When some people think about improving the appearance of their breasts, they think about an increase in size. But for many women, the opposite is true. They are seeking a breast reduction to alleviate pain, improve their posture, and enhance their body shape. For women who feel that their breasts are too large, a breast reduction can result in:
- Reduced pain in the neck, back, and shoulders
- Fewer skin issues like bra-strap indents and rashes under the breasts
- Increased confidence when wearing fitted clothes
- Ability to wear more types of tops and swim suits
- More comfort when exercising
- Enhancements to overall silhouette and a more youthful body shape
It’s important to note that although we generally refer to women when we talk about breast reduction surgery, men can also have a type of breast reduction. Some men have excess tissue in the breast area, which is a condition known as gynecomastia. Although sometimes medical treatment can reduce this excess tissue, often men with gynecomastia have surgery to correction this condition.
If you’re considering a breast reduction, you’re likely wondering what to expect after that breast reduction surgery. What will the breast reduction recovery be like? We’ll answer many of the frequently asked questions our patients have about what happens after a breast reduction.
When will I go home after breast reduction surgery?
In many cases we can perform breast reduction as what’s called an “outpatient procedure”. This means you’ll be able to go home the same day. You will be sleepy from the surgery, and will need a friend or relative to drive you home.
What can I expect during my recovery?
- The day after breast reduction surgery you can expect to be sleepy and have some discomfort, but should not have severe pain. We will talk to you about what pain medication will best keep you comfortable during this first phase of recovery. You’ll be wearing bandages and/or support garments, and we’ll ask you to refrain from lifting. You should prepare to stay home from work, and to have help around the house as much as possible.
- The week after breast reduction surgery you will still be feeling swollen and somewhat uncomfortable from your operation. As this week goes on you’ll likely be able to reduce any prescription pain medication. You should be resting at home, with minimal activity other than walking. Slow walks are good for recovery and the healing process. We’ll ask you to be on the lookout for any signs of infection like a fever or unexpected discharge from your incision sites, and to call us right away with any concerns.
- The second week after breast reduction surgery you may be able to return to work. This is especially true if you have a job that does not require much physical movement. If your job involves lifting or stretching frequently, we may recommend you take 2 or even 3 weeks off work to recover. Although you’ll still feel swollen, the discomfort should be starting to subside. It is normal to feel more weak or tired than usual, since your body is healing from surgery. You should still not be lifting anything heavy, including small children, cat litter, a vacuum cleaner, or bags of groceries.
- The third and fourth week after breast reduction surgery, you should be feeling more like your ‘old’ self. Your energy should be slowly returning, and most people are feeling more comfortable. The majority of patients are back to work or their daily routines by this time. Do not worry if you still have some amount of swelling. This can take months to fully subside.
When can I drive after breast reduction surgery?
When you can drive after breast reduction surgery depends partly on what pain medications you are taking, and when you stop taking them. You need to be done with prescription pain medications before you drive, since they can make you sleepy. If there are any other restrictions on driving, we will tell you about those before your operation.
After breast reduction, will I need to wear a special bra?
Yes. We generally ask patients to wear bandages or compression garments for the healing process during recovery from breast reduction surgery. After you’re completely healed you’ll be able to wear a normal bra, but the support garments are important during this early phase after surgery.
Will I need to take strong pain medication after breast reduction surgery?
and we’ll tell you what we think is the most effective option for you. Pain medicines can cause constipation, so remember to drink plenty of fluids and try to eat foods high in fiber. You can also purchase a stool softener if you find that you’re uncomfortable. If the pain medicine you’re taking makes your stomach feel upset, please let us know and we can adjust your medication or give you tips on when and how to take it. In general, you should take the least amount of pain medication you need, and decrease the amount when possible.
Will I need drains after breast reduction surgery?
Some patients do have drains after breast reduction surgery. In most cases we take these out after about a week. Since every case is different, we will give you details on the use of drains when you come in for a consultation.
How long will I have swelling after breast reduction surgery?
Swelling after breast reduction surgery is normal, and is often noticeable for longer than any discomfort or bruising. You can expect to see notable swelling for a few weeks, and mild swelling for as long as a few months after your surgery. As your body heals, the swelling will diminish and you’ll be able to see the true results of your breast reduction surgery.
FAQs about returning to ‘normal life’ after breast reduction
After breast reduction surgery, how soon can I shower?
Some surgeons allow patients to shower a day after surgery, and some ask you to wait until your drains have been removed. Since this is a personal recommendation made on a case-by-case basis, please ask your surgeon for individualized instructions about what to expect with showering after breast reduction surgery.
After breast reduction surgery do I need to sleep in a specific position?
We may ask you to sleep on your back and slightly propped up during the beginning of your recovery period. This can help to alleviate swelling. Depending on your particular case, we may have different sleep position recommendations for you. We will go over these with you at your pre-surgical consultation.
How long will I be out of work after breast reduction surgery?
Some people are able to return to work after 1 week of recovery time, but some people need 2 or even 3 weeks. This depends heavily on what type of work you do. If your work involves sitting with minimal movement and no lifting, you’ll likely be able to return to work more quickly. If your job involves heavy lifting, or a lot of arm movement, we may recommend you take more time off work.
When can I begin exercising after breast reduction surgery?
You can begin taking short walks as soon as you’re ready. Even from day 1 after your surgery, walking can be beneficial to the healing process. Each day, walk for slightly longer if you feel up to it. You can expect after breast reduction surgery that you’ll need to refrain from any strenuous cardio exercise, stretching, or lifting until your doctor has given you the ‘ok’ to go back to these types of activities. It could be a month or two before you’ll be back to your previous exercise levels.
What can I do before my breast reduction surgery to make recovery easier?
Before your surgery, there are a few things you can do to make recovery easier. These include:
- Arrange for help around the house, especially if you have small children
- Have healthy food ready in the freezer so you don’t have to worry about prepping meals.
- Make sure to ask your doctor before surgery about what to expect in terms of medications. Will you be picking up a prescription for a pain reliever? When will you stop and resume taking your regular medications? Having these instructions written out before the day of surgery will make your recovery time easier.
- Keep your cell phone and charger close by, so you can call us with questions.
- Ask your job for enough time off work so that you’ll be able to recover sufficiently.
- Arrange for someone who is willing and able to run errands for you, until you’re able to drive again.
- Make sure you have plenty of water, tea, or whatever liquids you like to drink. Staying hydrated and healthy during recovery can help your body heal more quickly.
Breast reduction surgery can reduce pain, make moving around easier, and greatly improve confidence in and out of clothing. Please contact us with questions if you’re considering breast reduction surgery. We’d be happy to explain any portion of the process, and answer your questions about what to expect after a breast reduction. Learn more about our breast reduction in Seattle here or our breast reduction in Los Angeles here. We also provide breast reduction in our Fresno, Orange County and Portland offices.