American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

What to expect when you’re expecting a mommy makeover

Having children changed Liza Reynolds' body – from deflated breasts to stretch marks, abdominal muscle separation and extra skin, her body wasn't the same afterward.

Reynolds, from northern Virginia, is the proud mother of four children that range in age from 8-15 and include a set of twins. She loves her children but doesn't love what being pregnant with them did to her body, especially the extra skin left hanging from her petite frame.

"No matter how much I worked out, I was still left with a ton of loose skin," said Reynolds. "My doctor was telling me, 'Yours isn't a weight issue, it's a skin issue.'"

The 45-year-old was a good candidate for a mommy makeover, a term used to describe several plastic surgery procedures done in one operation to restore a woman's body to its pre-pregnancy state. It usually consists of work on the abdomen and breasts. Some women also choose to add a monsplasty (pubic lift) and a labiaplasty to their mommy makeover.

Last year, Reynolds had a mommy makeover that included breast augmentation, tummy tuck with diastasis recti repair (abdominal wall repair) and liposuction of the flanks (love handles).

The benefit of combining procedures

Mommy makeover patients like Reynolds are often on the operating table for several hours, depending on how many procedures they opt to have. Combination procedures can be efficient for the surgeon and the patient because they address several areas of concern in one operation. In addition, they allow the patient to heal from multiple procedures simultaneously and only take time off from work once.

Reynolds cautions that recovery isn't easy and says it can take weeks – and sometimes months – before you're completely back to normal.

"It's no walk in the park," said Reynolds. "And that's what I always tell people. I think if you mentally prepare yourself for it, the better off you are."

Preparing herself for surgery

A mommy makeover was an operation Reynolds had dreamed of for years, anticipating the day when she no longer had loose, hanging skin on her tummy. Plus, she'd spent plenty of time mentally preparing herself for it, which is something many plastic surgeons look for during mommy makeover consultations with potential patients.

"The best candidates are the ones that come in with a very strong internal reason, they've done the research and they've been thinking about this for a long time," said Michael Hakimi, MD. "Because it's a lot of mental preparation also."

The scar runs hip to hip

Tummy tuck patients have a scar that runs hip to hip and so low on their abdomen that a bikini or underwear covers it. Although the scar fades within a year, it is still something that a woman needs to be willing to accept.

"As plastic surgeons, we do our best to hide the scars and make them nice and thin," said Hakimi. "Nonetheless, there is a maturation period for this scar; they need to be okay with it. I tell patients it's a mental journey. Not only do you have to be a good candidate physically, but mentally you have to be okay with having the scars."

Seeing her body after surgery

Like all women, Reynolds needed plenty of support after her tummy tuck. She was glad she had her best friend helping her shower when she saw her post-surgery body for the first time. The bruising on her flanks caused by the liposuction was something she didn't expect, and it alarmed her.

Plastic surgeons know these reactions are temporary and improve as the patient heals and starts to see the results they dreamed of.

"Until they come out as winners on the other end, it's our job to hold their hand in the office and remind them that the light is there," said Hakimi. "Sometimes I tell them, for the first couple of weeks, you might look in the mirror and say, 'Why did I do this to myself?' In a couple of months, you're going to look in the mirror and say, 'Okay, I know why I did this to myself.'"

Enlisting help

In addition to needing help showering, Reynolds also required assistance to get out of bed and remember to take the correct medications at the right time. Her mother, sister and best friend were there for the first few days to help her dress and to ensure she was eating and drinking – among many other things. 

All women need help with self-care and hygiene for the first few days after tummy tuck surgery. After that, they can slowly resume their regular duties but are cautioned not to lift anything heavier than six pounds for the first six weeks following surgery.

"Just know your limits and not try to pick up anything too heavy just because you're feeling a little bit better," said Reynolds. "I don't think I cooked for a solid three or four weeks. My husband wouldn't even let me cook."

Getting back to normal

Most surgeons ask their patients to wait 12 weeks before they do heavy workout routines like weightlifting or exercises that target the abdominal muscles, like planks.

Reynolds is glad she followed her plastic surgeon's advice to take it easy. Women who don't are at risk of having their incision open or compromising the results of their abdominal muscle repair. Still, scaling back after a tummy tuck can be challenging for many women.

"As moms, we have this mentality that we have to do it all. We have to be all and do all for everything and everybody," said Reynolds. "If you're willing to pay that type of money to invest in yourself, you have to take the time to heal from it. Even if it's just from an investment standpoint, don't push yourself too soon afterward to get back to normal and try to be everything to everybody."

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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