The stomach bears major changes [after pregnancy] since most of the weight is gained there. “Some women only get stretch marks and their stomach snaps back, others get loose skin but no stretch marks or excess fat and others fall victim to it all,” says Chicago plastic surgeon Peter D. Geldner, MD.
The problem: Excess fat and rolls
Why they happen: Weight gain during pregnancy can sometimes result in fatty deposits that aren’t easily lost. Take into consideration that there’s also a change in metabolism, due to hormonal fluctuations, and areas that were once trim and thin may now be burdened by extra fatty deposits.
The fix: Liposuction
The details: Fat that can be pinched is probably suitable to be treated with liposuction. Using any number of different techniques, liposuctioning out the fat permanently removes it from the body so that the area is better shaped and slimmer. “We almost always need to do liposuction to restore the waistline,” says Spartanburg, SC, plastic surgeon Michael J. Orseck, MD. The recovery for liposuction alone is fairly quick—a few days until you can resume your normal schedule—but, when coupled with a tummy tuck you’re looking at a two to four week recovery period.
The problem: Stretch marks
Why they happen: Blame the surge in hormones plus the need to accommodate for the growing baby and added weight for your stretch marks. “Stretch marks occur when skin expands too rapidly and too strongly for the dermal collagen fibers to adjust to the ‘stretch,’ and a ‘crack’ occurs in the surface of the skin,” says Las Vegas plastic surgeon Mary C. Herte, MD. The quality of your skin and genetics may affect whether you develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
The fix: Fractional laser resurfacing, IPL or a tummy tuck
The details: Stretch marks are scars in skin that are often treated with fractional lasers, which safely resurface the skin by creating new collagen down in the dermal levels (some doctors feel they produce limited results). To treat redness, which indicates a fresher stretch mark that’s one year old or less, IPL treatments can be done, which target the red pigmentation in the skin to lighten them. “Most stretch marks that are below the belly button can usually be surgically excised when a tummy tuck is performed,” says Dallas plastic surgeon Rod J. Rohrich, MD.
The problem: Loose skin and a pooch
Why they happen: After the skin on the stomach has stretched out over nine months, it will slowly contract back to its shape. But for some women, the skin never reverts back to baseline due to the amount of stretching that occurred. Fat sometimes accompanies extra skin. If weight is lost, the skin has nothing to hold on to, giving way to looseness. “The abdominal muscles are also stretched out and enlarged during pregnancy—sometimes they even split— which results in the muscles forming the shape of a Buddha belly that stays with you long after delivery,” says Dr. Herte.
The fix: A tummy tuck
The details: Loose skin on the stomach can only be permanently and effectively treated by removing it with surgery. “Skin on the stomach stretches and the muscles underneath widen during pregnancy and massive weight gain and loss. When I do a tummy tuck we tighten up the muscle and remove the loose skin to reestablish a flatter stomach (with a scar that’s hidden in the bikini area),” explains Dr. Rohrich. Liposuction is often performed in conjunction with a tummy tuck. For those who have only a bit of laxity below the belly button, Dr. Geldner suggests a mini tummy tuck to help correct the area. “We can do liposuction to get rid of any pockets of stubborn fat that are in the lower abdomen, too.”
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