Expectation vs. Reality: Recovering From A Mommy Makeover
When setting your expectations for a mommy makeover, remember ‘makeover’ is the most crucial part of the term. As that all-encompassing word implies, a mommy makeover involves multiple surgeries — often a breast augmentation or breast lift, tummy tuck (with or without diastasis recti repair), and/or vaginal rejuvenation (think: labiaplasty). The variety of treatments makes for a full-body recovery process.
Before we dive into that recovery, it’s important to discuss the stigma around the ‘mommy makeover’ moniker. While it’s become a way to describe the suite of procedures some women opt for after having children, Kelly Killeen, MD, a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Cassileth Plastic Surgery in Beverly Hills, says many patients who have given birth choose this popular combination of treatments without necessarily using the title ‘mommy makeover.’
“I think the assumption that becoming a mommy destroyed or did something bad to your body is very distasteful for a lot of women,” she says. “There's nothing wrong with being bothered by changes that happen after pregnancy or breastfeeding, but I think the assertion that all mothers need a ‘makeover’ is really upsetting to a lot of women.” In her practice, she does the combination of surgeries that amount to a so-called ‘mommy makeover’ without using the term.
No matter what you call this stack of procedures, you’ll need to come home from the hospital with a plan for pain management, childcare, and plenty of time to rest. Ahead, experts help us break down the healing process, and what to expect as you recover from mommy makeover surgery.
The First 48 Hours After Surgery
“I always say that planning is everything,” explains Lauren Chmielewski, MD, a New York City-based board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. “You want to make sure your life is set up in such a way that you can stop worrying about everything.” In the case of a mommy makeover, that usually means being prepared with childcare, comfortable clothing, and food in the fridge. With the pre-planning taken care of, patients can focus on spending the crucial first few days after surgery in restful recovery.
The bulk of the pain and swelling after surgery will take place in the first 48 hours, she says. When your caretaker brings you home after surgery, you should already have your pain medication and any antibiotics (if prescribed) ready and waiting. But you may not want to head straight to bed — Dr. Chmielewski advises her patients to move around gently in order to prevent blood clots. She also highlights the importance of hydration and limiting salty foods in order to curb any excess swelling.
Pain Management After Surgery
As Dr. Killeen explains, many of her patients get by with over-the-counter pain management drugs (think: Tylenol and Motrin). This is especially true of patients with small children, who “generally prefer to have their wits about them,” she adds. They typically take scheduled doses of OTC medicines, which can be enough to stay comfortable while riding out the early days of pain and swelling.
The type of pain management your doctor recommends may depend on the procedures you have. Labiaplasty is often considered the most uncomfortable of the mommy makeover surgeries, combining an already-sensitive area with the fact that patients will need to use the bathroom and keep the area clean. The pain involved with a tummy tuck, meanwhile, can vary from quite uncomfortable (if your surgery requires muscle repair) to “not terribly bad,” Dr. Chmielewski says, if it doesn’t. Generally speaking, breast surgery should cause the least amount of discomfort.
Resuming Normal Activities
Since mommy makeover patients are, yes, mothers, childcare is a major consideration in post-surgery planning. For children under the age of five, Dr. Killeen suggests having an additional caretaker to help you with the kids for about 10 days. “It’s hard to pick your kids up because you’re going to potentially affect your surgery results and maybe even injure yourself,” she says. If your children are older than five, she recommends three to four days of extra childcare. After about two weeks, you should be able to (gently) resume normal activities.
Keep in mind that the psychological recovery from a mommy makeover may feel different or more intense than after other procedures. “Especially for moms of small children, it can feel difficult to make a decision to focus on yourself and [briefly] hand over some of the childcare responsibilities,” Dr. Killeen shares. “It’s pretty common for patients to go through a little bit of the blues for a while after surgery, where they feel almost regretful or guilty that they actually made a decision that focuses on them again and not solely on their child.” To help with any of these feelings, she says the caregiver should understand the weight of the surgery and be prepared to fully support the patient.
As with other procedures, the way you look after you leave the hospital has little bearing on the final results. Since a mommy makeover usually involves multiple surgeries, results can reveal themselves at different times. Labiaplasty typically takes about three months to heal, and tummy tucks and breast surgeries (both breast lift and breast augmentation) involve four to six months of recovery.
After one month, patients can usually expect the swelling at all treatment areas to have largely receded. While it will give you an initial sense of what the final outcome will be, patience is key. It’ll take six to 12 months for the results of your procedures to fully settle.