Following any type of surgery, there is a recovery process that will allow you to heal and return to normal. We understand that you may be concerned about what to expect following breast lift surgery, which is why we’ve broken down important steps in the timeline for both pre and post-op activities and what you should expect.

We want you to have as much information as possible to help you make an informed decision.

This information will also enhance your experience, making sure that you get the most out of your breast lift and recover quickly.

Dr. Cohen and Dr. Winters have been conducting breast lifts for the past 15 years in Bergen County and have found certain things can enhance the experience for everyone involved. Following surgery, we’ve found that it is important to break the recovery process into 4 main areas: pain, scars, bras and exercise. Each section details what you need to know in relation to recovery and things you can do to prepare.

Managing Pain Post-Surgery

As breast lift surgery uses an incision pattern there will always be some post-procedure discomfort. The amount of pain post-surgery varies heavily from patient to patient, however, it is surprisingly tolerable in most breast lift patients. There are some steps you can take after your surgery to make those first few days more tolerable.

A major key to making sure that the breast lift process is as comfortable as possible is planning ahead of time. Much of the post-operative discomfort is due to swelling. While wearing a compression bra should help manage some of the swelling and help reduce pain, there are other things that can be done to reduce swelling and make your recovery easier.

Cold Compresses

Too often, patients use a cold compress longer than it’s recommended. This may be tempting, as removing the cold source can bring back discomfort. Yet, by icing too much, your body may become used to the cold and reduce its benefit.

If you’re having problems with swelling, ice the area for 20 minutes, then remove the compress for 40 minutes, after which, you can repeat. Never apply the compress to bare skin; use a towel or cloth as a barrier. While there are compresses designed specifically for those recovering from a breast lift, there’s no harm in using regular cold packs.

A cold compress is usually not effective once a patient has reached the 24-hour mark post surgery, but it is not harmful when used sparingly afterward.

Stay Elevated

This is another portion of breast lift before and after that requires a bit of planning. For the first few days after your breast lift, you’ll want to make sure that you sleep at an incline — somewhere between 25 and 45 degrees. This will help reduce your swelling and improve your circulation.

It is important to understand that swelling may increase for the first three days after surgery but may take several weeks to several months or even longer to resolve completely. Keeping elevated during sleep or rest may help improve swelling but will become less comfortable and less important over time.

Some patients find wedge pillows more reliable and more comfortable than standard bed pillows, but even couch pillows may be used to prop the upper part of the body while sleeping.

Discuss Pain Management Beforehand

Pain management is a very personal topic because no two people’s pain is the same. Before your procedure, make sure to discuss pain management with your surgeon. Sometimes, part of a breast lift plan involves prescription medication to handle discomfort and pain during recovery.

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Handling Breast Lift Scars

The incision pattern of breast lift surgery will cause some scarring. The locations of the incisions may vary and this matter should be discussed with you before the procedure so you are prepared.

Keep in mind that your surgeon should always try to use the minimum amount of incisions that will ensure an attractive outcome and will try to hide incision lines within the crease of your breast, but that is not always possible.

The most common incision patterns for a breast lift include incisions around the areola, down from the areola to the crease of the breast, and horizontally along the crease. Immediately after surgery, your incision lines will likely seem to be far more prominent than they will become later on. As you heal, they will become less apparent and like all scars, will fade over time.

That being said, there are some things you can do to improve the appearance of your scars, both immediately after surgery and once your incisions have closed.

Don’t Smoke

For the best results after surgery, you need to avoid tobacco at least two weeks before and after your breast lift. Even one cigarette per day may have an effect on healing.

Smoking can lead to poor scar healing or higher incidence of infection, making breast incision lines more prominent.  A major part of your breast lift before and after planning should be to quit smoking.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s also important to make sure that you’re providing your body with proper nutrition. During your recovery period, make sure that you’re taking a multi-vitamin and eating a well-balanced diet.

Avoid Tanning

Exposure to the sun can cause your scars to darken. Make sure that once your incisions have closed that you wear sunscreen over them. This will make sure that your scars stay on track to fade and don’t worsen.

OTC Scar Treatments

There are a variety of scar treatments on the market that can be used once your incisions have healed. While it may be tempting, you never want to use any creams or gels not prescribed by your doctor before your incisions have healed.

