10 Things To Know Before Getting A Mommy Makeover

Hint: It involves so much more than just a little nip and tuck.
Expert Opinion
Written by Elise Minton Tabin
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10 Things To Know Before Getting A Mommy MakeoverToro Tseleng/Unsplash

Pregnancy causes many changes to the body, some which reverse naturally and others that require a little extra help. If you wish to achieve your pre-baby body or sculpt and contour your new physique, a mommy makeover may be the ultimate amalgamation of procedures to do just that.

The term ‘mommy makeover’ is a catch-all for correcting any changes to a woman's body after childbirth, says Lauren Chmielewski, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. A traditional mommy makeover typically involves a tummy tuck, liposuction, and breast surgery (breast augmentation, breast lift, or both). Yet, today's mommy makeovers are more inclusive than ever. More women are opting to add additional procedures that include fat transfer to the breasts, vaginal rejuvenation, Brazilian butt lifts (as is found in the so-called ‘hourglass mommy makeover’), and even arm and thigh lifts.

Just as important as finding a plastic surgeon who can achieve the results you're after is to understand (yourself) the ins and outs of the highly involved surgery and what the recovery entails. Although most mommy makeover patients are thrilled with the outcome, getting there is not always easy. Often, the mommy makeover recovery process is downplayed – especially on social media. Therefore, patients need to have realistic expectations when it comes to the steps they need to take to achieve optimal outcomes, says Gregory Buford, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Lone Tree, CO. “Proper healing requires planning and attention to detail, like attentive wound care, compression, restriction of various activities, and careful attention to what you eat,” he shares.

Generally speaking, three weeks of taking it very easy is recommended, but that’s not always feasible – particularly for moms with young children. The more time you can take to recuperate, however, the better, since bleeding, breakage of internal sutures, and the opening of wounds are possible if you try to do too much too soon, cautions Mark G. Albert, MD, an NYC-based board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

There's plenty to know about a mommy makeover that all too often flies under the radar. Whether you are in the research phase, considering booking, or getting ready for recovery, we tapped top surgeons to get their expert tips on preparing for and recovering from the surgery. Here are 10 things to know before getting a mommy makeover.

1. Numbness Can Last Months, If Not Longer

It's not uncommon for the skin to feel numb for months (even upwards of a year) after the tummy tuck portion of a mommy makeover. It is a normal – albeit disconcerting – part of the overall healing process, and there's no need to worry about a lingering lack of feeling. It is related to trauma to the nerve endings and swelling. During an abdominoplasty, your surgeon lifts and removes excess skin to tighten the abdominal wall and muscles. “In doing this, we cut the small nerves to the skin, and it takes time for these nerves to grow back to the skin surface,” Dr. Albert says. As a result, there can be little or no feeling through the abdomen during the regrowth period. It's a waiting game as the nerves repair, reconnect, and regenerate independently.

Usually, this process takes a few months, and Dr. Albert says it is incredibly uncommon for someone to have permanent numbness after the procedure. “Any numbness generally subsides as the swelling goes away, which can take up to six to 12 months before completely returning to normal,” Dr. Chmielewski adds. However, some patients never regain 100 percent sensation, and some degree of numbness may always exist in the abdominal area. So, if you feel the urge to scratch an itch with little relief, that’s why.

2. Walking – Even Around the House – Is Difficult at First

Getting up and mindfully moving is essential in the first few days after a mommy makeover since gentle movement promotes circulation and proper blood flow. Dr. Chmielewski says walking helps lower the chance of developing a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after surgery. Many plastic surgeons advise purchasing a walker (do this before surgery and have it ready to go when you get home), since mobility is somewhat limited and the extra support is helpful.

If you find it difficult or painful to stand upright, it is due to the newly created tightness in the core. Any discomfort is temporary. Some surgeons instruct their patients to walk hunched over with the help of a cane to prevent unnecessary strain on the stomach incisions, which can force them open. But not every surgeon takes this approach nor agrees with it. “I find this unnecessary and believe it creates more back pain than one would have from the procedure alone,” Dr. Albert shares. “Therefore, I encourage my patients to sit and stand upright and be up and walking the day of the procedure.”

To make sure you keep moving, you’ll want to create a simple walking schedule and have a family member, friend, or partner make sure you stick to it. “Walking for 10 minutes every two hours while awake is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough movement in,” Dr. Chmielewski shares. As for when your movement will feel less encumbered, Dr. Buford says patients usually walk fully upright by week two or three.

3. The Shape & Position of the Breasts Will Evolve

If you opt for breast implants to correct deflation, decreased volume, or droopiness, don’t freak out if you don’t like how your new breasts look the first time you see them. Your first impression will not be your last. The breast implants usually sit very high on the chest following a breast augmentation. To help the implants settle into place, Dr. Buford recommends his patients wear a breast band and perform breast implant massages. This settling process (sometimes called ‘drop and fluff’) generally resolves over the coming months.

It's also normal for the breasts to feel tight and swollen initially. But as the tissue stretches and relaxes and the implants soften up and descend the chest over the next few months, they begin to take their final shape and become more symmetrical and natural looking. “This is a completely normal part of breast augmentation with or without a breast lift,” Dr. Albert says.

4. An Electric Recliner Will Make Standing Up & Sitting Down Easier

Post-mommy makeover, patients may find it cumbersome to get in and out of bed or a chair. That's why some plastic surgeons recommend recovering in an electric recliner, which makes sitting and standing much easier on the body. Resting in a reclining position (you can sleep in one at night, too) helps take the pressure and strain off the abdominal wall, which is important since unnecessary stress or a pulling feeling can cause an incision to open.

