post baby belly


Abdominoplasties come in all shapes and sizes, just like the women who need them.  This blog will be a glossary of some of the common terms.  From biggest surgery to smallest:

Full abdominoplasty.  Also called Tummy tuck. Two scars: one incision from about hip to hip and one around the belly button.  The muscles are tightened and usually all of the skin between the pubic area and belly button is removed. This can be combined with other procedures like liposuction of the flanks.  Cannot be combined with liposuction of the belly itself.  If you have hanging skin, volumes of loose skin, or loose skin above the belly button, this may be what you need.

Mini abdominoplasty.  Also called a mini tummy tuck.  The incision for a mini can be placed as low as you want to go.  The scar length can vary– from short like a C-section to longer from hip to hip.  The longer the scar, the more skin is removed.  (and most are not the short C-section kind.  Sorry.) Does not have an incision at the belly button. (Good for bikinis and low rider jeans) Does minimal to no tightening of the skin above the belly button.  It does tighten the skin of the lower belly. You can combine with liposuction of anywhere you want.  You can also combine with tightening of the muscle, though it can be difficult to reach the upper muscle near the ribcage if you are long waisted.

Floating belly button.  This is not a common surgery.  It involves no scar on the skin of the belly button, just one in the lower abdomen.  Your belly button is like a mushroom.  During a normal tummy tuck the belly button does not move- the skin does.  In this surgery, the stalk of the belly button is cut, and the belly button floats down toward the pubic area attached only to the skin.  This allows tightening of the upper abdomen and lower abdomen skin.  The issue is it lowers the position of the belly button, so it is only good for those with high belly buttons to begin with, and the belly button is no longer connected to the stalk.  If you ever need a laproscopic procedure, they cannot use the port through the belly button as this connection is gone. 

Muscle tightening only.  This is for the women who have good skin tone, no fat, but have loosened muscles after babies. (When you aren’t sucking it in you look 5 months pregnant, and when you suck it in you go FLAT.)  A lot of my Bay Area women fall into this category.  The skin incision can be short when you do this.  NOTE:  If when you suck in your belly the skin hangs and is wrinkled, then you likely need some form of skin tightening.  The more skin tightening, the longer the scar.  See mini tummy tuck description above.

The hybrid adominoplasty is a trademarked name of a procedure done by Dr. Moelleken from Southern California.  It is most like the muscle tightening only procedure listed above.

The institute of medicine is widely recognized as setting guidelines for pregnancy.  The last time they revised their estimates was in 1990.  Since then the obesity epidemic has boomed.  Kathleen Rasmussen, ScD, PhD, and IOM committee chairwoman expressed “during pregnancy many women gain substantially more than we would like.”  The new guidelines are similar to the past, but now the obese women have an upper limit.  No one should lose weight while pregnant.

So what is the magic answer?

First, figure out your BMI.  Body mass index.   weight (pounds) / [height (ininches)]2 x 703.  For those who don’t want to do the math, go to the calculator here: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html  This is a fairly reliable way of figuring out body “fatness” in most people. It doesn’t directly measure your fat, but research has shown BMI correlates with accurate measurements of body fat.

What are the categories?

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5= underweight
  • BMI is 18.5 to 24.9= normal or healthy
  • BMI is 25.0 to 29.9= overweight
  • BMI is 30.0 or higher= obese

 

SO. the IOM guidelines?

 

If you are pregnant with ONE child:

  • Underweight: Gain 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight: Gain 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight: Gain 15-25 pounds
  • Obese: Gain 11-20 pounds

If you are pregnant with TWINS :

  • Underweight: no guidelines due to insufficient data
  • Normal weight: Gain 37-54 pounds
  • Overweight: Gain 31-50 pounds
  • Obese: Gain 25-42 pounds

So most likely,  to do this, you need to eat basically what is your normal.  Exercise.  Don’t think of this time as “eating for two.”  If you do, in addition to gaining more weight than you should (which leads to a host of other issues), you will be hurting your body’s ability to bounce back after pregnancy.  Trust me- as a plastic surgeon, I see it all the time.

