How Long is Breast Implants Recovery Time?

I am a phys ed teacher and would like to get breast implants. I want a very natural look and do not want anyone to know. I am afraid that if I take additional vacation time either before or after winter or spring break, everyone will notice. Is it possible to be back to work after only a week of recovery?

Doctor Answers 173

Recovery after Breast Augmentation

Dear Geneseo,
Thank you for your post. There are a lot of variables to account for after breast augmentation and what to expect in the recovery process. The following is an outline based on some of these variables:

1. Pain: In general, breast augmentation is tolerated very well. When the implant is placed sub-facial or sub-glandular, i.e. above the muscle, there is very little pain post-operative. The muscle is left in place and in general, when I perform this technique, women have surgery on Friday, and are back to work (as long as they are not lifting heavy objects) on Monday. When the implant is placed sub-muscular, then there more pain and soreness as the muscle has been elevated which is similiar to having a pulled or torn muscle. This creates more swelling and takes longer to heal. In these case, most women take at least a week off of work.

2. Swelling and Size: It is very common to be about a size bigger right after surgery than what your final result will be. Swelling starts to occur right after surgery and tends to peak in the first week. After about a month you will have lost most of the swelling, but still not completely at baseline. After about another 3 months or so, you will have lost 99% of your swelling, but still have a pretty good idea of your final size at 1 month. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on bras until 3 months though, as they might not fit perfectly after all the swelling goes away. Also, the more activity you have, the longer the swelling stays, the more that needs to be done as far as lift etc. with surgery, the longer your swelling stays. As stated above, going below the muscle tends to produce more swelling and lasts for longer.

3. Scars: The natural healing process undergoes multiple phases, but in general, the first phase is the inflamatory phase were any scar will be firmer and may turn red or darker initially. This tends to last for 3 months. After this phase is the resolution phase where the scar inflammation goes away and all scars will be at their baseline at 1 year. The scars are mostly at their baseline at 6 months. The scars should be minimal if placed well, and sutured properly. I also like to protect the scars from stretching or widening in the first few months with surgical skin tape. The incision will be weak at first and susceptible to stretch or widening.

4. Massage: Your doctor may recommend early or late massage, depending on what is trying to be accomplished. In general, early massage is to manipulate a high implant or stretch a constricted area, such as in tubular breast syndrome, and late massage is to help fight capsular contraction. Search 'Breast Massage' to find my recommendations on this.

5. Exercise: In general, I ask my patients to keep away from aerobic activities in the first 2 weeks following surgery. Increased activity can increase swelling and hyper-swelling can cause stretch marks. Following this, 'non-bouncing' aerobic activity is fine, such as speed walking or cycling, but would like to keep the implants from moving too much until the capsule that forms around the implant has a chance to heal and become stronger. At 6 weeks, I clear any type of activity.

6. Infection: Infection after augmentation is very rare. Most surgeon give post-operative antibiotics to help protect you from infection.

7. Hematoma/Seroma: These are also very rare after augmentation. If the pocket for the implant that is made during surgery is a hand in glove fit, then there is very little room for any fluid to collect. It is important that the surgical pocket be free of any bleeding prior to closure to keep a hematoma from happening. If a hematoma does occur, it is important to drain the hematoma to prevent capsular contraction.

8. Sleeping: I ask women to sleep on their backs with their post-operative bra on after surgery to keep the implants in their proper position until the capsule that forms around the implant has a chance to heal.

I hope this has answered most of your post-operative questions.

Best Wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD


Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Breast Implant Recovery

The recovery from subpectoral breast augmentation used to be a rather unpleasant experience, but it no longer has to be. A space for the implant must be developed behind the pectoralis major, and a portion of the muscle's inferior origin must be released. Surgery on a muscle in most cases produces significant postoperative pain, and that is certainly true for breast augmentation. However, by using a local anesthetic infusion device (the On-Q 'Pain Buster') for the first two to three days after surgery, the pain associated with this procedure can be reduced quite dramatically.
While breast augmentation patients in this practice receive a prescription for a mild narcotic pain medication for use after surgery (just in case), most of them never take it. Most patients report little to no pain in the evening following surgery, and perhaps some mild discomfort on Postop day one and two. Patients can resume all normal, non-strenuous activities of daily living immediately after surgery, and can begin pec major range of motion exercises on the evening of their procedure.
Patients are seen in the office the day after surgery, and again on Friday for removal of the Go-Pump catheters (which is painless). Working patients usually return to work the Monday following the surgery; stay-at-home moms may need some help with toddlers for the first two to three days after surgery. Exercise is limited to walking only for the first two weeks; in weeks three and four some light exercise is permissible. Patients can gradually increase their exercise/workout level in the second month (weeks five through eight), however it is a full eight weeks before patients are allowed to return to activities that require forceful, repetitive, sustained pec major contraction - such as pushups and heavy weight lifting. It is important to ensure that the breasts are well supported in snug fitting sports bra (or two) when returning to impact exercise such as running or aerobics.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 110 reviews

Stages of Recovery After Breast Augmentation: Do It Right!

