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Your Guide to Breast Implant Surgery

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What to Expect After Breast Augmentation

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Patient smiling at doctor in hospital

Having surgery to change the size or shape of your breasts is a major decision. You want to find a skilled, board-certified cosmetic surgeon. Together, you need to decide what type of implant to have, either silicone or saline implants, and the size and shape of the breasts you desire. You may decide to have a breast lift, too. 

Your planning shouldn't stop with the surgery. It's just as important to prepare for your recovery. 

Recover from Anesthesia

Breast augmentation—also known as breast enhancement or enlargement—takes 1 to 3 hours. You’ll have anesthesia to keep you comfortable during surgery. Most of the time, people can go home the same day as their surgery. But, you'll need someone to drive you. Also make arrangements for someone to care for you for a few days.

Wear Compression Garments

You will be wrapped in a gauze dressing and elastic bandage when you wake from surgery. Or you may be wearing a support bra. This can minimize swelling and support your breasts while they heal. 


You’ll have mild pain and certain positions will be uncomfortable. Compression garments will help. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication to keep you comfortable.

Follow Doctor’s Orders for Recovery at Home

Before you leave the hospital or surgical center, you will be told how to take care of yourself at home. Your doctor may recommend you: 

  • Rest for a few days. 
  • Take pain medicine. Do not take any over-the-counter pain pills without asking your doctor.
  • Keep your incisions clean and dry. Inspect them often for any signs of infection.
  • Not shower or take a bath for a day or two.
  • Avoid excessive arm movement for about one week.
  • Do not lift anything above your head for two weeks.
  • Avoid all strenuous activities and anything that may put pressure on your breasts for about a month.
  • Wear breast support. Do not wear an underwire bra.
  • Not sleep on your stomach for about three weeks.

Most people can return to work within 1 to 2 weeks. Let your doctor know if your line of work is strenuous or involves heavy lifting. You may need to modify your work load or your schedule for a few weeks. 

Watch Out for Complications

Common side effects after surgery include pain, bruising, swelling, tightness and numbness. The area around your nipples might be extra sensitive. Or, you might have a burning feeling in that area. These side effects can last for a few weeks.

Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms: 

  • Fever
  • Increased swelling, bleeding, bruising or redness
  • Pain that doesn't go away with pain medicine
  • Any drainage or discharge from your incision

Enjoying Life With Your New Breasts

You’ll have some scars under your breasts from surgery. They will look red at first. They should fade over about six months, but you may still see them. 

Even after surgery, certain things can change the look of your breasts. These include changes in weight, becoming pregnant, and aging. 

Breast implants are not guaranteed to last a lifetime. The longer you have breast implants, the more likely you’ll be to experience complications. This is especially true if you've had them more than 20 years. Problems could include shrinking or leaking. This often requires another surgery. 

There is no evidence breast implants cause disease. You should continue to have regular breast cancer screening—just as you would if you didn't have implants. 

Changing the size and shape of your breasts can have an emotional effect, too. Studies show most women who have breast augmentation are happy with the results. Most often it's because they carefully weighed the risks and benefits. Plus, they had the surgery for the right reason—to please them, not somebody else.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 17
View All Your Guide to Breast Implant Surgery Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Breast Augmentation (Implants). Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  2. 5 Things to Know About Breast Implants. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Breast Augmentation (Augmentation Mammaplasty) Post-Operative Instructions. University of Michigan Department of Surgery.
  4. Breast augmentation risks and safety. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.