Mommy Makeover Series: Tummy Tuck

Many new moms fall victim to the myths of post-partum diets. As enticing as the idea that you can get your old body back is, in reality, eating healthy and exercising will usually only get you halfway there. This routine together will help you shed fat, of course, but they won’t usually restore your abdominal region to its former tautness and firmness. As mom Erica Kain lamented to Health magazine, “My abdomen spills out over the top of my jeans despite the exercises I’m doing (and despite the precautions I’ve taken due to my abdominal separation). I’m down to a size 6, and the pregnancy weight is receding from the rest of my body. But this potbelly shows no signs of shrinking… The skin alone creates an impressive muffin top no matter what I do.”

Kain, like thousands of other women, discovered an irrefutable truth about life after childbirth: If you suffer from substantial skin laxity and damaged abdominal muscles, there’s no nonsurgical solution for your protruding abdomen. This doesn’t happen to every woman who has kids, of course—some lucky individuals make it through pregnancy with just a few stretch marks to show for it. But for many women, particularly older women and petite women, pregnancy wreaks some degree of havoc on the abdominal region. The solution? As Kain discovered, it’s something called a “mommy makeover.”

What is a Mommy Makeover?

The phrase “mommy makeover” is a catch-all term for a number of different procedures that are intended to restore a woman’s body to its pre-pregnancy size and shape. A mommy makeover is not meant to be a “weight loss surgery” (as in, you’ll still have to lose the bulk of your baby weight before undergoing surgery, as Kain did), but it will remove leftover subcutaneous fat deposits and lift, tone, and tighten multiple areas of the body. Depending on the patient’s needs, a mommy makeover will usually involve a breast lift and augmentation or reduction, a labiaplasty, liposuction, and a tummy tuck. Not all patients require all of these procedures, of course, but the tummy tuck is a central feature of the vast majority of mommy makeovers.

During tummy tuck surgery, a plastic surgeon will make a long incision along your bikini line. He or she will then reconnect the two lateral portions of your abdominal muscles if they have separated during pregnancy. This will allow these muscles to work in unison once again after you’ve healed, meaning that you’ll be able to tone them effectively via exercise. (Proper muscle compression will also prevent the “pot belly” effect that occurs when the abdominal tissue is not supported adequately by muscle.) Once this step is complete, the surgeon will reposition the skin of the abdomen so that the stomach is once again completely flat. Any loose skin will be removed, along with most of the stretch marks that are present.

Why is Having a Tummy Tuck Important for New Moms?

While most women seek out tummy tuck surgery for its aesthetic benefits, there are a number of medical reasons to have this procedure as well. Tummy tuck surgery can improve your health and overall quality of life in the following ways:

  1. Tummy tuck surgery will improve your posture and prevent back pain.

Our abdominal muscles do more than just make our stomachs look good—they’re also an essential support system for our lower back. When they’re damaged, the lower back tends to slowly curve inward, creating a painful condition known as “sway back.” This is one of the main reasons why women are more prone to lower back pain than men. Fortunately, by repairing damaged abdominal muscles, tummy tuck surgery can completely prevent this problem.

  1. Your surgeon can treat stress urinary incontinence during tummy tuck surgery.

Many women who have given birth vaginally suffer from an embarrassing condition known as stress urinary incontinence. Stress placed on the tissues around the bladder during childbirth causes them to loosen so that the bladder no longer maintains a proper “seal.” As a result, the patient may excrete a small amount of urine when she sneezes, laughs, etc.

If asked to do so, a plastic surgeon can place a small “bump” of tissue in a strategic location below the bladder. This will create enough resistance to prevent the bladder from leaking fluid at inappropriate times.

  1. Tummy tuck surgery will lower your risk of ventral hernia.

Ventral hernia is an extremely painful and sometimes dangerous condition in which the abdominal tissue protrudes through the abdominal wall. Women who have gone through pregnancy are at an increased risk of this condition, particularly if they also had a cesarean section (because this does additional damage to the muscles). Other issues that may lead to this condition include a past history of obesity and a prior appendectomy operation.

By repairing the abdominal muscles and ensuring that they properly compress the abdominal tissue, tummy tuck surgery can effectively lower the patient’s risk of ventral hernia. If you have had a ventral hernia in the past, make sure you discuss this with your surgeon so that he or she can optimize your tummy tuck operation for hernia prevention.