Many women who come to me have gained weight.  Particularly after babies, and the more babies the merrier, you may not be able to get back down to the svelte self you once were.  Some of it is from pregnancy- did you overeat? not exercise? Some of it is from young motherhood- are you sleep deprived? eating to stay awake? nibbling on all of the goldfish and mac n cheese? going to the umpteen million kiddie parties with cupcakes? or finishing the tidbits on your kids plates while cleaning the dishes (guilty as charged)?

So what am i going to say?  Eat broiled fish and salad?  Lose the weight by “chasing your children” and breastfeeding??

NO!

I love to read Men’s Health magazine.  The articles are great.  Here are some good rules of thumb, and he focuses on the tiny changes- not the “I am going to exercise for 2 hours every day” kind of programs, but the “I am going to not put the extra food on the table” kind of things. So I am not going to write this article again- I think he did a great job.  But I will post it here because he cites some interesting studies.  And much of the body work I do as a plastic surgeon has everything to do with weight.

7 Habits That Make You Fat
By David Zinczenko of Men’s Health


FAT HABIT #1: Putting the Serving Dishes on the Table
Researchers at Cornell University found that when people served themselves from the kitchen counter or the stove, they ate up to 35 percent less food than they did when the grub was on the kitchen or dining room table. When there’s distance between us and our food, the scientists theorize, we think harder about whether we’re really hungry for more.

FAT HABIT #2: Getting Too Little (or Too Much) Sleep

A sleep schedule is vital to any weight-loss plan, say Wake Forest University researchers who tracked study participants for 5 years. In the under-40 age group, people who slept 5 hours or less each night gained nearly 2½ times as much abdominal fat as those who logged 6 to 7 hours; also, those who slept 8 hours or longer added nearly twice as much belly fat as the 6- to 7-hour group. People with sleep deficits tend to eat more (and use less energy) because they’re tired, says study coauthor Kristen Hairston, M.D., while those who sleep longer than 8 hours a night tend to be less active.

FAT HABIT #3: Not Multitasking While Watching TV
We don’t need to tell you that too much TV has been linked to weight gain. But here’s what you may not realize: You can have your TV and watch it, too. Just do something else at the same time. Washing dishes burns 70 calories every 30 minutes. So does ironing. Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Cutting TV time even a little helps you burn calories, say researchers at the University of Vermont. In their study, overweight participants who cut their viewing time in half (from an average of 5 hours to 2.5) burned an extra 119 calories a day. “Nearly anything you do—even reading—uses more energy than watching TV,” says study author Jennifer J. Otten, Ph.D.

FAT HABIT #4: Drinking Soda
Researchers say you can measure a person’s risk of obesity by measuring his or her soda intake. Versus people who don’t drink sweetened sodas, here’s what your daily intake means:

½ can = 26 percent increased risk of being overweight or obese

½ to 1 can = 30.4 percent increased risk

1 to 2 cans = 32.8 percent increased risk

More than 2 cans = 47.2 percent increased risk

That’s a pretty remarkable set of stats. You don’t have to guzzle Double Gulps from 7-Eleven to put yourself at risk—you just need to indulge in one or two cans a day. Wow. And because high-fructose corn syrup is so cheap, food marketers keep making serving sizes bigger (even the “small” at most movie theaters is enough to drown a raccoon). That means we’re drinking more than ever and don’t even realize it: In the 1950s, the average person drank 11 gallons of soda a year. By the mid-2000s, we were drinking 46 gallons a year. A Center for Science in the Public Interest report contained this shocking sentence: “Carbonated soft drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet.”

FAT HABIT #5: Taking Big Bites
Dutch researchers recently found that big bites and fast chewing can lead to overeating. In the study, people who chewed large bites of food for 3 seconds consumed 52 percent more food before feeling full than those who chewed small bites for 9 seconds. The reason: Tasting food for a longer period of time (no matter how much of it you bite off) signals your brain to make you feel full sooner, say the scientists.

Fat Habit #6: Not Eating Enough Fat
You don’t have to go whole hog on a low-carb diet to see results. Simply swapping a few hundred calories of carbs for a little fat may help you lose weight and reduce your blood-insulin levels, according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. People in their study who consumed just 43 percent of their calories from carbohydrates felt fuller after 4 hours and maintained their blood-sugar levels longer than those who ate 55 percent carbs. Carbs can cause blood-sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to hunger and overeating, says study author Barbara Gower, Ph.D. Fat, on the other hand, keeps you satiated longer. Some easy swaps: butter instead of jam on toast; bacon instead of potatoes; low-fat milk instead of a sports drink.

