Pregnancy can have a number of effects on a woman’s body, including fluctuations in weight, changes in breast shape, skin texture and elasticity. For many new mothers, post-pregnancy bodies create moments of both celebration and difficulty, and that’s especially true when it comes down to the source of it all — the stomach.
Fortunately, new technologies are making it easier than ever to address stomach concerns. “Tell your surgeon what bothers you about your post-baby figure,” says Seattle plastic surgeon Dr. Scott Sattler. “A good surgeon will put together a plan to address as many of these issues as possible.”
It’s also important to remember that carrying a human being for nine months is no easy feat, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Here are a few options that can help your abs make a comeback.
There are several ways to approach traditional abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck. The procedure removes excess skin and fat from around the stomach from the belly button — or higher — down to the pubic region, while tightening separated muscles around the abdomen. Up to 30 to 50 percent of the stomach skin is removed, including some of the stretch marks. A mini tummy tuck uses a shorter incision to treat only the area below the belly button and is ideal for someone with little excess fat.
“Our most popular procedure is the ‘hybrid tummy tuck,’ ” says Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Brent Moelleken. “This is a short incision tummy tuck that is done through a C-section type incision (usually we revise the scar in patients who have had a C-section). This fixes the diastasis rectified (separation of the stomach muscles) and repairs the fascia and any hernias that resulted from childbirth.” He says that this procedure is best for mothers who did not gain a lot of weight during pregnancy.
“We typically combine abdominoplasty and liposuction of the waist and hips from the front and back sides of the patient,” says Dr. Sattler. “This technique allows us to narrow the waist substantially. We create a new shape for the belly button — a vertically oriented ‘almond’ shape with an internalized scar is the goal.
“We are combining tummy tuck procedures with virtually every cosmetic procedure you can think of,” he adds. “Combination surgery is a great way to use your time and money efficiently.”
Doctors recommend taking at minimum two weeks, and sometimes up to four, to recover properly.
Average Cost: $8,150
Worth It Rating: 96%
While liposuction improves body contour by removing fat cells between the skin and muscles, liposculpture removes or leaves fat in specific areas to create the appearance of muscle definition. It can be performed alone or with other procedures, in almost all regions of the body, including the neck, chin, abdomen and back.
For mothers, liposculpture is a great option to attain more defined abs.
“There are a few reasons why women notice a post-pregnancy paunch. First, because of excess fat that settles around the abdomen. Second, because the muscles have separated after the pregnancy and are now stretched out. And third, because the skin itself has been overstretched during pregnancy and isn’t springing back to normal like it should. Liposculpture can only remove excess fat. If your belly is due to muscle or skin laxity, these would need to be repaired through a tummy tuck,” said Denver plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Campanile in a RealSelf Q&A.
Average Price: $5,300
Worth It Rating: 91%
Target unwanted fat around your waistline with this non-invasive procedure. CoolSculpting is an FDA-approved treatment that uses a handheld device to freeze stubborn fat cells, and is an option for any mom to consider who is not yet ready to commit to surgery.
One CoolSculpting session typically takes an hour per area treated about the size of your hand. Approved treatment areas include the abs, love handles, inner and outer thighs, back, bra fat, “banana roll,” upper arms, and underneath the chin (with CoolMini).
In a RealSelf Q&A, Portland, Oregon, plastic surgeon Dr. Elisa Burgess said: “In our practice, we really encourage patients to have lifestyle changes with exercise, core strengthening and watching their intake to get to an ideal weight. But sometimes even after doing that, patients can have trouble fatty spots, and these areas can be treated with CoolSculpting.”
Expect about a 25 to 30 percent reduction in fat per treatment. Most people require two to four treatments to achieve the results they want.
Average Cost: $2,400
Worth It Rating: 76%
Ready to explore options post-baby? Find a doctor.