What Can We Do to help Mums
'Mummy makeovers' enquirers are an ever increasing group seen seeking advice from cosmetic surgery clinics, driven by the fact that no sooner has just about any female celebrity you could name given birth she will be photographed out and about looking perfect, and of course she will be fitting neatly into her pre-baby jeans and the rest of her close-fitting wardrobe. As much of the team at The Harley Medical Group are women we share the frustrations of everyone who feels 'celebrity pressure'!
It doesn't matter that the rest of us will huff and puff away in the gym for months afterwards, and compliment this by taking extra care over everything we eat – we're unlikely to ever see the same figures on the scales as we did before giving birth, let alone get our bodies back in the svelte shape we were used to before. That's why the number of mums who are enquiring about cosmetic surgery is continuing to hit new highs, as it has for a number of years now.
New mum – new body
Once you've become a mum, your priorities change fundamentally. That doesn't mean that you should give up on any thought of getting, and keeping, a body you can still be proud of. Indeed, the number of women who give birth, and then start planning how they're going to get rid of those dreaded drooping breasts, stretch marks and the tummy flab is growing all the time.
According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), as many as a third of new mums admitted to being shocked at the effects pregnancy had ‘wreaked’ on their bodies, and a quarter of them said they were thinking about having some form of cosmetic surgery as a way of losing the features they hated the most about their bodies.
Among the treatments which are most sought-after by mums are tummy tucks, breast lifts, stretch mark removal treatment, procedures for reducing the signs of skin pigmentation, and breast augmentation. So we'll take a look at each of these, and outline what they involve, along with the benefits which can be expected from each.
A tummy tuck operation involves removing excess skin from the abdominal area. Otherwise known as abdominoplasty, it is also designed tighten stomach muscles, and create a smoother and firmer-looking stomach profile.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons lists pregnancy as the number one reason why loose skin and sagging flesh develops around the abdomen, but also lists other key causes as ageing, significant weight fluctuations, hereditary factors, and even previous surgery. Importantly it stresses that a tummy tuck operation should never be considered a substitute for losing weight through a healthy diet or getting rid of the excess flesh using exercise, but rather as a means of perfecting the end result of hard work. Satisfaction ratings for tummy tuck procedures are very high, 96 per cent of patients who commented on Realself.com professing to be happy with the results.
An abdominoplasty operation typically removes between 30 and 50 per cent of the excess skin of the affected area. As mentioned, one effect of this operation is that it tightens the abdominal wall, which is an effective way of removing bulges which have resulted from having a child and it can even provide a tummy that is flatter and tighter than pre-pregnancy. It also helps regain that much desired 'hourglass' figure, as the procedure re-shapes the muscles of the body around the flanks, or the area on either side of the belly. It will even have the added benefit removing any stretch marks from that area of your tummy. While a tummy tuck operation can produce excellent results in itself, it is often administered in conjunction with some liposuction, as this draws out of the body a proportion of the fat which is displaced by the surgery.
It isn't just excessive exposure to the sun which can cause your body to develop unsightly dark spots and patches on the skin, known as Melasma (or Chloasma Faciei). These are sometimes a symptom of taking several types of contraceptive pill, but are also commonly seen during pregnancy itself.
The usual cause are hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy; the body is temporarily prompted to produce extra melanin, and while this is a naturally-occurring substance, which gives the hair, body and eyes their natural colour, this over-production can bring about those dark patches. Usually, these fade in the months after pregnancy, but there is no hard and fast rule, and in some cases, they never disappear completely. Pregnant women may also notice a specific change to their bodies in the form of a dark line down their belly. Again, excess melanin is responsible, and this often disappears naturally too after birth, but this can take several months.
Babycenter.com reports that women who already have a darker skin complexion are more prone to developing chloasma, or a condition whereby the skin develops a series of darker blotches. Women with a history of the condition in their family are also more prone to developing it, and blotches commonly appear around the face, forearms, or any other part of the body which is exposed to the sun during pregnancy.
Concealers can be used to hide these darker marks as they arise, but a good tip is to opt for a milder cleanser and face cream than your usual brand, as these could cause the skin to flare up as it becomes more sensitive due to the pregnancy. After giving birth, you may have time to consider what to do to permanently remove any discolouration, we would recommend seeking advice from a medical professional, and there are several options available. These include skin peels, which vary in strength, that remove the layer of dead skin to promote more even pigmentation; PPx Isolaz laser treatments which rejuvenate the skin and Obagi treatments which combine a personalised skin care routine and Blue Peels
Treatments for stretch marks
The sight of bright red lines across the body during, and sometimes just after, pregnancy can be quite alarming but stretch marks, known as striae gravidarum, are simply caused by the breaking of the middle layers of the skin as a result of it stretching during pregnancy to accommodate the growing little one inside you. The redness is caused by your blood below the surface of your skin, but don’t worry, they may not appear attractive but they are perfectly safe to you and your baby, and are extremely common. About nine out of 10 pregnant women develop them and they usually fade to a much more pale hue.
While the stomach is the main area which is prone to stretch marks, they often also appear on the thighs, buttocks and breasts. The try to prevent stretch marks, or to minimise their appearance once developed, the first course of action is to treat the area with one of a range of topical lotions or creams, such as Bio-oil. Used to moisturise the skin, these products can help fade the marks so that they become less apparent. If you are especially worried about your stretch marks, then a course of laser therapy might help, the treatment encourages the marks to fade, and become better blended in with the surrounding skin. The laser emits energy waves, which are absorbed by your blood vessels immediately beneath the skin's surface, which cause the blood vessels to collapse, and as a result, the skin should return to its natural appearance.
