The Ultimate Guide to a Breast Reduction: Prepping for Surgery
You’ve scheduled your surgery and are on your way to light-chested freedom…now what?
The weeks leading up to your operation—the pre-op weeks—are a time to prepare yourself, your home, and your family for the hour, days, and weeks after your surgery. We know you’re nervous, but all you need to do is follow this guide to be on your way to your best you.
There are ways to make your recovery happier, healthier, and easier for your body. Think about it: your body is about to go through trauma. It is only fair that you give it the best tools as possible to fight its battle toward recovery.
First, here’s what not to do…
Don’t smoke. Smoking reduces blood flow and can stunt the healing process as your veins work to put themselves back together and return circulation to your new breasts.
Stay away from cayenne, ginger, garlic, melatonin, and St. John’s Wort among other things found on this extensive list. You should also stop any medication or supplements (like weight-loss supplements) that might affect blood pressure. Advil, fish oil, aspirin, and Vitamin E thin blood—stay away! Warning: stay away from ibuprofen two weeks before surgery and after surgery—it interferes with healing and/or can cause bleeding.
Make sure you’ve told your doctor about any medications or vitamin and mineral regimens you are on. You never know what might interfere or affect your surgery or recovery! For instance, I know someone who had been taking Accutane for hormonal acne and had to push her surgery out for a couple of months because it might have affected her healing process. Hormonal birth control should be noted as well. You never know—so be honest!
Now, what to do…
You’re going to want to give your body the best opportunity to go about the difficult work of reattaching nerves, stopping excessive bleeding, and rebuilding at the incision site. So, pack your body full of nutrients.
Take a generic multi-vitamin to make sure you aren’t lacking in any essential minerals that might impede recovery.
Take supplements. This is a great list that explains what supplements you should take and what purpose they serve.
We highly recommend getting yourself a bottle of arnica. It helps with swelling and bruising. Continue taking it after surgery as well.
Bromelain is an anti-swelling agent. Start taking it a couple of days before surgery and continue after surgery.
Calcium and magnesium are your friends!
A couple of weeks out from surgery (two at the least), you will want to start washing your body with soap that helps reduce germs. This is just another way to help stave off infection in your wounds. Dial, Lever 2000, and Safeguard are all great options.
If you want to take your healing to a whole new level, a detox is a great way to help your body reach peak potential. This is not a restrictive detox meant for losing weight—rather, this detox is meant to help you get rid of any chemical buildup that may impede recovery and will prime you to better process anesthesia which can leave you nauseous. Star four to two weeks out from surgery.
Eat more lean protein. That means lean ground beef, chicken breasts, beans and lentils, low-fat dairy, eggs, and nuts.
Up that fiber intake! That means whole grains, brown rice, butter-free popcorn, berries, green veggies, and oatmeal. If it suits you, take fiber supplements and probiotics to help your liver rev-up.
Avoid the processed carbs and sugary treats. Complex carbs are your friend!
Drink more water. This might not be something that you already do, but now if a perfect time to start a new habit…in the name of your reduction! Most doctors and nutritionists suggest drinking two quarts of water per day. Try to up that. Buy yourself a cheap reusable water bottle and vow to carry it around wherever you go. At first, it might be hard to get yourself to drink water, but soon your body will crave it all the time.
Exercise. Walking, yoga, and light stretching all count.
A week before surgery, stop drinking alcohol.
Let your doctor know if you start to come down with something.
The Night Before
You may be nervous…that is completely natural and completely okay. If you have followed this guide, then you can at least find comfort in knowing that you have done the best you could have with prepping your body for what is to come.
Spend the night relaxing. Rent a movie, wear your jammies, drink water and try to head to bed early.
As with any surgery, don’t drink anything (even water) after midnight. Don’t put anything in your mouth at all after midnight and the morning of surgery. Yes, you can brush your teeth but be careful not to drink anything.
Take a shower with your disinfecting soap the night before and the morning of. You might not get the chance to shampoo your hair for a couple of days, so shampoo your hair the morning of surgery.
Don’t put on deodorant, makeup, lotions, or anything the morning of. Wear your glasses instead of contacts.
Wear comfy clothes. This is the most important part: don’t wear anything that you will have to pull over your head. This means front clasping bras and shirts or sweatshirts that zip or button down the front. We recommend wearing those ugly airplane compression socks to keep the blood flowing in your legs while you are in surgery.
Don’t wear any jewelry at all and remove any earrings/piercings you may have.
Finally, smile…your life is about to get a whole lot better!
Prep Your Home
Your body is ready for surgery—let’s make your home ready too.
Fill all your prescriptions well in advance of your surgery. You’re going to need them…especially those pain medications and muscle relaxers. Your surgeon should give you the list of pills and medications well in advance of your surgery. If he or she has not, call into the office and have them send the prescriptions to a pharmacy near you. Also, be sure to keep other, milder pain meds like Tylenol nearby for when you start gradually getting yourself off the harder medications. Stay away from Advil because of the blood-thinning qualities of the drug.
A great way to make your life much easier post-surgery is to organize your medications into a pillbox or baggies so that you know what to take and when. You will be very sore, so opening pill bottles will be painful. You will be groggy, you will be a little out of it, and you are going to want your supplies when you want them. Make life easier for yourself by having everything pre-planned and easy to grab for your convenience.
On that note—stock anything that you will need access to on a waist-level surface. If you have to feed your cat, make sure her canned food is within reach. If you plan to drink a dozen red Gatorades a day, place them on a low shelf in the fridge. If you think you’ll need extra blankets and towels, stack them on a chair in your bedroom.
Ice-packs will be your friends. Buy ice-packs that conform to the body. Funny enough, frozen peas are a great option!
Stock your kitchen full of straws for drinking all those fluids. Buy foods that are easy on the stomach, and that will help with nausea. Ginger Ale, bananas, crackers….flu foods will do.
Keep a trashcan nearby if you are feeling nauseous.
Prep Your Family, Friends, or Caretaker
You may be superwoman, but the hours and days after surgery, you’re going to need some help. Make sure you have planned for a family member, friend, caretaker to drive you home post-op. Your doctor will not let you go home in a taxi, Uber or Lyft…so plan accordingly!
Whoever drives you home should bring a pillow to put between your chest and the seatbelt…the pressure may cause pain.
If you can, try to plan to have someone stay with you for at least twenty-four hours after surgery. Those hours are critical as complications may arise, and we don’t want you stranded.
Some women choose to check themselves into a surgery rehabilitation clinic for a day or two. There, nurses administer meds, keep you clean, change bandages, and make sure you are eating and staying hydrated. If you can afford this option (it is pricey), it is a great way to reduce post-op stress.
Make sure your caretaker knows that the effects of anesthesia could last for up to twenty-four hours. That means they shouldn’t let you drive, operate heavy machinery, or basically do anything by yourself outside the house.
Have a conversation with your loved ones about your expectations as you heal. You may need assistance with simple daily tasks like grabbing the mail, walking the dog, or grocery shopping. Make arrangements with them so that your caretakers cover all your bases.
Finally, celebrate them and celebrate yourself. This is a good thing, and you should be able to feel good about your decision. It’s you, just new.
You are now ready for your surgery; we are so happy for you!
Credit to Dr. Chiu for some of the pre-op suggestions!