Mothers know birth and breastfeeding leave clear, visible marks on their bodies.
For some women, these become a point of pride—proof that they have gone through a unique process in giving birth to and nourishing their babies.
For others, the combination of stretch marks, sagging breasts, and a muffin top can dramatically affect a woman’s confidence and self-esteem. More pointedly, a luxury parenting magazine once called post-pregnancy breasts “the ultimate indignity.”
In the best of scenarios, women who are active, fit, and eat well throughout pregnancy will experience less weight gain, and less belly fat and stretched skin after birth. Hindsight is 20/20; but in the moment, between the morning sickness, back pains, balancing life and work, and cravings, the importance of pregnancy workouts and a balanced diet often lose their immediacy. And that’s not even counting genetic factors and other factors out of Mom’s control.
After having their last child, some women are opting for a surgical solution to regain their bodies and self-confidence—often called a “mommy makeover.” The term can mean a range of procedures, depending on what each individual is looking for.
“The concept of it has evolved over the years. It could be anything from doing something with your breasts, with your belly, having some liposuction, or even touching up your face with some injection or some Botox,” said Dr. Norman B. Day, a plastic surgeon of 14 years who has practices on the Upper East Side, Brooklyn Heights, and Bethpage, L.I.
Certain cosmetic surgical procedures have experienced a whopping increase from 2000 to 2012, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The most common, breast implementation, rose 35 percent; breast lifts, 69 percent; and tummy tucks, 70 percent.
Dr. Day also said patients getting surgery are younger than ever before.
“I think younger mothers really want to get back to their pre-pregnancy shape in quicker fashion,” he said. “They want to have their children, and then just want to get back to where they were. Maybe some of it has to do with finances. If they’re able to get what they want at a younger age, then they do it. They don’t want to wait till they’re older.”
For others, the idea of surgery after birth is out of the question—not the least to avoid the risks posed by surgery.
Health coach Tysan Lerner, who is based in New York City, says it can take years after having a baby to get women’s bodies back to normal, assuming a regimen of good diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management.
“[It] may seem like an eternity to some, especially if there are no easy guarantees. However, avoiding the risk of surgery may well be worth the sacrifice,” she said.
“As a mom, can we build a confidence and love for ourselves so strong that our daughters learn the same message, and our sons understand what it is to respect a woman? Part of that self-love includes all the lines and stretches of mommyhood. It tells our beautiful story.”
Despite the innocuous names, “tummy tuck” and “mommy makeover,” these procedures are still surgery, with all the risks it entails, even if the procedures are now performed routinely.
One thing is certain: Getting surgery is a highly personal decision, and one not to be made lightly.
That’s why it’s important to pick a good surgeon. Some try to avoid more expensive costs by going abroad but it’s risky. If something goes wrong, you’re thousands of miles away, said. Dr. Day.
“Safety is key,” he said. For that reason, he favors staging procedures at different times rather than try to bundle multiple ones at once. “I don’t think it makes your recovery any harder … Recovering from three operations at once is significantly harder.”
Another piece of advice Dr. Day offers is that women should be comfortable with their surgeon. “Most surgeons are well trained … In America today all plastic surgeons are very well trained. I don’t think there’s that much difference in what you’re going to get from office to office—other than that you’ll have to comfortable with the person you’re going with,” he said.
The process of finding a surgeon is really a two-way street.
“The patient thinks they’re interviewing the surgeon, but the surgeon is interviewing the patient too,” said Dr. Day. “Not every patient that comes through will get operated on.” Patients are assessed to see if they are good surgical candidates, and to make sure they are personally motivated to have the surgery—rather than being pushed by someone else, for example.
After seeing a patient’s medical history and listening to what the patient wants done, Dr. Day gives his opinion on what can and can’t be done, what the patient can expect, and asks for input from the patient about what they’ve heard. “It’s a give and take, like a dialogue.”
That’s where it behooves patients to listen to their prospective surgeon with an open mind, said Dr. Day. “Because they are the ones who do this and have done it, and who really understand more about what is happening than you do. It’s your body and it’s your right essentially to know what is going on. What we do is provide knowledge and insight.”