Undergoing breast reconstruction is a big decision, and it’s helpful to know what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
The surgery is just the first step in your journey, and your healing is a highly unique experience that is influenced by many factors, including the type and timing of breast reconstruction you have.
Your doctor will provide you with specific aftercare instructions, but in general, these are the follow-up steps you can expect after your breast reconstruction surgery.
Immediately After Your Surgery
In the hours and days after your surgery, your incisions will be bandaged and you may also need temporary drains placed under the skin to allow excess fluid to drain away. To support your reconstructed breast and reduce swelling, you will be given special garments to wear.
It’s normal to experience some pain and discomfort at first, but it will improve with time. Pain medication may be prescribed if necessary.
Most patients can start going back to their normal activities about two weeks after their surgery but full recovery usually takes a few months.
Additional Procedures That May Be Needed
Breast reconstruction often happens in stages and requires a series of procedures, with down time between each one. For example, breast reconstruction that includes a breast implant typically requires an initial surgery to place a tissue expander before a second surgery to insert the breast implant. Follow-up procedures may also be needed to replace damaged or ruptured implants.
Other procedures are also available that enhance the symmetry of the breasts and create more natural-looking results. These include:
- Nipple reconstruction
- Tattooing on the reconstructed breast
- Breast reduction
- Breast lift to achieve balance between both breasts
It’s important to take all of these factors into consideration when deciding if breast reconstruction is for you.
Emotional Impact of Breast Reconstruction
Preparing for the emotional impact of breast reconstruction is just as important as preparing for the physical outcomes.
Many women find that breast reconstruction brings up difficult emotions and that they require some time to adjust to the new look and feel of their bodies. Give yourself time to process these emotions. You may also wish to seek mental health support and counseling to help you navigate your post-surgery experience.