If you don't have a recliner, you may want to purchase one or borrow one from a friend or family member. If an electric recliner is out of the question, consider using a wedge pillow for additional back support when sleeping or resting and use a small pad or lumbar support under the knees for extra support. Learn more in our guide to post-op pillows.

5. Your Plastic Surgeon Can Remove an Existing C-Section Scar

If you delivered your baby via c-section, it's okay to have a mommy makeover once your doctor deems you ready for surgery. However, one of the most commonly asked questions among c-section patients is if a secondary scar is necessary. In most cases, creating a tummy tuck incision below an existing c-section scar (they're shorter and smaller than abdominoplasty scars) removes the original one. “Many patients have existing scars from previous procedures on the abdomen,” Dr. Chmielewski says. “So, depending on the operation, it is usually possible to have a tummy tuck and use these scars.”

There are some instances where you may not be able to trade a c-section scar for the hip-to-hip tummy tuck scar, like if the c-section scar is too low. “When this is the case, it may not be possible to have the abdominoplasty scar placed below the C-section scar,” says Adam Schaffner, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in NYC.

6. A Compression Garment Will Be Your New Favorite Accessory

When you wake from surgery, you'll be wearing a tight-fitting compression garment in at least one area. Although it is uncomfortable, it helps limit swelling in the abdominal area and promotes healthy healing. Dr. Buford calls compression “a necessary evil,” adding that “it can mean the difference between an amazing result and a ho-hum outcome.” He also says that compression enhances local lymphatic drainage and reduces the risk of fluid collections (seromas) beneath the skin.

Dr. Albert says that patients know that any compression will stop as soon as they remove the garment, and they will get swollen again. “Typically, patients use the compression garment I give them in the OR for about a week and then switch to a tighter compression garment as the swelling subsides,” he notes. Every plastic surgeon has their recommendation for the length of time that patients should wear compression garments, and most stay in one for at least the first six weeks post-procedure. Throughout that process, you can size down as swelling resolves to retain some degree of compression until you reach your final shape and size. If you do not wear a compression garment or have a manual lymphatic drainage massage performed, it may lead to prolonged swelling.

7. Make Sure You Are Done Having Children

While there is nothing stopping you from getting pregnant again after a mommy makeover, it certainly will impact the results. “The idea is to make your stomach as flat as possible and the skin as tight as possible, which can stretch again if one has another child,” Dr. Albert says. Dr. Chmielewski agrees and usually advises her patients to wait until they are finished having children to proceed with a mommy makeover. “Cosmetic surgery is an investment, and patients should be at or close to their goal weight for the results to be long-lasting and achieve the best results possible,” she says.

Moreover, getting pregnant following a mommy makeover may have implications on the way the body responds to pregnancy. “If a tummy tuck is performed in which the rectus muscles are tightened (plicated), a woman will likely feel a tighter sensation than prior pregnancies,” Dr. Schaffner says. “There is the theoretical risk of restricting the growth of the fetus.”

8. You’ll Need a Laxative (or two) to Get Things Moving Again

A mommy makeover requires anesthesia, and the trade-off for comfort during surgery is constipation in the days following it. For this reason, a laxative is a must for your post-recovery shopping list. Any over-the-counter laxative will do, but, if you’re taking one that you have never used before, it’s best to test it three to five days before your surgery to make sure your body responds well. This way, you can get an idea of how fast-acting it is and any potential side effects. Another way to ensure a smooth transition following surgery is to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods while recovering, which always helps make the bowel movement process a little easier.

9. Pay Attention to Your Diet During Recovery

You are what you eat, especially when in recovery mode. The food you consume while at home recouping from a mommy makeover should be fiber-rich and anti-inflammatory to promote healing. Dr. Buford says surgical nutrition is where patients and many practitioners fall short. But, if you keep to a healthy and clean diet before surgery (along with regular workouts), your recovery will likely be easier and faster — and you'll feel pretty good, too.

Protein is also crucial for recovery. A diet that lacks enough protein may lead to poor wound healing and a lack of energy, Dr. Schaffner says. Steer clear of salty foods, which can cause unnecessary water retention. The same goes for soda and processed and fried foods. They offer no nutritional value, but these inflammatory foods can lead to prolonged swelling. Learn more in our guide to what to eat before and after cosmetic surgery.

10. You May or May Not Need Drains

For years, drains were one of the downsides of a tummy tuck. Patients don't like emptying them, and their removal can be uncomfortable. Today, not every plastic surgeon uses drains, and it all depends on your provider’s technique and preference. As Dr. Schaffner explains, progressive tension sutures minimize the need for drains. “We also use medications before and after surgery (such as gabapentin, Celebrex, and Tylenol) and during surgery (such as long-acting anesthetics) to minimize the need for opioids/narcotics and shorten recovery times and minimize the development of complications,” he adds. Drainless tummy tucks make the recovery process a bit easier with better scarring, too.

The Takeaway

From what procedures to get to how much childcare to arrange, we know there is a lot to consider before, during, and after a mommy makeover. To help, we’ve got all the resources you need to simplify the research process:

From there, a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon who specializes in mommy makeovers will allow you to develop a treatment plan that best aligns to your lifestyle and aesthetic goals.

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ELISE MINTON TABINis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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