Few things in life are as rewarding as growing a family. However, having children takes a significant toll on a woman’s body. Every woman is unique, just as every pregnancy is unique.
How our bodies respond to the process of growing another human being varies. Some women seem to bounce back just months after having their little one, but most of us are not this fortunate. After pregnancy and childbirth, we are re-discovering who we are, both emotionally and physically. We may be faced with the reality of new scars, stretch marks, loose skin, weak abdomens and sagging, deflated breasts. We may feel tired, with new facial wrinkles, lines and dark circles we never noticed before. It can be challenging to regain strength, energy and self-confidence after pregnancy. The first step is to be kind to yourself. Remember that it took more than nine months to get where you are today, and your body will continue to undergo changes for months after childbirth. Once your weight has stabilized after pregnancy and you are finished breastfeeding, you can begin to consider options for improving any areas that you are not comfortable with.
A very common issue after childbirth is rectus diastasis, which is a separation between the two sides of the rectus muscle (the 6-pack” muscles). This separation leads to a post-baby “pouch” that cannot be corrected with diet and exercise. This is often in addition to new stretch marks and a re-distribution of fat around the belly. The good news is that an abdominoplasty surgery (also called a “tummy tuck”) can tighten the muscles, while also removing the lower abdominal excess skin and stretch marks. Many women develop a small hernia around the belly button during or after pregnancy, and this is called an umbilical hernia. This can often be repaired during an abdominoplasty surgery if it is small. Some women only experience pockets of unwanted fat in their flanks, abdomen and thighs. If the skin is not stretched, nonsurgical procedures such as CoolSculpting can decrease the amount of fat under the skin. Expect to have at least two sessions per area, and each session takes about one hour with minimal to no downtime. Coolsculpting cannot be done over an area with a hernia, so keep this in mind.
There are many new mothers who I talk with who just miss feeling like “themselves.” Although they are completely in love with their new baby, women often wish to regain self-confidence after the huge physical changes following pregnancy. As mothers we give so much of our selves to the children that we adore, but it is just as important to be kind to yourself and know that there are options to improve your well-being, both emotionally and physically. We are all unique and individual women, and know that you are not alone!
Michelle A. Spring, MD
Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon