What You Need To Know Before Getting A Tummy Tuck

We all know that pregnancy and childbirth can wreak havoc on a woman's body, especially their midsection. Carrying a baby for 9 months can affect a woman's abdominal muscles and change their stomach and waist. Body and hormonal changes that come with pregnancy, and then later with menopause, often leave women struggling to tighten loose skin around the midsection from the years. Many of us know that it doesn’t matter how much you exercise or diet, that skin isn’t going anywhere – which is why the tummy tuck is a favorite for mothers.

While tummy tucks were once a plastic surgery that people rarely spoke about, the procedure is becoming more and more common. In 2017 almost 130,000 people in the United States had an abdominoplasty, more commonly known as a tummy tuck, ranking it in the top 5 for plastic surgery procedures done in the country. The procedure is gaining popularity among women, especially after having kids, who have tried to get rid of any extra weight and loose skin around their middle but haven't had success through traditional diet and exercise alone.

While a tummy tuck is done to remove excess skin and fat and can often have amazing results, it's not without its risks.

You'll Need A Fair Bit Of Recovery Time

Deciding to have a tummy tuck is awesome if that's what you want to do, but it is also a serious surgery that requires a fair bit of recovery time. Dr. Elizabeth Lee is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Lafayette, California, and she wants anyone considering a tummy tuck to know they will need to be able to take adequate time off to heal.

Dr. Lee states that patients will need a minimum of two weeks before returning to work if they work a desk job, and longer if the job requires any physical labor or travel. She suggests that patients will need at least three weeks off work before being able to stand for long periods of time or do any heavy lifting. Returning to work for half days for the first week is also a suggestion she makes.

You're Going To Need Help

Even if you're able to take time off work to recover from your abdominoplasty, you're also going to need some help around the house, especially if you have children. Plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas W. Loeb suggests that in addition to ensuring you have adequate time off from work, arranging for someone to stay in your home with you while you recover, at least for the first week, may be a good idea so they can help with everyday chores and childcare.

Dr. Lee agrees and also recommends having at least one other adult in the house who can "help you get in and out of bed, prepare food for you, and help you dress for the first few days after the surgery."

A tummy tuck is major surgery and adequate recovery time and having help while you're recovering are crucial to having a successful surgery and result.

tummy tuck
Credit: iStock / Makalish

It's Not A Quick Fix For Weight Loss

Many people who opt for a tummy tuck think it's going to be their weight loss plan, but many don't realize that plastic surgeons would like you at or around your ideal weight before performing the surgery.

"Tummy tucks should not be thought of as a weight loss procedure, but rather as a contouring procedure," Elliot Hirsch, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Hirsch Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles told Prevention. Celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer, otherwise known as Dr. Miami, agrees and says he uses a person's BMI (body mass index) to determine if they're a candidate for surgery.

“Plastic surgery will not make you skinny. I tell people that all the time," Salzhauer told Women's Health. "People come in, and if their BMI is above 30 or 32, I won't operate on them. In my office, there’s a scale, and I calculate their BMI. If it’s too high, I say come back when your BMI is lower."

Full Recovery Can Take Up To A Year

While most doctors state that it takes between 3 to 6 weeks to feel normal again and regain typical movement, real recovery can take up to a year. After approximately 6 weeks you'll start to see some of the results of the surgery. Tummy tucks leave a lot of swelling, and that swelling takes time to go away. Patients may start to see results at 6 weeks post op, but still, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons suggests that residual swelling can "linger for six months or longer."

While you may be feeling great within a few months of your surgery, they also advise that your stomach may continue to fully heal for up to a year after surgery.

woman taking to doctor
Credit: iStock / nortonrsx

You Will Have A Scar, And A Large One At That

While a tummy tuck may help to get rid of any stretch marks and excess skin you are struggling with, it is also going to leave you with a large scar. With a traditional tummy tuck, the plastic surgeon will create an incision from hip to hip, right above the pubic bone, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons states. Because the belly button is relocated during surgery, there will also be a small incision made there as well.

Although the scar can be quite large, it will fade over time, and most surgeons will do their best to ensure the incision can be hidden by bathing suit bottoms or undergarments.

Nutrition Is Important

Now that you have a new tummy, you're going to want to ensure that you're doing everything you can to help speed up recovery and maintain healthy habits. Dr. Loeb states that eating well is important when it comes to your recovery. "There is no better time to focus on nutritious, well-balanced meals than after surgery. A diet rich in healthy grains, lean proteins and vegetables promotes better immune health and will give your body the means to heal surgical wounds faster. For optimal recovery, steer clear of fast foods and those which are highly processed."

There Are Risks

While surgery and going under anesthesia come with their own risks, there are additional risks associated with a tummy tuck. Very Well Health lists asymmetry, scarring, loose skin, numbness in the skin, and poor results as potential risks. There is also a risk of poor healing, excessive bleeding, and infection.

tummy tuck
Credit: iStock / Zhenyakot

What Is The Average Cost?

According to PlasticSurgery.org, the cost of getting this procedure is not cheap. We all know that having cosmetic surgery is an investment in time and money, and will vary depending on where you live. The average cost is $5,992, according to 2017 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Tummy tucks are becoming more and more common and affordable and are often marketed to women as part of a “mommy makeover.” If you're considering a tummy tuck make sure to do your homework and fully research any prospective plastic surgeon, you may be considering. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as possible until you're fully satisfied that you have found the doctor and facility that's right for you.

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