FAT HABIT #7: Not Getting the Best Guidance!
Signing up for e-mails (or tweets) that contain weight-loss advice can help you drop pounds, a new study reveals. When researchers from Canada sent diet and exercise advice to more than 1,000 working adults weekly, they discovered that the recipients boosted their physical activity and ate smarter. People who didn’t receive the reminders didn’t change.

EAT RIGHT RULE: If your food can go bad, it’s good for you. If it can’t go bad, it’s bad for you.

A lot of us have back pain.  And kids, in addition to being a pain in the neck at times :), can also lead to a pain in your back.  

That tummy tucks help with back pain is not new news.  When you have babies you will stretch out your abdominal muscles.  Frequently this leads to separation of the rectus muscles, what is called a diastasis.  This midline separation cannot be fixed with situps.  The only way we have of fixing it is to corset the muscles back together during a tummy tuck. 

So why would fixing your belly help your back?  Your back and your abdominal muscles work to stabilize your body and help you stand up straight.  If your abdomen is blown out or loosey goosey (I know, highly technical terms here), then your back must work overtime to stabilize your body.  This can lead to pain.

What is common folk wisdom in plastic surgery often leads to scientific papers which support it.  A multitude of papers have emerged which support that tummy tucks are not a just-to-make-you-look-pretty surgery, but a functional one.  The latest appeared in the January 2011 issue of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Journal .  It is a study out of the University of Michigan, “Wide Abdominal Rectus Plication Abdominoplasty for the Treatment of Chronic Intractable Low Back Pain.” 

In it, they point out some ideas I would like to reiterate:

  • Most surgical treatment for chronic back pain is directed at the spine.  In a study by Toranto, who first championed the wide abdominal rectus plication, he gave relief to chronic back pain in 24 of 25 patients by addressing the belly, not the back.
  • A tummy tuck for back pain is only useful in patients who present with significant abdominal wall weakness and laxity.  All of the patients in this study had one or more pregnancies. 
  • Conservative treatment is always good first. 
  • For those with neurologic damage of the spine, you need to make sure there is no radiographic or clinical evidence of the damage being caused by an identifiable structural lesion in the spine.

 

The study postulates that the rectus muscle forms a “sheath” of tissue connecting to the thoracolumbar fascia.  “This forms a structure that biomechanically influences the mechanics and stability of the lumbar spine.”  The “wide” abdominal plication doesn’t just realign the rectus muscles, it brings it in tighter.  The thought is to increase the intraabdominal pressure and put the muscles at a more efficient place in the force-length curve to increase their force generating capacity. In this small study of 8 patients, all were improved. 

Small studies can be discounted, but this study had a very thorough evaluation preoperative and postoperatively by a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with specific expertise in management of chronic low back pain.  100% of them were better.

OUCH!

I have a friend who lives in LA who just had a tummy tuck and breast augmentation.  She is on her first day after surgery.  She is a tough cookie, and her words to me today were, “This really hurts!!”

One of the most common mommy makeover surgeries is breast augmentation and tummy tuck.   These by themselves are the two most painful surgeries we do as plastic surgeons.  These surgeries hurt because of the muscle.  For tummy tucks, I like to put in a pain pump which drips numbing medication internally to help.  In addition we give you pain medication and some of us use muscle relaxants as well.  Even with all of this, it still hurts.

For planning how to deal with your family life (as you are a mom, hence the mommy makeover):

  • the first 2-3 days you are OUT. You will be on medication round the clock.  Someone else should care for your kids.  And you. 
  • The first one to two weeks you will be very sore.  No driving until you are off pain medication.  As for when you will feel normal again and be doing your daily life things, people vary.  Every person is different as to when they get over the “hump” and feel better. 
  • No heavy lifting (yes, this includes your adorable children) until much farther out.  Exactly when you can lift something over 5-10 pounds is not a hard rule.  Some of it depends on you and your tissue.  Your doctor will know what that means.  Here plastic surgeons differ on their recommendations for activity level, so defer to your doctor.  Tensile strength of your wound (how strong your repair is) is weakest at three weeks out from surgery.  Usually you can’t do any exercise until at least 6 weeks out.  For core body exercise (pilates, crunches, that favorite daily method place in menlo park, etc) I extend that until 3 months.

