Disclaimer :: Kirby Plastic Surgery sponsored this post and provided helpful information about the abdominoplasty process and procedure.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and everything that follows can be incredibly magical. Unfortunately, it often also leads to frustrating changes to your body that cannot be corrected through diet and exercise alone.
That is why many mothers are choosing plastic surgery, with abdominoplasty (more commonly known as a tummy tuck) reigning as one of the most popular procedures for women who have had children.
How Pregnancy Impacts Your Body
As both a board certified plastic surgeon and a mother, I am well acquainted with the toll pregnancy can take on your body. Here are just a few of the changes mothers-to-be experience:
- During pregnancy: Changes in hormone levels combined with your body’s preparation for breastfeeding results in a temporary increase in breast size and fullness. Additionally, some mothers find their areolas darken in color or become larger.
- After childbirth: While an increase in breast size is most often temporary, it can result in some permanent changes. Many moms notice their breasts have a “deflated” appearance once they have returned to their pre-baby size, as there is less fullness in the upper breast. These size fluctuations can also lead to breast sagging.
- During pregnancy: As your abdomen stretches to accommodate a growing baby, both your skin and abdominal muscles are put under strain. Stretch marks may appear, which are often pink or purple at first.
- After childbirth: Depending on your age, genetics, and the nature of your pregnancy, abdominal skin and underlying muscles may not “bounce back,” even after the pregnancy weight is lost. This can lead to an area of excess fat and loose skin on the lower abdomen (“pregnancy pouch”) that is resistant to toning exercises. Additionally, many mothers experience diastasis recti, which is a painful widening of abdominal muscles.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is an uncomfortable medical condition wherein the space between the left and right sides of the rectus abdominis muscle has stretched and widened. This condition affects nearly two thirds of pregnant women with varying degrees of severity.
When diastasis recti occurs, organs in the abdomen have a decreased wall of support in front. This can lead to pain, difficulty breathing, constipation, and even urinary incontinence, in addition to potential complications with vaginal birth in later pregnancies. In severe cases, this lack of support can make the abdominal connective tissues more prone to tearing, which can result in a hernia. Severe cases can even contribute to back pain due to the lack of abdominal support and pull on the lower back.
While this gap in the abdominal muscles may shrink after childbirth in some women, many others see little-to-no improvement. Although your risk for diastasis recti is increased if you are carrying more than one child or have had multiple pregnancies, I frequently see patients with this painful condition after just one pregnancy.
In addition to discomfort when exercising or even stretching to pick up a child, diastasis recti also makes it exceedingly difficult to tone and tighten your lower abdomen. Essentially, this means that smoothing out that little pouch of excess fat and sagging skin is nearly impossible to do with exercise alone.
While continuing to tone your muscles is important, you shouldn’t feel like a failure if your muscles do not “snap back” quickly. The fact is, no amount of exercise can repair these muscles once they have widened past a certain degree; diastasis recti can only be treated surgically.
How Tummy Tuck Surgery Can Help
Abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck, is the second most popular body contouring procedure in the United States—for good reason. At the hands of an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon, tummy tuck surgery is an incredibly safe and effective option for restoring a smooth, flat abdomen.
The specifics of your procedure will depend on your ultimate goals, the severity of muscle separation, amount of excess skin, skin quality, and the expert recommendations of your surgeon.
Tummy tucks are typically performed on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia, meaning most patients can return home the same day. However, some patients will need to stay overnight for monitoring. An incision is made at the level of the pubic hairline, extending across the entire lower abdomen from hip to hip. Another incision is made around the belly button.
Through these incisions, your surgeon will tighten and repair your abdominal muscles, remove excess skin, and tighten remaining skin until a flatter appearance has been achieved. Muscle repair narrows the waist, providing a more “hourglass” figure. Afterward, your incisions will be closed and dressed.
You will be sent home wearing special compression garments and drains to help promote optimal healing. Some soreness, swelling, and bruising is to be expected, and you likely won’t want to do much more than walk slowly and catch up on sleep for the first few days.
Healing After Tummy Tuck Surgery
After your procedure, expect to take it easy for around two weeks. At this point, many of my patients feel comfortable returning to a desk-type job. Daily activities can be gradually resumed at this point, though strenuous activities and exercise should be avoided for six to eight weeks.
You will notice some improvement right away, though your final results will not be visible for around three to six months. During this time, you should be pleased to begin noticing that your stomach is becoming smoother, flatter, and more toned looking. You will have visible scarring, but this will fade over time. Just be sure to follow your doctor’s recovery rules and instructions for scar care to the letter.
Choosing the Right Surgeon
Perhaps one of the most important choices you will make during the entire plastic surgery process is who will perform your procedure—and both your safety and the quality of your results depends on you making the right choice. Make sure you choose a surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which is the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties to certify surgeons in plastic surgery.
If you are in the Fort Worth area and would like learn more about tummy tuck surgery, explore your options, or schedule a consultation, I encourage you to contact my office. I would be happy to sit down with you and design a treatment plan that helps you feel great about the way you look.
After graduating as a valedictorian from high school, Dr. Kirby obtained her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Kirby was accepted early to Texas A&M University College of Medicine, where she earned her medical degree (MD). While attending Texas A&M, Dr. Kirby received several awards for research, scholarship, and peer appreciation.