All About Tummy Tucks
Abdominoplasty, as it is known in surgical terms, is a method of removing excess skin and repairing any muscle separation, known as diastasis recti.
Whether you have been left with excess skin due to childbirth, or weight loss, or perhaps a combination of the two, it can give your confidence a bit of a hit to have worked so hard to get into shape, but still find an overhang when wearing certain clothes, bikinis etc. When exercising, certain stomach wrinkling positions such as leg-pressing, and even being in the plank position can be unflattering if you want to wear a cute two-piece set.
Having children particularly is a life and relationship changing event. Priorities change, along with changes in our bodies and confidence is often at an all-time low post child-birth. It can be difficult to have the energy and even find any alone time, to reignite sexual relations between couples. Add in the fact that a woman’s body can change dramatically after giving birth, it is possible to feel reluctant to expose what you might see as undesirable excess skin.
What Can I Do?
Diet and exercise can only improve things up to a point. If your skin has been stretched so far, it may be possible for it to have permanently lost its elasticity and be unable to shrink back to how it looked before. There are many people who claim they can help you with various non-surgical skin tightening methods, but truthfully nothing is going to give you any significant improvement, except for surgery.
Before considering surgery, it is important for you to be as close to your goal weight as possible, and ideally have maintained that weight for a decent amount of time. The last thing you want is to loose further weight after surgery causing the reappearance of excess skin, or to gain a significant amount of weight post operatively, potentially stretching the skin again and further compromising the remaining elasticity.
Furthermore, even if you have lost the weight, you may be unfortunate enough to have developed muscle separation (diastasis recti). This will leave you with the continuous appearance of a bloated stomach which under clothes will just appear as a flabby tummy to people who don’t know you. Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles which is known to effect around two-thirds of women during pregnancy, with many of them being left with separation after birth and as well as a protruding stomach, women can be left with ongoing back pain also. Abdominoplasty can surgically repair this separation.
I was fortunate to only have a small amount of loose skin and muscle separation
Should I Have Surgery?
If you are considering a surgical solution, I recommend doing some extensive research first. Any surgery is risky, and abdominoplasty is no different. Along with the repositioning of your belly button, you are talking about a large surgical opening being created at the bottom of your tummy. A large incision is made just above your pubic line, usually from hip to hip. It is possible to have a mini tummy tuck, a full or extended tummy tuck and even a more extensive tuck called a flour-de-lei, which is when you have a vertical incision going up through your belly button to help pull the skin inwards as well as down. Often combined with liposuction to help get rid of any leftover stubborn fat. Your stomach muscles are also returned to their pre-separated position to help fix the bloated look.
Infections from such an extensive incision are possible. When doing my research, I saw plenty of horror stories of women getting infections, which when eventually healed would leave even further scarring.
Collection of blood or fluid. Drains are normally left in situ for up to a week or so, to help drain any accumulation of blood or serous fluid.
Swelling. Even when everything goes to plan, the swelling is pretty unreal. You will likely be given a hideous and uncomfortable compression garment which you will need to wear nearly 24hours a day. This helps to prevent swelling and protect the appearance of the stomach particularly if having had liposuction also. How long you will be in this garment is surgeon dependent, but some people wear them for months.
It is likely you will not be able to stand up straight for a few weeks, due to the tightness of the skin and discomfort from any muscle repair. Along with this, is the probable chance you will be unable to drive for many weeks, will require regular pain relief and not be able to lift any significant weight such as your children.
After all this, even when healing goes exactly to plan, you will need to be prepared for some extensive scarring and the possibility of complications occurring here also. Scars can become Hypertrophic which appear visibly ‘angry’ and are red, firm and hard and often itchy. It is also possible to develop a keloid scar which is thick, lumpy, raised and bigger than the original wound. Any scar I have received has always been incredibly slow to heal and my personal abdominoplasty scar is nearly 11 months old and is still incredibly visible and needs protection from the sun at all times.
As well as surgical costs, risks and complications, you will need to factor in being out of work for a good number of weeks. If you are anything like me, diet is harder to maintain when out of normal routine, particularly when feeling bored and exercise will be minimal.