Many patients report good success using silicone gels and sheets to reduce the appearance of their breast lift scars. These products work on all sorts of scars, not just breast surgery scars, by reducing their size and helping them to fade.

Specialized Bras for Breast Lift Recovery

Specialized bras are not necessary for breast lift recovery. A surgical bra will be placed on you during surgery, but it may not be the most comfortable support system for you. It is important to have mild compression and support in the early phases of recovery. However, this does not mean that you cannot adjust or exchange the surgical bra if it is uncomfortable.

Most women will wear the surgical bra until the first shower on the second postoperative day. This bra may be washed at this time and replaced or you may substitute any comfortable bra without an underwire. The most appropriate garments are sports bras that have a front closure and wide straps.

Some women feel better with a lot of support, some prefer minimal structure to the bra. There are as many bras as there are body types and sometimes you may need to try several before you find the right fit.

Do not plan on spending a lot on these first stage bras; the appropriate size bra will change as the breasts heal and swelling decreases. Because a lift often does not alter the size of the breast, you may be able to fit in the bras that you already own.

Patients may return to wearing bras with underwires but not until cleared by the surgeon. While the underwire may never be necessary for support, many women will eventually wear them selectively or on occasion for the style.

Exercising After Breast Lift Surgery

Many patients find it difficult to give up their daily run, however, it’s incredibly important that you cease any strenuous activity for a period of time after your procedure. In order to get the best breast lift results, you need to allow your body to heal. Exercise and other high-intensity activities can cause damage to the surgical site and increase swelling.

You and your doctor will put together a plan to help guide you through recovery and back to your daily activities. Everyone’s recovery plan is different but typically you should be able to be back to full activity within four to six weeks.

There are some exercises you may be able to do however almost immediately, for instance, exercise on a stationary bicycle.

We’ve created a rough timeline to give you an idea of what activity levels are generally acceptable during your recovery. Remember these are just guidelines and are not specific to you. You should speak with your Bergen County surgeon about a specialized plan.

One Week Following Breast Lift Surgery

During the first week, it’s incredibly important to take it easy. But as you feel better, you can start introducing light activity, such as short walks or office work. Do not limit the motion in your shoulders and arms but be informed by how your body feels and do as much as you can without pushing.

Two to Four Weeks Following Breast Lift Surgery

Depending on how you feel, you can go back to the gym but should avoid any impact exercise. During this period consider using a recumbent bike or the elliptical. This will reduce the amount of stress the activity puts on your surgical site, while still allowing you to workout.

Four to Six Weeks Following Breast Lift Surgery

After four weeks you should be able to resume full activity but make sure to ease back into your routine. Rather than immediately going for a five-mile run, take a much shorter run and see how you feel the next day. It’s not uncommon for people to overestimate how they’re feeling post-surgery, as much of the healing is internal.

This is something that’s extremely important to go over with your doctor. Everyone heals differently and while you may want to get back to your regular activities as soon as possible, you also want to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself in the process.

The Breast Lift Recovery Process

Sometimes, it’s best not to look at your recovery as a period, but a process. Preparing for the before and after of a breast lift is just as important as the procedure itself. Trying to shorten your recovery is only going to leave you less satisfied.

This is why it’s crucial to consider the before and after of breast lifts when trying to decide if the procedure is right for you. In order for the process to go smoothly, all aspects need to be looked at– preparation, the surgery itself and recovery.

By giving yourself the information you need to make an informed decision, you can enhance your experience and your results. Don’t rush– make sure that you are ready to decide, have found the breast lift surgeon that’s right for you and that you know what to expect.

Here at Cohen/Winters, we recognize that the dynamic between patient and doctor is a partnership. Finding the right patient is just as important to us as finding the right doctor is to you. If you have any more questions about breast lifts please contact us or visit our Bergen County office so that we can help you make the decision that’s right for you.

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Dr. Cohen

About Dr. Cohen

Dr. Cohen specializes in breast lifts, augmentations, revisions and reductions as well as breast cancer reconstructions. A long time dream of Dr. Cohen’s was to travel to developing countries and provide expert surgical care to those who have no other possible access to medical care. This became a reality in 2007 when she became a founding member and Vice President of ISMS Operation Kids.