I advise my patients to consider their recovery in stages:
  1. You will need full-time assistance for the first two days.
  2. If you have small children, plan to have someone else to be primarily responsible for their needs and care for 4 to 5 days.
  3. At 5 days, it's OK to start low impact exercise without raising your pulse above 90-100.
  4. Most women are able to resume the majority of their more sedentary, non-physical daily activities and (depending upon your job) return to work in 5-7 days.
  5. At 2 weeks, it's OK to get back to low impact cardio exercise.
  6. For the first 6 weeks after breast augmentation, I advise against any activity that involves:
    • high impact activity (like jumping, jogging, martial arts)
    • big arm swinging (like tennis, golf)
    • lifting more than 15-20 pounds
      • lifting your baby is OK if you do it with your elbows close to your chest
    • repetitive motions (sweeping, vacuuming, raking leaves)
A good operation can be undone by a bad recovery: take the time and plan to recover well!

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Breast implant recovery time

Dear Geneseo,
Most of my patients are back to work in 3-4 days, however most sit at a desk.  The majority of implants are placed partially under the pectoralis major muscle or in the subfascial plane. The recovery from implants placed over the muscle in the subfascial plane is faster.   I you can go back to work in a "light duty" capacity, or you control the workouts and can avoid having to demonstrate or perform any upper body workout or activities that make you chest bounce for that period of time, then you can consider doing it over winter or spring break. Best of luck. 

Time off after breast augmentation

Every person recovers at their own pace, but one week is generally plenty of time off of work. Given that you teach physical education you may have to modify your lesson plans depending on how "hands-on" your approach is- you'll want to avoid demonstrating any push-ups, pull-ups, or other chest exercises until you are fully recovered. In terms of worrying about everyone noticing you'd be surprised at what a supportive sports bra and a loose fitting shirt can conceal. Best of luck!

Meghan Nadeau, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Breast Implants, Breast Augmentation Recovery Time

Breast augmentation recovery with return to normal activity including driving takes about four days or less for 95% of my patients and three days or less for 85%.  I recommend that patients keep their heart rate under 100 for two weeks.  This keeps their blood pressure down and lessens the chance that they could have bleeding into the pocket after surgery. This seems to work since the incidence of bleeding or hematoma has been about 1/10th of one percent in the last 23 years. Sixty-five percent of patients have no bruising at all and another thirty percent have minimal or slight bruising.

Normal activity is defined as the ability to lift normal weight objects, raise your hands above your head sufficiently to wash your hair, and to drive. If you are a physical education teacher requiring aerobic activity you could certainly return to work, but I would advise against running around so much that your heart rate exceeds the rate of 100. You could have a period of brisk walking or similar activity, but followed by a rest so you stay at or under the 100 limit. This does not mean you would have a problem if you exceeded the limit, but as an arbitrary guideline, it seems to work.  Patients with office-type jobs usually go back to work in three or four days, as soon as they feel comfortable. For example, with surgery on Friday, patients would go back to work on Monday or Tuesday. Patients who have to use their arms a lot, like restaurant servers, usually take five to eight days off, sometimes longer.

After surgery, my patients are advised to lift their arms overhead five times an hour. We start them in the recovery room. This helps hasten recovery by stretching out the pectoralis muscle. They don't wear any special bras or have drains. Specific details of recovery can be found on my website. You should consult your own plastic surgeon for specific guidelines on when to return to work and return to any specific activity.

Robert M. Lowen, MD
Mountain View Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Breast Implant Recovery Time

I tell patients no heavy lifting for about 6 weeks.  The amount of pain depends on where the implant is placed above vs below the muscle.  Below tends to hurt more.  Also peoples pain thresholds are very different.  Overall patient recovery with breast augmentation is relatively quick.

Stephen M. Miller, MD
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Women often worry (unnecessarily) that everyone will notice after they have breast implants.

It seems students notice a lot about their teachers.  I have women in male-dominated professions who worry that the results of breast implants will be obvious and everyone will notice.  Usually this is not the case.  Women are often wearing padded bras before they have surgery.  One week off work is almost always sufficient for non-physical jobs.  Of course this applies to breast cup sizes up to about a C/D, which you probably don't want to exceed anyway as a phys. ed. teacher. I have attached a link in case you wish to read more.  It will take about a month before you can

Eric Swanson, MD
Kansas City Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 52 reviews

Recovery after breast implant surgery

Different people recover at different rates after breast implant surgery. I advise my patients to take it easy with no exercise or heavy lifting for at least 2 weeks after surgery. The pain/ discomfort after surgery is affected by how large an implant has been put in (the larger the implant, the more strain on the tissue and the increased chances of post operative pain).

One week off work is reasonable, but try to make sure that you are on "light duties" for the week after that.

Good luck with your surgery!

Breast Implant Recovery Time

What a great question.  Depending on your job description you may be able to return to work within a few days of your breast augmentation.  You will be given pain medication for your immediate post-operative time.  When you are no longer taking the pain medication you may drive.  I also instruct patients that there is no heavy lifting over 5-10 lbs for 4-6 weeks.  By placing the implant under the muscle will help you to achieve a more "natural" look and by choosing an implant that is appropriate to your body size.

Mark Deutsch, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.