May is the month we dedicate to celebrate motherhood. It’s only fitting, therefore, that we also recognize the changes that motherhood brings.
Of course, becoming a mother alters the life of a woman in many ways, often running the gamut of emotional experiences. There are also changes to a woman’s body that accompany growing, carrying and bearing a child.
Pregnancy, and the weight gain that occur, create growth, not only of the baby, but also of the mom. Among the structures that grow to accommodate the new addition is mom’s belly skin. Sometimes the skin has difficulty expanding evenly so it cracks in areas. These cracks in the skin are what we identify as stretch marks.
Labor and delivery also create changes in the woman’s pelvis, allowing the hips to relax and widen during the birthing process. Multiple pregnancies multiply this effect on the woman’s body. These permanent changes are, however, well compensated by the joys of motherhood
The other parts of the woman’s body greatly affected by pregnancy are the breasts. The breasts grow and engorge in preparation for feeding the infant. Many women like the appearance of their breasts during pregnancy because the breasts become full and robust. Often women are disappointed after pregnancy when the breasts lose their fullness and begin to drift downward.
The good news is that many of the undesirable effects on the woman’s body from pregnancy can often be minimized before, or improved afterwards, through good perinatal care, as well as, the judicious and timely use of plastic surgery.
Let’s Start at the Top
The breasts typically lose their fullness and descend to a lower position after pregnancy. Sometimes the areolae also stretch. The reasons for these changes are simple; gravity and skin tone.
The surgical treatment of post-pregnancy breast changes depends upon the condition. Lack of fullness requires placement of implants to restore volume. Nowadays many implant choices are available. Women who choose to breast feed should defer breast augmentation until the breasts revert back to their dry, pre-pregnancy state, usually 1-2 months after cessation of feeding.
Breast droopiness requires a lift procedure. Lift techniques vary but typically involve a greater degree of scarring than simple breast augmentation. Patients need to be ok with these scars and should have a thorough consultation to review them prior to surgery. Areolae can also be made smaller at the same time. Sometimes patients can benefit from both a breast lift and augmentation to restore position and fullness.
Then There’s the Baby Belly
The abdomen does the heavy lifting in pregnancy. It’s no surprise therefore, that, after pregnancy, skin redundancy and stretch marks can remain. Another interesting effect of pregnancy is a separation of the paired rectus abdominus (i.e sit-up) muscles. The result is a gap between the muscles resembling a hernia. It is because of this anatomical separation of the muscles that abdominal exercises after pregnancy, such as sit-ups, although beneficial, are of limited value.
In cases of loose abdominal skin, stretch marks, and muscle separtation, the procedure of choice is an abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck. Like the breast lift, tummy tuck surgery requires scars that need to be accepted by the patient. The tradeoff, however, is substantial removal of excess skin and stretch marks, as well as repositioning of the muscles. The result is a dramatic tightening of the belly with a very high degree of satisfaction. Tummy tuck patients are among the happiest in my practice.
Since both the breasts and the belly are affected by pregnancy, women often choose a combination of procedures. Sometimes even other areas, such as the love handles or the thighs also become part of the mommy makeover.
Combination procedures require additional safety considerations with respect to the operating facility and anesthesia. As with all plastic surgery a thorough and honest consultation with an experienced surgeon is key to a happy mommy. Happy Mother’s Day!
About the Author:
Jorge A. Perez, M.D., F.A.C.S. is a board certified plastic surgeon in Ft. Lauderdale. He is a member of the NOVO National Council of Leaders in Breast Aesthetics. He has served as a consultant for both Mentor (J&J) and Inamed (Allergan), leading breast implant manufacturers.
He has lectured internationally on the subject of breast surgery and body contouring and has been selected among the Castle Connolly (U.S. News & World Report) America’s Top Doctors. More information is available at www.PerezPlasticSurgery.com or [email protected] or call (954) 351-2200.