There’s a buzz online about embracing your post-pregnancy body, with all its flaws, bulges and tumescence. While loving your body whatever it might look like is important for one’s emotional wellbeing, in the heart of hearts, all women would want their slimmer, firmer, youthful, pre- pregnancy body back after giving birth. The harsh reality is that new mothers just don’t naturally jump back into their pre- pregnancy body, more so if it has been several pregnancies. It is not always about the extra pounds that are incredibly difficult to shed off, but other issues that come with pregnancy such as laxity of stomach muscles and umbilical hernia.
The abdomen is the area that is most affected by pregnancy. The good news is that plastic surgery can help you acquire a more flattering, toned and contoured body after giving birth, as well as correct issues such as umbilical hernia and torn stomach muscles.
Pregnancy and your abdomen area
Pregnancy and childbirth can greatly change your body. You welcome the changes brought about by motherhood because it is part of the new person that you have become. Still, it is quite natural to pine for your pre-pregnancy body after giving birth.
During pregnancy, certain physiological changes occur. During pregnancy, the skin and muscles of the abdomen are stretched and almost pulled apart to accommodate the growing life. Try to picture your abdomen. The abdominal wall is formed in three layers: the muscles, the adipose tissue and the skin. As the baby grows inside, the abdominal muscles go through important changes during pregnancy. Under the influence of relaxin, the hormone responsible for the relaxation of the muscular fibers and ligaments, the muscles of a pregnant woman can stretch in all directions. The conjunctive tissues inside the muscles will become very elastic, but the major changes are related to what we call in medical terms, the linea alba. Linea alba represents the conjunctive tissue that is formed through the union of aponeurosis (the fibrous membranes that surround and support the muscles) of the transversal and oblique muscles of the abdomen.
Relaxin increases the water content of the collagen fibers that can be found in the connective tissue, which makes the linea alba more elastic in both directions. This is one of the reasons why the circumference of the waist can increase to approximately 50 cm. Rectus abdominis, the muscles that we refer to as the “six pack” can stretch to approximately 20 cm. The two longitudinal bands that form the abdominal muscles which, before the pregnancy were in a parallel position, can extend and get stretched apart to create more room for the expanding uterus.
This phenomenon is known as “diastasis recti” which basically means separation of the abdominal muscles. This is an issue that occurs in at least 65% of pregnant women, especially during the third trimester of the pregnancy. Because it is not painful, most women won’t even be aware of this issue, even if they can suffer from chronic back pain as a result. The back pain occurs exactly because of the lack of support from the abdominal muscles. Some pregnant women will experience mild sensitivity, light pain, or itchiness in the center of the abdomen. Stretching of the muscles also causes these discomforts.
The thickness of the adipose tissue on the abdomen will vary depending on the weight put on during pregnancy and it will increase proportionally all over the woman’s body. The adipose tissue can be reduced with the help of diets and exercises, but it will take some time. It took 9 months to put on all the weight during pregnancy, so don’t expect to lose the excess weight immediately after giving birth.
Abdominoplasty or the tummy tuck surgically removes the extra skin and fat tissue that are left on your abdomen area after giving birth, as well as correct other issues such as a umbilical hernia and torn stomach muscles.
After a tummy tuck, you won’t get your pre- pregnancy body, but you will get tighter abdominal muscles, a flatter tummy and a greatly improved profile. If liposuction is associated with the tummy tuck, your waist can also get tinier.
Pre-operative considerations before the tummy tuck
The meeting with a plastic surgeon is the first step if you are considering the tummy tuck procedure. The patient should openly discuss goals and expectations with the surgeon so that the right treatment or surgical plan can be recommended. It is important to keep in mind that the desired result of the surgery is an improved shape and the correction of issues such as umbilical hernia and torn muscles. This is not about achieving perfection. After the medical examination, the plastic surgeon will explain the factors involved in the procedure: age, the tonus of the skin, your anatomy.
The best candidates for a tummy tuck are patients who are physically healthy with relatively normal weight but with excess skin and fat. Bear in mind that the tummy tuck is not a weight loss method and it cannot address other skin issues such as stretch marks or cellulite.
There are certain body imperfections that not even frequent diets and exercises can correct, especially when there’s skin laxity and sagginess, which is common after multiple pregnancies. The loss of skin elasticity that is common among older people is another aspect that can be corrected with the help of the tummy tuck, along with umbilical hernia.
If the patient’s condition is associated with an umbilical hernia, the plastic surgeon can correct this issue at the same time while performing the tummy tuck. During the initial consultation, the plastic surgeon will explain the particularities of your case, the surgical procedure, the anesthesia to be used, where the surgery will take place and what are the objectives of the intervention. The auxiliary factors that need to be considered before the surgery, such as the risks and the costs, will also be discussed at the same time.
Every year, thousands of tummy tucks are performed without any complications developing after surgery. Still, you need to be aware of the potential risks associated with the plastic surgery. The occurrence of infection and hematoma is pretty rare. Delayed wound healing will lead to the occurrence of vicious scarring and it might necessitate an intervention to treat the scars. Smokers will be told that this habit will prolong the recovery time and it can also create additional complications related to the lack of oxygenation to the wound after surgery. The risks can be minimized if you will strictly follow the instructions from your plastic surgeon.
The surgical procedure
The tummy tuck is normally performed to remove the excess skin on the abdomen and to tighten the abdominal muscles. The extent of the procedure depends on the modifications you want and what your plastic surgeon can deem as necessary. The abdominoplasty is usually performed under general anesthetic. There are many approaches to performing the tummy tuck. The most frequently used one is by making an incision along the inferior abdomen, over the pubic area. The second incision is performed with the purpose of separating the navel from the surrounding skin and tissues. The skin is lifted off the abdominal wall up to the inferior margin of the thorax. The lax tissues on the abdominal wall will be brought together toward the median line and sutured. This will tighten the muscles, create a narrower waist and produce a firmer abdominal wall. The skin is then pulled down over the muscles and the excess will be removed. The plastic surgeon will perform a small incision for the navel and reposition it.
With the help of the tummy tuck procedure, the patient will get rid of the excess skin and adipose tissue in the abdomen, leading to an abdominal profile that is flatter and firmer. During the tummy tuck, the plastic surgeon can also correct other issues like diastasis recti and umbilical hernia that usually occur during pregnancy.
Plastic surgery can treat an umbilical hernia and torn stomach muscles, but it won’t be able to help with other imperfections such as stretch marks and cellulite. If the stretch marks are positioned on the inferior part of the abdomen, where the skin will be removed, some of the stretch marks can be eliminated too, but this doesn’t mean that you will completely be stretch mark free.