Changes to the breasts during pregnancy
Changes to the appearance in breast shape and fullness, are among the most widely seen effects of pregnancy, but a wide range of changes can be experienced. It's common to expect the breasts to become enlarged, but also to become unusually tender and sensitive, due largely to the extra hormones being produced. To fulfil their role in feeding your baby, the body increases the blood supply to the breasts, causing the veins running through them to darken, which will return to normal as you stop breastfeeding. You're also likely to be extra-sensitive to any lumps or bumps which you can feel in your breasts which should be monitored but are usually simply caused by your milk ducts becoming clogged. Wearing the right-sized bra at this time is especially important.
How do I get my breasts' shape back?
After giving birth and breastfeeding your baby, if you choose to go down this route, your breasts are more likely to shrink back to something approaching their normal size. It's common for this loss of mass to make the breasts lose some of their shape and to start to droop more. If you're worried about the look of your breasts after giving birth, you can enquire about surgical procedures designed to either increase the size of your breasts, or to boost their sagging appearance.
Probably the single most talked-about cosmetic procedure, which is often thought, inaccurately, to be the procedure of choice for the vain. In many instances, women find after giving birth that their breasts look 'deflated', or take on an unusually saggy appearance. This condition, known as pseudoptosis, is when the amount of breast tissue below the level of the areola is greatly increased. An associated condition, ptosis, is where the whole of the breast, including the nipples, sag downwards. In many cases, augmentation surgery will rebuild the breasts, give them extra definition, and, where required, also make them larger.
An augmentation mammoplasty, to give the procedure its correct medical name, is the officially-approved method of giving a woman larger and fuller breasts, and can be carried out in one of four ways:
- Through making an incision under the armpit, possibly using an endoscope
- By cutting next to the nipple and areola
- Through the crease in the underside of the breast, or
- Using an umbilical approach, that is, through the belly button region.
As each patient is different, it's best if your surgeon can discuss the pros and cons of all four of these methods with you. We would suggest following your surgeon’s recommendations regarding implantation, they may have specialised on one method which will ensure minimal scaring. The time needed for the operation varies between patients, but is typically one to two hours, often followed by an overnight stay.
The results of breast augmentation surgery vary according to a range of factors including the patient's age, general health and ability to heal after surgery, their existing breasts, the position of their nipples, and the texture of the skin on the breasts. It is very common for breasts to feel unnatural immediately after surgery, as well as for variations to be experienced in levels of sensitivity. Importantly, it can take a few months until the natural breast's skin, tissue and muscle has stretched to an optimum new shape to accommodate the implants. If you have any concerns about your new implant don’t hesitate to contact a medical professional.
Breast uplift surgery, or mastopexy, will start with a consultation where your surgeon will carefully examine the breasts, and assess the optimum changes to breast size and nipple position. Typically, the operation will take two to three hours and under a general anaesthetic. The surgeon making a number of cuts on the breasts, the exact number depending on the practitioner's individual technique, excess skin is removed from underneath the breast or the area of dark tissue surrounding the nipple, or areola. If necessary, the areola can also be reduced in size so that it is proportionate to the size and shape of the new breast. The remaining skin is then tightened, and the nipple moved to a higher position, to give a firmer, more youthful appearance. On completion, the surgeon will insert stitches, and possibly wrap the breasts in a supportive dressing, or use tape. An overnight stay in hospital is required; you may have fine tubes inserted in the breasts to drain excess liquid which the surgeon and nurses will monitor. Your nurse will also on bathing, and how to look after your new-look breasts.
Over-the-counter pain relief such as paracetamol and Ibuprofen can help alleviate any discomfort felt around the stitches or recovering wound. If dissolving stitches are used, the marks from these will usually start to disappear after seven to 10 days. Non-dissolvable stitches will typically be removed 10 to 14 days after the operation. You will need to take care that your wound doesn't become infected, and so should speak to your surgeon if you experience any soreness, swelling, redness or weeping around the area of the operation. Although recovery times vary, four weeks is usually typical, but it's important to liaise closely with your surgeon, and ask any questions about when they advise that it's safe to resume specific activities. Wearing a support bra will be recommended for up to six weeks after the operation, in order to prevent the weight of your breasts pulling excessively on your stitches and healing scar tissue.
A variety of other cosmetic procedures can help reduce the effects on the body of pregnancy and nursing. These include breast reduction, to ease back pain from breasts that have not returned to their original shape and size; liposuction to treat fat deposits around the abdomen and thighs, after excess baby-weight has been lost. Also cosmetic gynaecology may be undertaken to repair the pelvic floor and reduce the labia, which may have elongated as a result of pregnancy.
Any or all of these can reduce or reverse the effects of pregnancy, but in all cases, it's important to talk through your reasons for undertaking any procedure, and to have a thorough consultation with a qualified cosmetic surgeon before deciding whether any individual treatment is right for you.
LET US HELP
Our years of experience in the field of Cosmetic Surgery ensure that you can rely on The Harley Medical Group to assist you at all stages of your chosen procedure. We offer free consultations with qualified Medical Professionals, as well as a thorough after care service to ensure that your experience is positive throughout your entire journey.