My scar at 1 week vs 11 months.
Where to Start? If you accept the risks above and still feel like abdominoplasty is the only solution for you, you may not know where to start. Take a look on social media initially, but remember that people often are more likely to post when they are experiencing problems and are seeking reassurance, than if they’ve had a normal and uneventful experience. Go Tuck Yourself on Facebook is brilliant. Full of women all around the world in the same situation, you may find some good reviews of surgeons and have more of an idea on the type of tummy tuck you require. Research your surgeon extensively. Look at his before and afters, check out his qualifications. Check the price he charges is around the same as others in the area. I would want to speak to other women who have used the same surgeon also. Consider whether you want to couple this surgery with any others. Some women include breast augmentation at the same time as having the tummy tuck. Although this will make recovery even harder, you will save money on anesthetic costs, surgery hire, and it may be difficult to get two separate lengths of time off work for recovery if doing these surgeries separately. Meet multiple surgeons ideally, make sure you are comfortable, are getting realistic expectations from your surgeon, and that they listen to you and your concerns.
Preparing For Surgery
As mentioned before, try to be at your goal weight before surgery. Do not smoke for many weeks before and after surgery due to healing being impaired.
Eat well and have regularly exercise, try and ensure your body is in tip-top form to deal with the surgery and healing afterwards. You will want to be mentally and physically strong.
Check any regularly medications, herbal supplements etc with your surgeon before surgery. You may be required to stop taking certain medications for a while before you have the operation.
Ensure you have a good support network around you. It will be difficult to recover alone, particularly over the first week or two.
Organise transport to and from hospital, you will be in no condition to drive afterwards.
Ensure you have adequate pain relief, anti-sickness medication, and laxatives waiting for you at home. A common side effect of anaesthesia and abdominal surgery is constipation. I recommend being very prepared and having a supply of effective laxatives at home, and just taking a small amount immediately after surgery.
Have your sleeping arrangements all set up waiting for you, a good selection of series and movies downloaded and healthy, low fat snacks available. Ensure you are prepared before you have your surgery. Consider hiring a reclining chair to sleep in for the first couple of weeks. You will likely need to sleep inclined with your knees bent to prevent any pulling on your scar.
You will not be able to drive, so it is worth booking food delivery slots if there is no one to help with shopping. You will also definitely need extensive childcare help if you are the main carer normally.
If you are the person who normally prepares the meals for the family, consider doing a decent amount of batch cooking so your freezer is full of nutritional, healthy meals - this will help with your healing, mood and the risk of weight gain post operatively due to being so sedentary.
Post Op Ensure you are fully aware of your own surgeons post-operative advice. Some surgeons recommend post-op massages and compression garments. Some state the use of ice on wounds to help discomfort is dangerous due to ice causing vasoconstriction and possibly restricting blood flow to the healing area. Take recommended medications, particularly pain relief regularly and whether you feel you need it or not for the first few days at least. It is harder to get on top of the pain, than it is to keep it at bay. Follow your surgeons’ instructions on compression garments and wound care. You will likely return to outpatient clinics for wound care, so there will be further opportunity to clarify any queries/concerns. Do not try and do too much. Take it easy. Be patient, you are going to feel rubbish for a while post-operatively, just accept it beforehand and don’t try to rush things. Have some good scar creams to start using once cleared by your doctor, such as Bio Oil and silicone strips. As I said in my post regarding breast augmentation, abdominoplasty can greatly increase a person’s confidence and therefore have a positive impact on other aspects of their lives. I personally only had a small amount of loose skin and a minor muscle separation, but it was enough to bother me immensely when wearing bikinis or tight fitting dresses so I thought I would address it at the same time as a breast augmentation. However, it is not without risk and comes with its own anxieties and stresses. Think hard before pursuing this option. I would love to hear your experiences and any suggestions for this article. If anyone would like to contact me personally for further information, I would love to hear from you via my forum.
Remember when plastic surgery was a taboo subject
Now when you mention Botox, nobody raises an eyebrow.