Contributing Plastic Surgeon: Dr. W. Grant Stevens, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Medical Director of Marina Plastic Surgery Associates, Los Angeles, CA
Before a woman is ready to have breast implant surgery, she has a lot of decisions to make. Some choices are simple and some are complicated. Here are just a few of the things she has on her mind when planning her augmentation:
- Picking a certified and skilled plastic surgeon
- Choosing the size and shape of her implants
- Figuring out what type of insertion procedure she wants
- Getting a handle on how to pay for the operation
- Scheduling time off work for recovery
- Arranging childcare if she has kids
But one of the most important choices facing a patient is who to trust to take care of her after surgery. Those first days can be really hard – physically and emotionally. Following post-op instructions carefully is vital for a good recovery; and she can’t do it all alone. If you are the partner, friend, or family member who has agreed to provide care during your loved one’s recovery, you are about to witness some wild ups and downs. Breast enlargement surgeons sometimes describe this stage as being like an emotional roller coaster ride. This “ride” typically has several stages. Knowing about these in advance can help you keep calm and steady when the going gets rough.
Phase 1 – Out of It
The swelling and physical discomfort is most severe over the first few days after breast implant surgery. The amount of pain varies from one patient to the next, but you can expect your loved one to be feeling pretty zoned out and exhausted during this time from a combination of surgery and pain medication. Besides being there to monitor for potential complications and to provide help with physical tasks, you will need to do a lot of hand holding and soothing.
Phase 2 – Mood Swings
Once your loved one starts becoming alert and awake again, the real emotional work begins. Someone who has just had breast augmentation must adjust to an abrupt change in how her body looks and feels. With all the bruising, swelling, and stitches, her breasts aren’t going to be looking their best yet. Mood swings ranging from sad to angry to irritated are normal.
She may start freaking out and asking “What have I done to myself?” You may actually want to plan some responses to these situations. For example, if she starts second guessing her choice to get breast implants, you can say something supportive like “You did a very thorough job researching the procedure and picking a great surgeon. I trust you to make good decisions for yourself and I’m sure this will turn out to be one of them.”
Phase 3 – Getting on Each Other’s Nerves
The next phase may be even more difficult to deal with. This is when your loved one may start criticizing you and becoming just generally impatient. Coping with complaining when you’ve been so supportive this whole time may just seem like too much. She may blame you for not talking her out of getting breast implant surgery. Or, she may gripe about wishing this whole recovery phase was over with so that she could just get on with her life and start enjoying the outcome of her surgery.
Be aware that her responses during this time are often driven by fear and discomfort, not meanness. She may also be feeling useless if she’s normally very independent and used to being the one who takes care of herself and others. Still, by the end of the first week, you may be ready to throw up your hands. That’s why it’s a really good plan to have a second support person who can come in and give you a break. You need some time to unwind.
Phase 4 – Nitpicky
During the second week, your loved one will probably be feeling a lot better. The swelling will be subsiding and the stitches will be gone. So, she may start looking at her new breasts critically and worrying about symmetry, incision scars, etc. She’s been through a lot; it’s normal for her to wonder if she “got her money’s worth” from the procedure. Don’t feel like you should be able to answer questions about what’s normal or not normal about how her breasts look and feel during recovery. Those questions are best answered by breast enlargement surgeons – not caregivers. Just be patient with these recurring conversations and let her know that you think she looks fine. Eventually, she’ll realize that she does.
Phase 5 – Showing Off
This can be the fun part. Around week 3 or so, your loved one will probably start liking how she looks and feels. She may be in the mood to do some clothes shopping for her new figure. This is the ideal time to hint that a “caregiver appreciation gift” would be appropriate!