Tummy Tucks After Pregnancy
Who Is Suitable For A Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is a procedure to remove excess skin from your abdomen, which you might have after pregnancy, or perhaps as the result of a dramatic weight loss, for example after a weight loss surgery. For those who are post-pregnancy, it is common to be left with lax muscle and loose skin after giving birth.
This "flabby" belly is often resistant to weight loss and exercise and as such many mothers consider undergoing a tummy tuck to restore the abdomen to its pre-pregnancy tightness. Tummy tucks are most suitable for women who have returned to an ideal weight and level of fitness, but cannot reduce the excess skin on their stomach through diet or exercise.
There are three different types of tummy tuck you may experience, enabling you to have a standard, mini or extended procedure.
Which procedure you will undergo will be dependent on the amount of excess skin and fat that needs to be removed, along with the technique your surgeon has chosen and whether any liposuction will be carried out at the time or after the procedure. During a standard procedure, the surgeon will create an incision along your abdomen from hip to hip, along the bikini line. They will then make another incision around your belly button, after which they will begin to remove the excess fat and skin whilst tightening the abdominal muscles. The incisions are closed as the remaining skin pulls down and a new belly button is formed.
If there is only a small amount of skin or fat that needs to be removed, your surgeon may opt to conduct a mini tummy tuck. This procedure is similar to a standard surgery, except the fat is removed from the incision around the bikini line only, and the belly button remains untouched. Conversely, large amounts of excess fat or skin (which can commonly occur after drastic weight loss) may call for an extended tummy tuck. Also known as a lower body lift, this procedure removes excess fat and skin from both your abdomen and lower back.
Depending on the specific type chosen, a tummy tuck can take around three hours to complete, after which you will be taken through to recovery to begin your aftercare.
There are a number of risks that can accompany undergoing a tummy tuck procedure.
Common surgery side-effects include pain, discomfort and swelling, along with scarring. Scars may fade over time, but they will be an inevitable result of having a tummy tuck. While these are to be unexpected, there are other complications that can arise. You may for example have an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic, and experience excessive bleeding following the surgery. You may also develop a blood clot called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which normally occurs in a vein in the leg. A blood clot can also form in one of the lungs, and this is known as pulmonary embolus.
Further complications include infection, which can be treated with antibiotics should it occur. You could also have issues pertaining to the wounds healing, which can result in not only more noticeable scars, but also a longer recovery period. Red or raised scars may take longer to fade, and you may experience numbness around the wounds, which can in some cases be permanent. A collection of fluid around the wound, known as a seroma, can also form. This will have to be removed through a needle as you recover in hospital. Finally, bleeding under the skin can occur, which is called a haematoma. Should this develop, you may require surgery to drain this blood and stop the cause of the bleeding.
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How Long Should I Wait Post-Pregnancy?
In general, your abdominal muscles and skin will take around 3-6 months after you give birth to recover. If after this time you are still left with excess skin that is resistant to exercise you may wish to consider a tummy tuck, although there are certain factors that you should take into consideration, such as:
- Are you breastfeeding? - If you are still breastfeeding it is likely that your hormone levels may be affecting your weight, in addition to making your abdominal muscles/skin less suitable for surgery. Furthermore the anaesthetic and painkillers given during and after your procedure may not be suitable for breastfeeding women as they may pass onto your baby through your milk. It is therefore wise to wait until you are finished breastfeeding to undergo a tummy tuck procedure.
- Will you have help after your procedure? - The recovery following a tummy tuck can take several weeks, during which time you should avoid lifting heavy objects (including your baby). You should consider whether the recovery time will be practical given your individual circumstances.
- Are you likely to have more children soon? - This may seem obvious, but getting pregnant again will most likely reverse the effects of your tummy tuck and may possibly make it more difficult to undergo the procedure a further time after you give birth again. If you are planning on having more children it may be wiser to wait until afterwards to enjoy the full benefits of the tummy tuck procedure.
What Will The Potential Results Be Like?
Tummy tuck results can vary, but generally can remove several inches of loose skin, as well as generally "tightening" up your abdomen following pregnancy. The full results can take several weeks or months to become apparent due to the initial swelling, but once this goes down you will normally see a noticeable improvement in the appearance of your tummy.
You will, however, most likely be left with a scar following your tummy tuck, the size of which will depend on the type of procedure you underwent. A mini tummy tuck will result in a small horizontal scar just above your pubic area. If you have a full tummy tuck you will be left with a scar the width of your stomach from hip to hip due to the larger incision made during this procedure. If you had a caesarean section you should talk to your surgeon about the possibility of incorporating the tummy tuck scar with your C-section scar.
Post Pregnancy Recovery
The recovery from a tummy tuck procedure will depend on the type of procedure and your individual circumstances. You will most likely be mobile from day 1 but will need to stay in hospital for 2-3 days. A full recovery normally takes around 6 weeks, during which time you will not be able to exercise or engage in heavy lifting (which includes lifting your baby!). You may also be unable to drive for the first few weeks, depending on how well you recover. It is therefore important to consider the implications of this recovery period and the practicalities of how it will fit around your lifestyle as a new mother.
Following your procedure, you can expect to undergo an extensive recovery period, as a tummy tuck is an invasive surgery.
How long this recovery period will be depends largely on whether you have had a mini, standard, or extended procedure. It is common for patients to spend two to four days in hospital following surgery, enabling them to be monitored for infection and to be administered pain relief as the anaesthetic wears off. This can be administered in the form of oral tablets or injections depending on your level of discomfort. As general anaesthesia can impair your ability to reason, along with co-ordination skills, you must refrain from driving, consuming alcohol, operating machinery or signing any legal or important documents for 24 hours afterwards.
There will be fine tubes coming out of your wounds to drain excess blood and fluid, along with dressings that will need to remain on the prevent infection. You may also receive fluids through a drip until you are able to drink yourself. You will not be able to drive home following your procedure, and so you should make arrangements for somebody to pick you up when you are discharged. It is wise to have someone with you for the first 24 hours when you are home as well to avoid the risk of over-exertion, which can impair healing.