Give yourself time.  It took you 9 months (and for those of you with multiple kids, multiply that time) to get into this mess, it will take you a while until you feel normal again.  This is normal.

I had a patient who after three kids wants a tummy tuck.  Her belly was blown out after her second child, and she has back pain, so we knew a tummy tuck was in her future to repair it all after her third child.  She wants to do it when her baby turns one.

But she has been reading my blog (Go Bay Area blog reading mommies!) and said, “I know I should wait for 2-3 years until I do surgery, but I don’t want to wait.”   I realized I have not been clear.  It is true, the most common time I see women after babies is about 2-3 years out.  I think that timing is good- you have gotten out of the fog of babydom and given yourself a chance to get back into shape and see what comes back … and what doesn’t.  So the flip of that…

When is the soonest? Should you wait?

  • Normal blood level.  You lose a fair amount of blood after birth.  You need 3 months to rebuild your blood store.
  • Nutrition.  Your baby has spent the last 10 months preferentially getting your nutrients.  You need time to restore. 
  • Sleep.  Surgery is a stress on the body.  I liken it to running a marathon.  If you are sleep deprived you won’t have the reserve to help you heal well.
  • Breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding continues to take calories, energy, and nutrition for your newborn.  I am a HUGE breastfeeding fan.  The benefits to you and your child are immense.  If doing breast surgery, you need the breasts to be empty of milk, which takes about 3-6 months after you stop breastfeeding.  If doing other surgery, you can’t breastfeed at the same time- it would be too tough on your body to devote energy to healing and to your baby, and the medications needed for surgery and healing would get in your milk.  Also, see the nutrition point- breastfeeding can deplete you, so you need time after you stop to rebuild your internal stores.

 

My two to three year window is for women in the dreaded grey zone.  The grey zone? Those women who’s breasts and bellies aren’t like they were before babies, but they aren’t so bad.  In the right time of day, right angle, or if you stand up straight (posture girls!) you look okay.  Those are the women who should wait. 

But some women have things time will not help.  Particularly for the abdomen, horrible stretch marks, a wide diastasis (separation of the muscles), hernias, and hanging skin won’t go away with time and exercise.  Two years will not make these better.

So see your doctor.  Every patient and situation is different.  I get timing is tricky.  Many of you work, have multiple kids, and husbands schedules and other things you juggle.  But this is elective surgery.  And I know, from the title of this blog, you have an incredible responsibility- you are a mom. 

Elective surgery needs to be safe. 

There is a time and place for everything. Talk to your doctor.

Fat.

It is one of those things we discuss for our entire lives.  Watching what we eat, trying to fit into jeans, comparing ourselves to others while changing in the locker room.

A recent study in Nature magazine showed some interesting facts.  The basic jist:  the number of fat cells you have as an adult remains constant through your adult life.  They postulate that number is formed by the amount of fat cells you have in childhood and adolescence.  When you gain weight as an adult, you are enlarging the fat cells you already have.  When you lose weight, you are shrinking them.  As a kid though, when you put on weight, you add fat cells. 

Their thought? If you gained weight in childhood, you have more fat cells, and it is harder for you to lose weight as an adult.  For those who gained as adults, their fat cell number was determined when they were kids, so they don’t have as many cells, therefore  it may be easier for them to lose weight.  (Maybe this has something to do why some can lose the baby weight easier than others?)

  • The number of fat cells rises until age 20
  • The number then remains constant
  • The number of fat cells is linked to BMI (your body mass index)

 

They found patients who had stomach stapling had no change in the fat cell number despite losing 18% of their weight.

Bottom line: Keep your kids healthy during adolescence.  Their fat cell number is set as an adolescent for the rest of their life.

I just got back from a playgroup. There was a mom who just had twins 6 months ago and has another child who is 2.  She had tried to do an intense exercise and diet program to get back into shape.  Here is a woman who has three kids within 2 years, the twins are boys, she is not sleeping through the night.  I was looking at her thinking, “You showered!” “Your shoes match!” “You aren’t wearing sweats!”  So I will repeat what I, the plastic surgeon and mother of three said to her:

Give yourself a break.