There are psychological benefits to having tummy tuck surgery as well, of course. Women who have a “mommy makeover” experience less guilt because they don’t feel as though they are resenting their children every time they mourn what pregnancy did to their bodies. They typically enjoy a healthier relationship with both their children and their spouse due to their improved confidence and sense of bodily autonomy. They may even enjoy better opportunities at work, either directly due to their improved physical appearance or because they’re more self-assured and assertive.

Additionally, research has shown that having a tummy tuck encourages women to maintain a healthy weight (and this is particularly true if they have a history of struggling with their weight). People who achieve the “ideal” body are understandably motivated to keep it. If, on the other hand, a person is stuck with a “muffin top” no matter how much she diets and exercises, the impetus to live a healthy lifestyle is greatly reduced.

Things to Consider Before Booking a Mommy Makeover Consultation

If you do decide to go ahead with tummy tuck surgery, you’ll need to do some “prep work” beforehand. This is because a tummy tuck is a major operation that typically requires at least a couple weeks of post-procedure bed rest.

Before having a tummy tuck, you’ll need to have a complete medical checkup to verify that you’re in good health. You’ll also need to wait at least 6 months after giving birth in order to let your abdominal region heal fully, and you’ll need to give up smoking (if you smoke) for three weeks before and after your surgery.

Many moms wait until their children are a bit older before having a mommy makeover because of the limits imposed by recovery. You won’t be able to lift more than 25 pounds until your surgeon verifies that your muscles have healed sufficiently. As such, childcare will be difficult for a period following your surgery.  However, if you can secure around the clock help with childcare duties, you can have a mommy makeover whenever you’re ready. Finally, it’s important to be aware that subsequent pregnancies will compromise the results of tummy tuck surgery, so it’s a good idea to have a complete mommy makeover only when you’re done having children. If this doesn’t work for you, however, know that it’s possible to have future revision surgeries. Talk to your surgeon about the pros and cons of having multiple mommy makeovers so that you can make a fully informed decision.

Tummy Tuck Recovery Tips

In addition to getting a nanny (or other acceptable caregiver) to help you look after your children, you should take the following steps to ensure a safe and comfortable recovery:

  1. Follow your surgeon’s instructions to the letter.

One of the biggest mistakes people make after having any invasive surgery is trying to resume their normal activities as soon as they “feel better.” Just being out of pain is not a sign that you’re ready to jump back into everyday life or engage in strenuous activities. After having a tummy tuck, your muscles will remain vulnerable to tearing even after a substantial amount of the post-surgical pain and swelling have subsided. It’s therefore extremely important to get the “go ahead” from your surgeon before you try exercising or lifting heavy objects again.

  1. Set up a rest area for yourself.

During the first few days after your surgery, any motion that twists or bends your abdomen is likely to cause pain or discomfort. As such, you should set up a comfortable rest area that has everything you’ll need within easy reach. First, place at least three pillows on your bed so that you can elevate your head and feet while you’re resting. Then, put any medication you take regularly beside your bed. Make sure you also have snacks, water, and device chargers within grasping range.

  1. Purchase soft but nutritious foods.

Many patients find that eating solid food is uncomfortable for about a week after having surgery. You’ll therefore want to have a ready supply of soft foods like applesauce, bananas, Jello, and soup. Liquid meal replacements and smoothies may also prove useful.

Try to choose options that have a high concentration of essential vitamins and minerals (rather than relying on soothing but nutritionally barren items like pudding and ice cream). The more nutrients you give your body while it’s healing, the faster it will be able to repair itself.

  1. Try to move around a little bit (as per your surgeon’s instructions).

Though it’s extremely important not to put too much stress on your abdominal tissue after having a tummy tuck, getting out of bed briefly each day is equally vital. Most surgeons suggest walking around a little bit immediately after surgery and repeating this step over the days to come. Doing so will prevent the formation of blood clots, improve your circulation (and therefore speed healing), and reduce pain by keeping your body limber.

  1. Book an extended vacation from work.

Most surgeons recommend that tummy tuck patients take at least two weeks off of work. Depending on the nature of your job, taking three or even four weeks off may be preferable. You probably won’t be up to engaging in any high-energy tasks for several weeks after having surgery, so take this under advisement if you have a highly active job.

If you would like to learn more about tummy tuck surgery or the complete suite of mommy makeover procedures, feel free to contact us. We can help you figure out which procedures are right for you and devise a bespoke treatment and recovery plan that fits with your lifestyle.