Breast reconstruction surgery typically follows mastectomy, or the removal of a breast, and rebuilds the breast. Reconstructive surgery may be done at the same time as the mastectomy or somewhat later. Recovery from breast reconstruction and post-care recommendations vary depending upon the type of surgery you choose. You should always follow your surgeon's recommendations; however, these guidelines may help you understand when to wear a bra, particularly after the early stages of recovery.
Immediately After Surgery
When you come home from the hospital after reconstructive surgery, your surgeon will provide specific instructions to let you know whether you need to wear your bra at night. In many cases, you will be sent home with a surgical compression bra that supports not only the reconstructed breasts, but also allows space for surgical drains. Compression bras should be worn at all times, except while showering. Some surgeons prefer you wear a soft, non-underwire sports bra following reconstruction, and may want you to wear your bra both day and night for the first three months. While less common, some surgeons may encourage you to go braless during your recovery to create a more natural appearance to the reconstructed breast.
After You're Healed
Once your incisions have healed, typically after three months, the decision to wear a bra at night is yours. If you're still experiencing post-surgical tenderness or are undergoing radiation treatment, a soft bra may reduce movement and discomfort at night. You may also be more comfortable in a bra at night if you're large-busted or if you've opted for a larger size following reconstruction than you were used to prior to surgery.
Choosing a Post-Surgical Bra
If your surgeon recommends a sports bra or a non-underwire bra for day and night wear following surgery, choose a bra style with a hook and eye closure, rather than a pullover style. Schedule a bra fitting prior to your surgery, but purchase a bra one band size larger, so if you require a 34C, buy a 36C for day and night wear. Your bra should fit well enough to support your breasts, but allow for post-surgical swelling. Opt for soft fabrics, and avoid bras with lace or other scratchy details.
If you prefer to wear a bra at night following surgical recovery and healing, choose a soft sleep bra, rather than a traditional sports bra or structured soft-cup bra. Sleep bras provide some support, without binding or causing discomfort. Choose a shelf-style bra top or a crossover style sleep bra for support at night. You can even find sleepwear with built-in sleep bras for nighttime comfort and support following surgical breast reconstruction.