I know it is tough.  We see magazine articles of “how famous so and so actress lost her baby weight in three months!”  And there will be some lovely article about broiled chicken and fish and salad and yoga.  Or better yet, “I lost the weight just chasing after my kids.” Oh how lovely.  Here in the Bay Area there are many uber athletic thin women.  Some women I know look smaller when they are 9 months pregnant than the average American woman is non pregnant. 

Give yourself a break.

There are those genetically blessed women who “pop” right back into form quickly.  Yes, it isn’t all genes.  Keeping in shape while you are pregnant, not gaining more than the baby weight, not using pregnancy as carte blanche to try all the flavors of Ben and Jerrys … these all are important. 

But at six months out with a new baby, particularly if you have other children, and are breastfeeding/ working/ making dinners/ laundry/ cleaning up/ making lunches/ bathtimes/ buying diapers/ afterschool activities/ playgroups/ clean the house again…

There is a time and place for everything.  Sometime not so far away, your baby won’t be a baby.  He will be sleeping through the night.  YOU will be sleeping through the night.  I see the majority of my mommy makeover patients 2-3 years after their last child.  I think that timing is good.  It gives you time…. time to enjoy being a mother.  Time to breastfeed.  Time to give your body a chance to get back to normal.   Then you can work out.  Diet.  Exercise hard.  See where you can get to on your own.   

So give yourself a break.  Your baby won’t be a baby for long.  Savor every moment while you can.

I get People magazine at my office. 

Yes, yes. I admit.  I flip through it.  A guilty pleasure I am sure.  It is a bit of “plastic surgery” research though as well.

This will be a quick post, but The March 8 2010 issue had on the front cover, Nicole Eggert. “How I lost 15 pounds!” So I read the article.  I saw the photos.

She did lose weight.  She does look better.  But I have a strong suspicion this was not just her eating plan of not skipping breakfast, eating a large salad for lunch, and broiling fish for dinner.  So I searched online to see if anyone has the scoop on what she did.  In looking at her photos, I can’t quite see her moles on her 2009 photo to compare to her current one.  In her 2010 photos she is lifting her hands above her head (we all look better that way), so I can’t quite tell how tight her skin really is.  Why would I look for moles and skin tightness? My strong suspicion is she had liposuction, a tummy tuck, or a mini tummy tuck. When you have a tuck, your skin is tightened and walah, your moles would move.

So why am I writing about this? Trust me, I am a busy surgeon.  I am not searching gossip columns to dish on celebrity surgery.  But this People magazine article makes me mad.  Women who have children frequently don’t have the bodies they did before having children.  And for many, it is not eating too many hamburgers and being a couch potato which causes it.  I have many patients at their ideal weight, who do work out daily and eat well, and “can’t tone things up.”  They can’t tone it up because their muscles are separated and their skin is stretched. 

I don’t want people to read this article and think “If I just eat broiled fish for dinner, I can look like that too…”  This is misleading.  This is not the whole story.

So I don’t know what she did.  I am glad she feels better and is in the best shape of her life.  She looks great.  But we mortal women who have had children should not read these magazine articles and think they are reality.

Though maybe we should all raise our arms over our head when we take photos.  It is a simple thing to do.  And that will make our bellies look better.

If only unicorns were real. 

I hear patients say all the time “I can tone that skin up later when I start to exercise again.”  Ug.  I am the poor girl who has to correct them.  I have to tell them that unicorns and faries are not real.  I wish you could retighten the skin.

Things that do not tighten the skin:

  • exercise
  • improving the underlying muscles “toning”
  • creams
  • lasers
  • massage

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just take off our skin and throw it in the dryer? Shrink it right back up like those jeans you can barely get on after the wash?

But alas, it does not work like that.

Skin is like a bathing suit.  Skin tone is like the elastic in the suit.  When the elastic is gone, it is gone.  The only way we have of tightening skin is to cut it out.   Volume makes skin look better (ie fat under the skin), as it puffs out the skin.  Hydration keeps skin better, though drinking lots of water doesn’t go to the skin- you likely pee most of it out.  I do see lasers which improve the look of the skin for a short time- 3-4 weeks- due to the swelling following the procedure.  When the swelling goes, so does the “improvment.”

Don’t let someone sell you a rainbow.  Many people use tricks with photography to try to convince you.

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