8 Things a Plastic Surgeon Wants You to Know About a ‘Mommy Makeover’

8 Things a Plastic Surgeon Wants You to Know About a ‘Mommy Makeover’ featured image
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According to Pittsburgh plastic surgeon Brian V. Heil, MD a “Mommy Makeover” is one of the most customized treatments that moms—and their bodies—can have. While this is most definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” surgery, in general, the procedure involves addressing some of the changes a mother may go through after pregnancy, breastfeeding and various hormonal shifts. It’s also a procedure that has a lot of myths and misconceptions; here are the top ones Dr. Heil wants to set straight.

It’s not so “specific.”

True. Might sound counterintuitive for a surgery but hear Dr. Heil out: “A Mommy Makeover is not a set number of specific procedures. It’s about addressing changes in the breasts, waist, abdomen, body, belly, as well as, sometimes, the inner and outer thighs. Addressing these areas can also involve skin changes—where we’re trying to tighten, lift, tuck and contour the subcutaneous fat with liposuction or with non-invasive treatments— and sometimes coupling that with the more invasive tummy tuck or mini-tummy tuck and restoring the breasts to their pre-pregnancy state.”

It always involves a breast implant.

False. “While a Mommy Makeover can involve replacement of lost volume, which is most often done with an implant, it can also sometimes involve fat-grafting, restoring the skin envelope of the breast to a lifted, tighter, non-saggy state, and that would typically involve a breast lift, if it’s necessary,” Dr. Heil explains. “Sometimes, the breast augmentation alone will lift the breast. Sometimes, that’s combined with a breast lift to lift the nipple up. Other times, the volume of the breast is fine and the breast lift alone is all that’s needed. In other cases, added volume is chosen to replace the upper hollowing of the breast that’s lost during changes in the breast, especially following breastfeeding. There are also cases where the breasts are left too large after pregnancy and various weight changes throughout life, so sometimes a breast reduction is what’s best for the upper half of the body. That breast reduction involves a breast lift as well.”

There’s a set way most surgeons treat the stomach area.

Not quite, says Dr. Heil. “In the abdomen area, many mothers need the muscles tightened, from being stretched out from one or two or more pregnancies. The fat layer can thicken, so fitting the fat layer with liposuction during the tummy tuck is typical, and then we remove the excess skin, which can also remove some or all of the stretch marks that occur. Sometimes, the muscles aren’t stretched out enough, and then a combination of skin-tightening and fat-contouring can be done in the form of a mini-tummy tuck, as opposed to the standard version.”

It’s really not a one-size-fits all solution.

Refer to above—and then some. According to Dr. Heil, this is the most customized and most personalized procedure he performs. “Facial rejuvenation is also very customizable, but the mommy makeover, in my opinion, has the most variety of issues that can be addressed—they can be addressed separately in stages, or they can be addressed all in one surgery, which allows for one anesthetic and one recovery. The contours of the waist and hips and thighs can also be addressed with liposuction. In my practice, I choose to use ultrasonic liposuction, which generally liquefies the fat before removing it and stimulates more skin contraction and tightening than most standard forms of liposuction. But that’s just one option.”

You should only get it done right after you have a baby.

“Moms find time to do this at different periods of life—you just have to be done having children,” Dr. Heil says, adding that some of his patients are in the “empty nest” years. “It’s a way for a mother to do something for herself—and that could be as early as three months after any breastfeeding has been completed or it could be years or even decades after that.”

Mommy makeovers are typically extreme.

Dr. Heil list this falsity as the number-one misconception he’d like to clear up. “Yes, they can be dramatic, and they can be quite self-empowering, but they can also be done with as little as, perhaps, a breast augmentation and some liposuction in something as small as a two-hour procedure and three-to-five-day primary recovery. Other times, longer, more involved procedures are done, and as I indicated, you can combine two or three or four procedures—as long as it’s done in a safe, efficient, properly-licensed facility by a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing within scope.”

Recovery starts after the surgery is done.

Not exactly. “I think recovering from the procedure starts before the procedure. Doing one’s best to adopt a healthy lifestyle, beforehand, gets carried into the recovery. Eating healthy and exercising will serve a mom, or any patient, well in recovery,” Dr. Heil says. “Having both physical and emotional support by those around you most certainly helps.”

It only involves surgery.

Dr. Heil doesn’t mince words on this one: “We’ve moved far beyond the old stereotype of a mommy makeover being just a breast lift and a tummy tuck. Now, we can combine these options with non-invasive procedures, such as EmSculpt Neo, which has really revolutionized our practice. It’s a very new technology that can be combined with mommy makeovers, either before surgery or after surgery, to enhance the recovery and further the overall result. It involves what’s called HIFEM technology, and that’s high-intensity focused electromagnetic technology, which uses electromagnetic energy to work out and build the muscles of the abdomen or the waist or the gluteal region, the buttocks, and now other parts of the body too. It combines that with radio-frequency technology, which is used to destroy fat by way of hypermetabolic lipolysis, which is a mouthful, but it’s the hypermetabolic destruction of fat, or lipolysis.

This technology can destroy up to 30 percent of the fat in the trunk region and in the belly region, while building 25 percent more muscle. A tummy tuck doesn’t build muscle, it helps restore the flatness and tightness of the muscles where the stretched gap has developed between the muscles during pregnancy and weight gain and weight loss, but the HIFEM technology of EmSculpt Neo is able to actually build muscle and destroy even more fat on top of what a tummy tuck can do, on top of what liposuction can do. These treatments can also be used in the recovery period. They’re a 30-minute walk-in and walk-out treatment with no recovery. They’ve been able to refine the extent of results we can achieve just with the surgery alone. That’s a huge new breakthrough in terms of being able to combine these very enhanced technologies that didn’t exist a few years ago.”

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