, but adjusting to my new body in a very short amount of time. “The mind has to adjust to the physical change on one’s body,” says Dr. McCormack. “We see an emotional component to almost every surgery we do.” As you recover, it’s important to be as gentle with your mind as you are with your body. Even with results that feel 100 percent perfect from day one, you may need time to get used it.
“It can be quite emotional,” adds Dr. Chim. “It’s usually a sense of happiness and fulfillment if we did our job right, but remember that even positive changes bring stress. Take your time adjusting to your new aesthetic, and enjoy it.”