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.

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.

Short answer: Yes. You can get pregnant after a tummy tuck.  That being said, every plastic surgeon you meet will tell you to tuck after babies.  Why?

Well, what makes you want to get a tummy tuck now? You are likely

stretched out,

hanging or loose skin,

loosened muscles,

and maybe stretch marks.

When we do a tummy tuck we 1. tighten the muscles and 2. tighten the skin.  Another pregnancy will do the opposite.  Your muscles and skin will stretch to accomodate the pregnancy.  Your internal stitches to tighten the muscles will likely loosen or rip.  Your skin will stretch  and if you are prone to stretch marks, you will likely form new ones.

STORYTIME:

I had a patient who had major weight loss. 100 pounds.  She came to me for a tummy tuck.  She also was 30 ish, and when I asked, she said she wanted children in the future.  She was a great tummy tuck candidate- she had horrible stretch marks and hanging skin.  But I told her to wait.  Why? She is 30.  She can’t wait too long to have kids due to that darn fertility time clock.  She formed bad stretch marks from her weight gain.  People who form bad stretch marks tend to do it again.  The stretch marks now are mostly on her lower belly, and I will remove them when I tummy tuck her.  If I tuck her now and tighten the skin, when she gets pregnant she will form new stretch marks.  These stretch marks will go where she stretches, which includes above the belly button.  I most likely won’t be able to cut these out after her pregnancy.

IF she waits, she is “prestretched” for her pregnancy (from her prior 100 pounds of weight.) She will likely look just like she does now after the baby.  I can then tuck her after the baby, and likely get rid of her stretch marks.  It is also one less surgery.

And, something doctors don’t talk about, but being pregnant can be tough.  Watching your flat belly stretch… and stretch…and stretch is hard to do.  When you”fixed” your belly with a tummy tuck and your new pregnancy and baby is now “ruining” it – that is not a good dynamic.

If life throws you a curve ball, then it happens.  But if you are planning things out, think of your body for the long haul- what will be the best result 10 years down the road.

We have established it isn’t a good thing to do the tummy tuck with C section.  I know. I know.  I’d love it too.  But it just isn’t a good idea.  So when can you do it?

When is good timing? Here you will get varied answers.  Most plastic surgeons will advise 6 months or more.  Most will advise trying to get to your pre pregnancy weight.

My advice?

  1. KNOW YOU ARE DONE WITH KIDS.
  2. Wait at least 3 months: you lose blood during delivery and need to give your body time to rebuild up its blood stores.
  3. Get back to prepregnancy weight.
  4. Work out and focus on your core.
  5. Be done with breastfeeding.  I would wait a couple months after breastfeeding so you can build up your nutrition again.
  6. See a Plastic Surgeon.  Make sure you don’t see someone who can only do liposuction– you need someone to evaluate you who actually can do a tummy tuck or liposuction.
  7. Know the “price” you are willing to pay for surgery.  (For this please see my blog on the grey zone for tummy tucks at bodypostbaby on wordpress.)

I get asked this question a lot.  “Why can’t I do a tummy tuck when I get a Csection?” Sounds good. Some people look at me like, duh, why haven’t you thought of this?

Anyone who has been pregnant knows their body is not normal at the end of pregnancy. During pregnancy your blood volume grows by 50%. If you labor hard, everything down south is swollen. Your body has been dedicated to creating a healthy baby, depleting your body of some nutrition. If you breastfeed, that continues. Your weight is not normal. Most of us have not worked out for months, and even for you uber Bay area athletes- admit it: you can’t really get a good core workout with a giant baby in your belly.

We plastic surgeons have thought about it. You are in surgery, anesthesia, everything is stretched out….. But a true tummy tuck is a big surgery. It is two layers- the bottom layer tightens your muscles at the midline where you formed the diastasis. The second layer is the excess skin. When we mobilize the skin, we undermine it from the pubic bone all the way up to the ribcage.

Many Csections are after laboring and failing vaginal delivery. The patients are exhausted and swollen, and so is their tissue. You have significant blood loss during delivery. There have been studies in the past which linked combined surgery to higher complications. Please reread paragraph one again.

Elective cosmetic surgery is that. Elective. Cosmetic. It must be SAFE. You need to be well, healthy, energetic. You have a newborn to feed and care for and lift. Blood loss, poor wound healing, opening of your incision, bleeding, inability to lift heavy objects, staying bent at the waist, drains, liquids only for the first few days- it is too much.

What about the people who advertise “Tummy tuck with C section, Get a 2 for 1!” Those are not true tummy tucks. That is usually a little wedge of extra skin off the lower belly. A small skin wedge is akin to a miniabdominoplasty and adds little extra risk. This is not a tummy tuck. During this procedure they are not tightening the underlying muscles, nor are they addressing any of the loose skin or muscle above the belly button.  But if you have to have the C section, why not take a little extra skin? I am not against it.  Removing a wedge of skin will lengthen your C section scar, but it may be worth it.

As for the real tummy tuck with the C section…. I get it.  I would love the two for one.  I would love to have been done with my third kid and come out looking like a movie star.  But it is surgery.  A big surgery.  And to do it right, your body needs to be normal.  You need to be healthy.  You need to have normal blood levels and nutrition.  And you need to be able to focus on YOU.

You just gave birth.  You are lucky.  Focus on your beautiful baby.  Trust me, your baby isn’t looking at your belly….  They have other parts of you they want.