Despite my healthy eating habits and gym visits, I could not get that belly bulge to budge, even as my youngest hit his fifth birthday. In fact, I found that the more I worked out, the worse my stomach looked: Losing weight elsewhere on my body only made my pooch more pronounced. Add to this some separated stomach muscles from three pregnancies, and I was pretty disheartened at how my midsection looked.
So I decided to look into a tummy tuck. While often considered a procedure for the rich and famous, tummy tucks are becoming increasingly common. Whether the pooch was caused by pregnancy, significant weight loss, or genetics, removing excess skin and tightening lax muscles can provide both physical and mental benefits.
If you’ve considered having a tummy tuck, here some things I learned along the way—and a few I wish I’d known beforehand.
- A tummy tuck won’t make you drop weight.
Although a lot of patients lose some weight from the procedure, Elliot Hirsch, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Hirsch Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles, warns that tummy tucks should only be administered when a patient is already at his/her ideal weight. “Tummy tucks should not be thought of as a weight loss procedure, but rather as a contouring procedure,” he explains. Also, while tummy tucks can’t directly address stretch marks since the abdominal skin is pulled downward, any stretch marks may be moved, lowered, or potentially removed if they are part of the lower excess skin.
- There are a few different types of scars.
Your scar size and location will depend on the type of abdominoplasty you need. For a traditional tummy tuck like I had, the scar will be from hip to hip and most doctors will do their best to ensure that the scar is hidden under the bikini line. You will also have a scar around your belly button because it’s actually relocated during the procedure.
For patients who need just a small amount of skin removed and muscles tighten, a mini tummy tuck may be an option. A mini tummy tuck is administered when there is a small amount of excess skin, normally under the belly button, and the incision leaves a scar a bit longer than a C-section scar.
- It isn’t cheap, and insurance likely won’t cover it.
According to the ASAPS Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank statistics, the 2015 national average was $5,891. Generally, a tummy tuck is considered a cosmetic procedure and is not covered by insurance. If you are having a hernia repaired or if the surgery solves another medical problem (such excess skin from massive weight loss), some insurances may (key word: may) cover a small portion of the procedure.
- It’s important to do your research before choosing a surgeon.
Finding a qualified plastic surgeon can be trickier than you’d think. First, while the terms are often used interchangeably, a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon are not the same thing. Likewise, a doctor may claim to be “board-certified” by a board that isn’t recognised by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a recognised agency approving medical speciality boards since 1934. The ABMS recognises only one plastic surgery board—the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).
- Don’t freak out if your surgeon recommends liposuction, too.
Mine did, and it was more than just an upsell. “I perform liposuction on most of my tummy tuck patients because it assists in sculpting the waist and love handle area,” explains Macias. When the skin from the upper abdomen is pulled down, it can lead to a lack of definition or an unusual bulge on the hips. In order to get the best results, at Esteem Medi Spa your surgeon may use liposuction or fat-to-fat grafts to help them reshape and contour the area.
- You’ll need help at home for the first week.
Almost all tummy tucks are outpatient surgeries, this means that you will be able to go home straight after the procedure. You will need to have someone help you during the first few days, if not a full week following surgery. In addition, doctors recommend that you don’t lift anything over 10 pounds for the first 4 to 6 weeks, which can be important for mothers with young children to consider.
- You’ll likely be bent over at the waist for the first few days (or longer).
The result of the procedure will tighten your stomach muscles, remove excess skin, and the remaining skin will be pulled taut. This will cause you to be significantly bent over for the first few days—or even weeks. Being bent over like this for so long had a couple of consequences that I wish I had been better prepared for. You should plan on sleeping in a recliner, with a wedge pillow, or on a couch with a bunch of pillows to prop up your legs and back until you’re able to lie flat, around week 2.
- Expect benefits beyond the cosmetic.
True, you’ll likely feel a lot more confident in your clothes after a tummy tuck. Some studies have found that tummy tucks can also help with urinary incontinence, and the procedure can have an impact on the support and strength of your body’s core.