You'd be forgiven for believing that having a baby doesn't have a long-term effect on your body. We're bombarded with yummy mummy pictures in magazines and papers, showing the likes of Gwen Stefani, Jessica Alba and Kate Middleton looking svelte and sexy just months after having given birth.
Whether they follow strict exercise routines, a rigid diet or just have good genes, there's plenty of celebs who can make mums feel they're not doing well enough after giving birth.
Losing your baby weight can take time, but increasingly women are looking to cosmetic surgery to reclaim their bodies and fine tune their tummy and breasts.
Cosmetic surgery after childbirth has been dubbed the ‘mummy makeover’, and can include a combination of procedures which are designed to restore a woman’s body after pregnancy and childbirth.
We spoke to leading cosmetic surgeon Stephen McCulley MDChB, FCS(SA)Plast, FRCS (Plast) to find out more about why women choose to have surgery and what they should consider before going under the knife.
Why do women in this age group and these circumstances choose to have surgery?
Although pregnancy and becoming a mother is a wonderful thing, it’s common for some women to feel a sense of loss on one level, as carrying a child, giving birth and breastfeeding all have an impact on their bodies. Emotionally, some women find it hard to come to terms with the changes childbirth has on their bodies and experience a real feeling of loss about how their body looked before becoming a mother.
These women often felt happy with their figure in their twenties but childbirth has meant that they now have drooping breasts and a sagging tummy and their perception of their body starts to create emotional anxiety.
Interestingly, women rarely come to me because their partners are encouraging them to. The vast majority of women I treat come to see me because they want to make the changes for themselves and in fact their partners are often confused as to why their wife or girlfriend feels they need surgery.
Is there an alternative to surgery such as exercise or changes to diet?
The extent to which pregnancy affects women varies greatly from woman to woman and pre-pregnancy body shape, fitness and genes have a lot to do with how a woman’s body will be affected.
Common reasons women come to see me include sagging breasts as the result of loss of breast volume, a fullness in the tummy, especially the lower tummy, and stretch marks and loose skin in general.
Although there are ways to help to support the body during pregnancy, it’s important to remember that changes to the body are perfectly natural during and after pregnancy and that the forces of nature in pregnancy are too powerful to be avoided by any woman, even women in great shape.
However, there are a few things women can do which may help:
- Invest in a comfortable but supportive maternity bra to give breasts optimum support as they grow.
- Being in good shape before getting pregnant will give you the best platform to grow a healthy baby and keep your body healthy at this time. If you are overweight when you become pregnant or if you put on excessive weight during pregnancy then this will exacerbate the changes to the body.
- Speak to your doctor or a nutritionist for specific advice but most experts will recommend a sensible balanced and nutritious diet during pregnancy.
- Keep skin moisturised with a cream or oil to keep the skin supple and potentially reduce stretch marks.
- Take some gentle exercise in the first few weeks after giving birth, such as walking, and build up to aerobic and strength training exercises when you feel comfortable. It’s important to bear in mind that the tummy muscles in particular are greatly stretched during pregnancy and it’s difficult to exercise these back into shape completely but core strengthening exercises should help.
- Speak to your doctor about your own situation before embarking on an exercise routine to make sure you don’t do too much too soon, especially if you had a C-section, assisted birth or were overweight before becoming pregnant.
- Continue to wear a well-fitted maternity or nursing bra during breastfeeding.
Although breastfeeding is unlikely to have a long-term detrimental effect on women’s breasts, there is an argument that prolonged breastfeeding can affect the shape of the breast to some degree.
Can women have more children after having surgery?
I strongly recommend that if a woman wants more children that she waits until her family is complete before having surgery. Tummy tucks in particular are very difficult to do again once a woman has already had surgery and then has another baby.
What are the most common types of surgery women in this situation have?
Full and mini tummy tucks are the most common type of post baby surgery. A full tummy tuck removes fat and excess skin from the whole tummy and tightens up the muscles.
A mini tummy tuck does the same but just for the lower tummy skin. During pregnancy, women can experience what’s known as ‘diastasis recti’ which is when the tummy muscles stretch apart so much that they form two columns with a gap in the middle. Although this condition can be improved with exercise, much of the damage is irreparable without surgery.
Another common post baby surgery is a breast lift and/or implants to regain the shape of the breasts.
I see some women in my surgery who also want to remove post baby fat through liposuction and I always advise that they should exercise and eat a healthy diet to gain a regular, stable weight before considering surgery.
How soon after giving birth can women have cosmetic surgery?
It’s vital that women wait a minimum of 6 months before considering surgery and I usually advise women who come to see me to wait at least a year. In reality, most women don’t get back into a normal routine, including health and fitness routines, until at least a year after giving birth.
Women need time to get used to being a mum and to enjoy motherhood so I would strongly deter any patient from rushing into a decision soon after giving birth.
We think it's a shame that many women feel the need to resort to surgery after having a baby, and love these support campaigns like the 4th Trimester Bodies Project where women are embracing their bodies as they are, for all that they've been through. Check out the gallery here to realise how beautiful post baby bodies can be!
However, if you are considering surgery to boost your self confidence then you should always ensure you research the company and doctor you go with. For more info on what to ask during a consultation check out our safe cosmetic surgery guide and our piece on choosing the best surgeon.
Are you proud of your post baby bod? Or are you tempted by the thought of surgery? Tweet us @sofeminineuk