When I was pregnant with my daughter I gained seventy pounds – mostly from watermelon and pizza.
After I gave birth, I was too caught up with cooing over my precious little bundle of joy to notice that as my face and body shrank back to its previous size, it took some of the skin’s elasticity along with it.
What happened to me is the story of nearly every new mom who gains more than fifteen pounds in pregnancy. So what can be done?
I reached out to New York plastic surgeon Dr. Sachin M. Shridharani and Miami cosmetic/aesthetic dermatologist Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy for answers to moms’ most common questions on the cosmetic procedures that can help them get their pre-pregnancy bodies back.
Which procedures do moms most often ask about?
While breast implants remain the most performed cosmetic surgery in women, breast lifts are steadily gaining in popularity according to recent reports by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Milk ducts and glands deflate after nursing, leaving breasts smaller and saggier. A breast lift can raise and reshape breast tissue while eliminating excess skin.
Moms who are done having babies can opt for a tummy tuck to surgically remove excess skin and fat, while improving the appearance of stretch marks.
An incision is performed from hip to hip, and in most cases the connective tissues in the abdomen are tightened with sutures. A second incision is made to remove and reposition the belly button. Full recovery takes 3-6 months. It’s quite an extensive procedure, but the results are phenomenal.
“The patient was displeased with the ‘stomach’ region after having 3 children,” says Dr. Shridharani. “Her primary complaints were: extra skin and stretch marks above and below her belly button, fullness in the pubic region, and extra fat in her waist/love handles.”
“She mentioned that she is not keen on having ‘those drains or tubes sticking out of me for weeks.’ The patient underwent a TubelessTuck (drainless abdominoplasty) with liposuction in the waist/love handles. She is pictured here 1 week prior to surgery and 9 months after her procedure,” says Dr. Shridharani.
Hair growth treatments
Hairs grow and fall out in cycles and phases, but pregnancy can cause all of the hair on your head to go into the dropping or catagen phase at once. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections in the scalp can stimulate hair growth by as much as 30%.
Chemical peels for melasma
Also called the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma can appear on the upper lip, forehead, nasal bridge, cheeks and chin.
This condition occurs when the skin’s melanin production goes into overdrive. Chemical peels with glycolic acid can gently lift these dark spots, as well as help improve the overall texture and tone of the skin.
“Every day we see reality television stars, Victoria Secret models, and Hollywood celebrities with access to the latest surgical and nonsurgical treatments posting gorgeous photos on Facebook and Instagram six weeks after having their babies. This puts more pressure on new moms to look great right away,” says Jegasothy.
CoolSculpting is another popular body contouring treatment. While SculpSure fights fat with heat, CoolSculpting promises to freeze unwanted fat away, and can also be used in other parts of the body such as the upper neck and outer thighs.
Stretch mark treatments
Dr. Jegasothy recommends light and laser therapies for the treatment of stretch marks. VBeam Pulse-Dye Laser can reduce new, red stretch marks, while Fraxel Laser can fix older, white stretch marks.
After childbirth the vagina gets loose and dry, and the pelvic floor can become weakened, leading to incontinence. According to Dr. Jegasothy, Viora radiofrequency can help tighten loose or hanging vaginal lips, while an injection of Restylane or Juvederm can treat deflated labia.
Other doctors favor ThermiVa, a treatment that like Viora uses radiofrequency energy to gently heat skin tissue and boost collagen production.
Are mommy makeover procedures gaining in popularity because women are now having children later in life?
“Women are having children later than they used to, but the techniques and safety measures are also more advanced today, and there is no need for painful drains and unnecessary antibiotics,” says Dr. Shridharani. “Because of medications that alleviate pain better, there is a decreased need for narcotic pain medication. Also, breast implants today are safer, and dermal fillers and FDA-approved neuromodulators last longer and look more natural.”
What cosmetic procedures do you recommend for new moms?
Dr. Jegasothy recommends procedures that are less invasive and have minimal downtime. “It’s generally in alignment with what my patients request as they’re busy women with new babies! They don’t have time for invasive treatments like tummy tucks where they’re out of commission for weeks.”
“I meet with all of my patients seeking cosmetic surgery at least twice before their procedure,” says Shridharani. “My recommendations are based on my patients’ plans for future pregnancies. If the patient is at a stable weight, then a breast lift with possible augmentation to restore volume is wonderful. Along with this, liposuction and tummy tuck are transformative procedures that restore a woman’s physique to a pre-baby state.”
Shridharani also likes performing a face assessment to see if his patient is showing signs of aging or fatigue, which he can address non-surgically. “I love using Dysport to improve the appearance of frown lines between the eyebrows. The lines and wrinkles vanish within days and are still absent months later. Also, using a little filler like Restylane Lyft for the cheeks and Restylane Silk for the lips really can give a rejuvenated look in a matter of minutes and last for months.”
What is the downtime and recovery time for the most common procedures?
“My moms get their fillers and Dysport on quick breaks in between running errands,” says Shridharani. There is always a risk of bruising and swelling, but this quickly resolves within hours.
According to Jegasothy, there is no downtime for non-invasive treatments such as chemical peels and PRP injections. Patients just need to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen. With radiofrequency laser or ultrasound, the downtime is minimal – less than a day – with possible slight soreness for a few days.
For invasive procedures, there is a minimum of two weeks of downtime.
“I tell my patients to take their time when recovering from surgery,” says Shridharani. The first week is marked by tenderness, bruising, and swelling. By week two, most patients are moving around really well. Most of the swelling subsides in the first 2-3 months, but the final results of any surgery take six months to one year.”
“This 45 year-old mother of four children desired improved contour of the abdomen and love handles, and was very displeased with the appearance of her C-Section scar,” says Dr. Shridharani.
“She had seen other plastic surgeons with the same concerns, but did not want drains or tubes during her recovery. The patient underwent a TubelessTuck (no-drain abdominoplasty/tummy tuck) with liposuction in the waist/love handles,” Dr. Shridharani. “She is pictured here 1 week prior to surgery and 12 months after her procedure.”
How should people vet the plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist they are using?
Both physicians agree that you should see someone who is reputable and has good results.
“It is very important to do your research,” cautions Jegasothy. She says that the best board-certified aesthetic dermatologist and plastic surgeons will have very visible online before-and-after photo galleries and details about their education and employment.
Next, she suggests ask around after you select some candidates. “Chances are your local friends and family will have been to some of these physicians, so you can get a better feel for their personality and individual style.”
Last, Jegasothy says you should call the physician’s offices and talk to the staff to get a feel for whether the vibe is warm and friendly, even before meeting the physician.
“There are a lot of doctors and non-doctors who claim to be plastic surgeons or dermatologists, but are not,” says Shridharani. He recommends confirming that your doctor completed an accredited training program in those specialties, and says it’s a bonus if they’ve completed an Aesthetic Plastic Surgery fellowship.
Shridharani has a word of warning: “Your surgery is not a time to cut costs, use coupons or accept online deals.”
Whatever you decide to do, remember that mommy makeover procedures aren’t just for “new moms” anymore. They can be a gift you give yourself, whether your “baby” has just graduated from college, had a baby herself, or you had a career reinvention in midlife.
That’s a push present worth getting at any stage of life.