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Question of the week: what is an abdominoplasty and breast augmentation recovery like?

Pregnancy has left me with empty, excess skin on my breasts and loose skin on my tummy, as well as back pain and pelvic floor issues.

I’ve wanted to have plastic surgery for years, but am worried about the recovery and being out of action at home and work for a long time.

What will I be able to do, and when, after the surgery?

- patient

mummy makeover surgery
Deborah Seib-Daniell

Postoperative Care Nurse Deborah:

A combined postpartum abdominoplasty and breast augmentation typically involving breast implants being inserted (with or without a mastopexy – breast lift – depending on the degree of ptosis you have), along with abdominal muscle repair. The recovery process can vary depending on a patient’s health, diet, support from family or friends, adherence of postoperative instructions and pain threshold. You won’t be able to do much for the first two weeks, during which time your most strenuous activity will be attending your post op appointments or LED light based healing therapy sessions in our clinics. So plan to rest up – no matter how good you might feel, or how much your work or family needs you.

Most of the patients I care for postoperatively are women who have mastered the art of managing a busy life, children, household, study or career.  So, when they are forced to stop and recuperate following surgery, it can be a challenge! Good planning and managing your self-expectations and mental wellbeing before your surgery is key.

Pictured above: before and 3 months after abdominoplasty, mastopexy and breast augmentation with Dr Sharp. Photos show the early stages of the 24 month scarring process. 

So how to prepare for this downtime? Prior to your surgery several things should be taken into consideration to allow yourself the best possible recovery.

1. At your preoperative appointment you will receive a copy of your post operative instructions, so you can begin to plan for your recovery and the restrictions that will need to be in place. If possible, we recommend having a nominated support person (ideally, whoever will be picking you up from hospital or staying with you in the days following your surgery) attend this appointment, so they have an opportunity to ask Dr Sharp and your patient liaison any questions about the assistance you will need.

2. If appropriate, have a conversation with your household members, using your post operative instructions to explain your recovery, movement restrictions and rest requirements. You might need a team of people, rather than just one person, covering all of your normal tasks during the first two or three weeks.

3. After your surgery, you will be unable to lift anything over 2kgs with your arms (for breast surgery) or abdominal muscles (for tummy tuck surgery) for six weeks – that includes babies, so make sure someone will be there to get them in and out of cots, car seats or highchairs. If you won’t have someone with you for the full time of your recovery, then consider how you can implement new sleeping or dinnertime arrangements, so that no lifting is required.

4. For the first two weeks following surgery, you will need complete rest. Your showers, toileting and walking slowly around your home or attending your post op appointment will be the most active of your daily activities! This means no vacuuming, sweeping, grocery shopping, clothes washing, making beds, or tidying the house.

5. If you are normally the one to prepare meals for your household, consider reallocating this task to another family member. If this isn’t possible, meal prep prior to surgery – or opt for a nutrient-rich home delivery meal service (look for fresh, leafy vegetables and fibre to support your recovery).

Online grocery shopping and delivery is easy to set up and the groceries are caried into your kitchen for you.

6. If budget allows, a weekly cleaning service can be engaged for the first six weeks – some patients have mentioned to me that they have factored this into their overall surgery budget, which is a great idea. This way, they are not tempted to vacuum or wipe down the bathrooms.

7. You will have restrictive post-operative surgical garments that you are required to wear for the six weeks after surgery.

Factor these into your work attire or clothes you might want to wear for upcoming events or special occasions.

Also consider your current wardrobe and if you have comfortable loose clothes, such as button up oversized shirts, loose fitting pants, or dresses.

8. During this time you may want to undertake manual lymphatic drainage sessions with a qualified practitioner at home, and take advantage of post operative LED sessions in clinic, both of which can help with swelling, bruising and overall recovery.

Pictured: before and 3 months after abdominoplasty, mastopexy and breast augmentation with Dr Sharp. 

breast and abdominal surgery
mummy makeover surgeon

Returning to normal activities after the two-week mark following your surgery will be dependent on your healing.

If your drains have been removed, gentle strolling can be recommenced at this stage, and a slow increase in your activities can be implemented.

Engaging in vigorous sexual activity is not recommended for six weeks following your surgery. This may need to be a conversation you have with your partner.

Most patients with sedentary/desk work return after two or three weeks. Jobs that involve lifting or physical activity can resume after this time as well, but with agreed ‘light duties’ or restricted tasks.

You may also find it beneficial to pre-book some lymphatic drainage massage sessions from 1 week post op onwards.

Pictured: before and 3 months after abdominoplasty and breast lift with Dr Sharp. Photos show the early stages of the 24 month scarring process. 


What happens if I don’t adhere to post operative recovery recommendations?

This surgery is a big investment of time and money, so most patients plan ahead and ensure that they follow post op instructions to get the best possible results. However, every year, we do see patients with postoperative complications, due to overdoing it with household tasks or returning to normal activities too soon. They usually felt well and didn’t realise that their suture lines were still fragile – or swelling and seromas could be induced by too much early activity.

These complications can cause unfavourable scarring, infection, drain replacement or even revision surgery.

Six weeks sounds like a long time, but a lot of changes and adaptions are happening during this time; your recovery will be over before you know it, so try and enjoy this rare time out.

Plan to catch up on the books or Netflix episodes you never usually have the time for.

All procedures carry benefits, risks and a recovery period. To learn more click here. 

To read about our clinical team’s credentials, click here.

Ask us your postpartum abdominal and breast surgery questions!

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