The Surgeon Minute

Tummy Tuck – The Abdominal Fixer-Upper

Tummy Tuck – The Abdominal Fixer-Upper

Plastic surgeons are known for their ability to take a body part that has seen better days and restore it to it’s former glory, especially when it comes to a post-pregnancy tummy. The results are dramatic, and post-surgery moms are thrilled to regain their pre-baby bodies.

“The tummy tuck is one of the reasons why I became a plastic surgeon,” shares Scottsdale-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Shaun Parson. “Fundamentally, you change as you go from point A to point B through childbearing years. A tummy tuck puts you back to where you were prior to having the kids.”

Layers of Restoration

The most visible layer of the abdomen is the skin, but it’s not the only layer of the abdomen affected by pregnancy. As the uterus expands, everything gets pushed out of the way. Skin, stretched beyond its ability to shrink back, remains loose after the baby is born. On a deeper level, the abdominal muscles may also be stretched and separate.  In between the stretched out muscles and stretched out skin, stubborn fat often adds to the problem.

How a tummy tuck works.

To restore the abdomen from the inside out, the tummy tuck works in three ways: restoring muscle position, removing excess skin and contouring the waist with liposuction.

Three Ways A Tummy Tuck Works:

  1. Restores Stretched Muscles to Pre-Baby Position
  2. Removes Excess Skin
  3. Contours Waist with Liposuction

Restoring Stretched Muscles to Pre-Baby Position

The same “six-pack” muscles that bodybuilders and professional athletes boast are present in every abdomen. You have them even if you have never seen them! Most of the time, those muscles are hidden by layers of fat.

Before pregnancy, the abdominal muscles line up tightly along the mid-line of the abdomen. During pregnancy, they are stretched apart and may not return to the position they were once in. In this common situation, no amount of exercise can restore them to their pre-baby position.

“They’re still strong, they’re just physically not as close,” explains Dr. Parson. “When you look at a woman after having kids and they’ve got that little pooch below their belly button, it’s because their muscles aren’t as close as they were prior to having kids. A tummy tuck fixes that.”

Tummy tuck before and after.

Removing Excess Skin

Surgery is also the only way to remove loose, excess skin. “There’s no lotions, there’s no salves, there’s no ointments, nothing is going to fundamentally fix those loose wrinkled areas on your skin that get stretched out from having kids,” says Parson. “A tummy tuck does.”

Another common side effect of pregnancy on abdominal skin is stretch marks. When the skin is removed during surgery, the stretch marks are removed along with it.

The amount of skin removed during a tummy tuck varies. When loose excess skin is minimal, Dr. Parson is able to use a smaller incision to fix the muscle separation and remove the skin.  This is known as a mini tummy tuck.

Contouring the Waist with Liposuction

Most post-pregnancy women have a combination of excess skin and excess fat contributing to their loss of a defined waistline. “The other thing that we cover with a tummy tuck is liposuction,” adds Parson. By removing unwanted fat and/or fat pockets, Dr. Parson is able to sculpt a waist, adding contour and much-needed curves to a formerly bulky abdomen.

Tummy tuck results - Dr. Parson.

Tummy Tuck Scars & C-Section Scars

The trade off for a tight tummy is a scar, often placed so that it hides beneath bikini bottoms and underwear. While the scar is visible when no clothing is on, no one will ever need to see it when you are dressed or at the beach. “There is a scar, but it’s so acceptable,” explains Parson. “Oftentimes you can use the same C-section scar, and the C-section scar may just be slightly more elongated. It’s still very concealed, and we can even improve that scar.”

Tummy tuck scars.

From Restoration to Recovery

For many moms, a demanding list of responsibilities make the appeal of a restored figure seem out of reach. Advances in technique and technology are making the recovery less painful and shorter than in decades past.

“Long gone are the days where you’re laid up and you can’t get back into a normal routine,” shares Parson. “Moms have to get back and take care of normal mom stuff. Usually, after seven to ten days they can get back to doing normal mom type things and back to normal work.”

It is, however, very important to allow the body to heal before returning to exercise and strenuous physical activity. After three weeks, Dr. Parson allows his patients to return to light aerobic activities. This means they can break a sweat as long as the exercise is non-impact. After four-to-six weeks, most patients are cleared to begin exercising their core and can also increase their exercise intensity levels.

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