American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Mommy makeovers: What women should know about postpartum surgical procedures

what women should know about postpartum surgical procedures

Giving birth and having children is one of a woman's most magical and extraordinary moments. People will tell you it is a unique, special and memorable time. It is. Everyone talks about the pregnancy "glow" and how wonderful you look, how your hair looks full and bouncy and how your complexion radiates a dewy warmth.

You can read books, you can talk to friends and family, you can think you know what to expect when you are expecting. Then the baby comes, and you realize nothing could have prepared you for what's ahead. Yes, it is a beautiful time. However, many women struggle with postpartum hormonal changes, hair loss and coping with changes to their bodies. You lose the pregnancy glow. As it fades, sometimes, so does your sense of self. Some women look in the mirror and don't recognize themselves. Who is this person? What happened to my body?

These feelings are normal, and you aren't selfish or vain for wanting to get back your pre-baby body. Several resources are available for women looking to bounce back after a baby. One of those options is the mommy makeover.

"I like to call it 'mommy restoration,' where we are restoring things back to how they were before children," said ASPS Member Surgeon Nneamaka Nwubah, MD.

How does the body change during pregnancy and postpartum?

For many women, the question that makes more sense is what doesn't change during pregnancy and postpartum! As the baby grows, women gain weight and the skin stretches to accommodate the woman's growing belly. The abdominal muscles can change and may stretch or weaken, and the breasts change and get larger as they prepare to produce milk.

"What we see is the stretching of the abdominal musculature," said ASPS Member Surgeon Kristy Hamilton, MD. "For some women, especially after multiple children, we see a separation of those ab muscles to make room for the baby."

As the body recovers postpartum, many women notice loose, extra or sagging skin on their abdomen, stretch marks and even vaginal changes. Changes in the breasts are also common, like drooping breast tissue or decreased breast tissue, especially for women after breastfeeding. Although the body changes in numerous ways, these are some of the most profound transformations that occur and cause many women to feel self-conscious about their bodies post-pregnancy.

What is a mommy makeover?

Most people hear the phrase mommy makeover and think of a tummy tuck and breast surgery. Technically, a mommy makeover may be one or a combination of procedures that address the cosmetic needs of postpartum women.

"The two major components that many plastic surgeons characterize a surgery as a mommy makeover is a breast component as well as a torso component," said Dr. Hamilton. "Typically, that is going to involve a tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, and a breast augmentation, a breast lift or a combination of both. Women may also add on liposuction."

Mommy makeovers are customized for each patient and can include a wide range of procedures. While tummy tucks and breast surgery are most common, many patients aren't aware of all that is available to them.

"We see tummy tucks all the time, we see breasts all the time, you don't see many people talking about vaginal rejuvenation post-children," said Dr. Nwubah. "Women are often surprised when I mention it because they don't know they have options."

Both surgeons emphasized communicating with your doctor about your expectations and goals because mommy makeovers can absolutely be customized to address your specific areas of concern. It depends on the patient and what they want to have restored.

From being the mommy to getting the mommy treatment

When is the right time to get a mommy makeover, and how long are you down for the count? The answer to both questions depends.

"There is not a right or wrong answer," said Dr. Nwubah. "There is a 'you' answer that is best for each person."

Dr. Hamilton said that before considering surgery, you want to be in a place where your body and mind are no longer undergoing dramatic fluctuations.

"We want your body to not be changing anymore," said Dr. Hamilton. "I tell patients to give it at least six months, and if you are still changing, you're still losing weight and toning up, you want to push it as far as you can. Plateau and stabilize. We want stability before surgical intervention."

In the case of breastwork, it's important that breastfeeding has already finished.

"A woman who is well out of the postpartum phase and if they've been breastfeeding for, say, one year, I like them not to be breastfeeding for a minimum of six weeks, preferably three months before we consider surgery," said Dr. Hamilton.

However, as with many things in plastic surgery, there is no one steadfast rule.

"For me, the sweet spot is one year," said Dr. Nwubah. "I've had children and I felt like at one year is when I was at my optimal weight, I've given my body time to heal, this is probably what it's going to be."

You want to be healthy and have a healthy body weight.

"We talk about this ideal body weight," said Dr. Nwubah. "What does that actually mean? You want to be at a healthy weight. These are not weight loss surgeries. They are meant to fine-tune things."

Many suggest waiting until you are done having children to consider surgical intervention, but that isn't a hard and fast rule. Again, everyone is different and should consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who is an ASPS member to discuss their concerns and goals.

Depending on the extent of the surgery and which procedures a woman undergoes, expect to be babied for some time during your recovery. Now is the time to enlist the help of your kids, spouse, partner, family or friends because you need to give up the role of caregiver and let someone else take care of you.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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