Women’s bodies tell remarkable stories – pregnancy and childbirth are an exciting time and one of the greatest moments in anyone’s life.
A new child can be both exhilarating and exhausting with little time for anything else. The focus of one’s life changes and it can take a long time for a mother to get into a routine that allows her to regain her pre-pregnancy shape. This can be very difficult because there are changes that pregnancy itself brings about such which cannot be resolved with exercise or healthy eating.
Pregnancy can have several effects on the body which can result in long term changes. Very often stretch marks appear on the abdomen, breasts and sometimes elsewhere too. They can appear red but over time become pale and soft. They occur because the skin weakens due to excessive stretch but are very difficult to prevent.
Keeping the skin well moisturised may help but very few other treatments are effective at prevention. Once you get them, time is often all you need to let them settle but sometimes a pulsed dye LASER can help reduce the redness. Again very few other treatments help but it makes sense to keep the skin well moisturised.
The loose skin that occurs with stretch marks can lead to two further problems: loose overhanging skin on the tummy and breast droop. The tummy also often looks rounded because the muscles have been stretched. The effect can be made worse by an indented caesarian section scar. Many women don’t realise how much difference a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) can make to the appearance of their abdomen. It can remove loose skin including some of the stretch marks, tighten the muscles and give a smoother flatter abdomen in exchange for a scar that can often be hidden by underwear. In my practice, I prefer to do this operation after a woman has completed her family and is at her steady weight as this gives her the best possible result.
This is also the case with breasts that have lost volume and drooped after pregnancy and breast feeding. Several options are available to improve breast appearance. Surgery can lift the breasts (mastopexy) and also restore volume by using implants (augmentation). Sometimes a woman may need both of these procedures in one or two stages. Choosing which operation to have is a very individual process and I work closely with my patients to make sure that we achieve the best possible appearance and size.
Many women think about such surgery soon after pregnancy but it is important to let your body return to normal before considering any operations.
It is very important to have a full and detailed assessment by an experienced and specialised Consultant Plastic Surgeon who can advise on timing as well as the specific techniques that would benefit you. This is especially important as healing from such surgery can take several weeks and you may need help and support to ensure that you make the best possible recovery. Plastic surgery to help regain your shape after pregnancy not only improves appearance but make a real difference to your confidence too.
Ask the expert
McIndoe surgeon Simon Mackey answers your post childbirth questions