Mommy Makeovers: Getting Your Body Back After Baby

mommymakeoverA mommy makeover can be a life changing experience, but it's difficult for women to treat themselves 

Becoming a mom is a rewarding and joyous experience, but it’s no secret that pregnancy changes your body in many ways—some of which may make you feel self-conscious about your appearance and ultimately affect your self-esteem. Perhaps you’ve been considering taking steps to correct some of your problem areas with a mommy makeover. But if you’re like most moms, your family is your first priority.

You work hard to take care of your children—and everyone else in your life—and you inevitably put your own needs last. You may even feel guilty if you devote time to yourself because you think you’re being “selfish.” But perhaps it’s time to make a positive change in your life—just for you.

“A mommy makeover can be a life-changing experience,” says Kelly Sullivan, M.D., F.A.C.S., a board-certified plastic surgeon at Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of Annapolis and the mother of three children. “But it’s difficult for women to treat themselves. They grapple with guilt because they’re so used to taking care of others. But pregnancy is part of life, and it’s perfectly normal for a woman to want to improve the way she looks. A mommy makeover can give a woman her ‘pre-baby’ body back, which makes her feel good about herself and boosts her confidence.”


Tailored to Your Needs

Typically, a mommy makeover consists of a combination of cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance of your breasts and abdomen and dermatological procedures to enhance the condition of your skin. But, obviously, fitness and nutrition are also essential components of a post-pregnancy regimen. One of the advantages of a mommy makeover is that it offers you the opportunity to correct as much—or as little—as you want. Since pregnancy affects women differently, your makeover can be geared toward your specific needs and concerns. Remember, choosing to have a mommy makeover is a personal decision. So consider your options carefully, and do what makes you feel comfortable.


Fitness and Nutrition

Although you may want to begin exercising immediately after having your baby to shed unwanted pounds, give yourself time to recover. If you had a C-section, you can generally start exercising six to eight weeks after giving birth (once cleared by your doctor). Avoid strenuous abdominal exercises until six to eight weeks postpartum. You can usually begin exercising six weeks after a vaginal birth (once cleared by your doctor). Prior to your six-week postnatal check-up, gentle cardio exercise is acceptable. Try walking for 20 minutes, gradually increasing the duration in five-minute increments.

“Fitness is a great way to get back in shape after pregnancy,” says Pamela Adams, a certified personal trainer at Evolutions Body Clinic in Annapolis who specializes in many areas, including training prenatal and postnatal clients. “Exercising isn’t just temporary; it’s a lifestyle choice—something you can do every day for a lifetime. Taking care of yourself gives you a positive outlook and makes you feel better about yourself. And safeguarding your health isn’t just something you’re doing for yourself. You’re also doing it for your family.”

After you receive medical clearance, Adams recommends either a total body workout, including cardio, core exercises and weight lifting, or focusing on a regimen that suits your lifestyle, such as a walking program while pushing your baby in a stroller and a few low-impact exercises. You may also consider hiring a personal trainer or enrolling in a class that focuses on postnatal fitness. How often you exercise depends on your fitness level; start slowly and gradually increase duration. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

If exercising seems difficult, don’t get discouraged. Your body changed a lot, and it’s going to take time to get back to the fitness level you were at before your pregnancy. If anyone can attest to this, it’s Adams, who had her first baby in March 2010 when she was 39. Since her pregnancy was high risk, she was placed on strict bed rest for the second and third trimesters. Being inactive is difficult for anyone—especially a personal trainer. But she started a walking program within days after giving birth and began light workouts three months after childbirth.

“When I returned to regular workouts, it was definitely a wake-up call,” says Adams. “I felt wiped out. So I know how difficult it can be. Give yourself time, and don’t be too hard on yourself.”

In addition to exercise, nutrition is extremely important. Chose healthy foods, and eat frequent small meals and snacks a day. This will boost your metabolism, maintain your blood sugar level and increase your energy. Eating frequent meals will also curb cravings and prevent you from overindulging.


Dermatological Procedures

It’s not uncommon to experience changes in your skin due to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy. Fortunately, a dermatologist can perform procedures to make your complexion clearer, smoother and more radiant.

“When treating any skin condition, it’s always best to use the least invasive method first,” says Debra A. Coats-Walton, M.D., F.A.A.D., a dermatologist at Aesthetic Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Center in Bowie and a mom. “Cosmeceuticals, such as topical skin creams, can be very effective. If cosmeceuticals don’t work, explore other options, such as chemical peels. Laser treatments should be considered a last resort—used when other methods have failed to produce the desired results.”

Melasma, also known as “the mask of pregnancy,” is a condition that causes areas of dark pigmentation on your face. Initial treatments consist of hydroquinone, retinoids and chemical peels. If these measures don’t help, your dermatologist can perform a non-invasive procedure called laser facial rejuvenation to correct the discoloration.

If you suffer from acne, pregnancy may have exacerbated the condition. Treatment for acne depends on the severity and includes mild chemical peels, microdermabrasion (exfoliation without using chemicals or lasers), facials or laser acne treatments. These procedures improve the skin’s texture, decrease pore size, reduce lesions, minimize scarring and refresh dull, lifeless skin.

Another problem you may have experienced during pregnancy is excess hair growth. Coats-Walton recommends using over-the-counter depilatories. VANIQA®, a prescription cream that reduces the growth of unwanted facial hair, is another option. However, if the hair growth is especially bothersome, consider laser hair removal, which provides a permanent solution. This method is relatively painless, but you might feel a slight stinging sensation. The number of treatments depends on the individual; your doctor can customize a plan for you.

As your abdominal skin expands to accommodate the growing fetus, it loses elasticity and breaks, creating unsightly stretch marks. Coats-Walton suggests using cosmeceuticals, such as Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy or StriVectin®, over-the-counter products that reduce the appearance of stretch marks and improve the skin’s texture. But if you’re still dissatisfied, your dermatologist can perform laser treatment.

Although wrinkles aren’t necessarily caused by pregnancy, you may choose to address this issue, especially if you’re already seeing a dermatologist for other post-pregnancy treatments. Obviously, Botox® is the most well-known method used to improve the appearance of moderate to severe wrinkles. Laser facial rejuvenation can also treat wrinkles.

Your dermatologist should also evaluate any new moles that appeared during pregnancy to check for malignancy. And, of course, always use broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin.


Plastic Surgery

Although fitness is an integral part of your lifestyle, exercise alone can’t “fix” everything—especially changes in your breasts and abdomen. If exercise and nutrition have failed to achieve the results you desire, you may choose to consult a plastic surgeon to discuss surgical options.

“A typical mommy makeover consists of a breast lift with augmentation plus a tummy tuck with liposuction,” says Sullivan, whose practice specializes in breast, body and facial enhancement surgery. “The goal of these surgical procedures, which can be safely performed at the same time, is to regain the ‘pre-baby’ appearance of your breasts and abdomen.”

During pregnancy, your breasts can become deflated or saggy, especially after breastfeeding. A breast lift raises and firms your breasts, reshaping them and giving them a more youthful, uplifted appearance. Repositioning the nipple might also be necessary. In addition to a breast lift, you may also need breast augmentation to restore volume lost after pregnancy. Implants fill out the breast tissue, creating a natural, pre-pregnancy look. As with any surgery, recovery depends on the individual. But initial recovery time is generally five days to two weeks. During this time, avoid exertion, such as heavy lifting, straining and exercise. Complete recovery, the time it takes before you can resume your normal day-to-day activities, is usually six weeks.

Sullivan says there are three common breast enhancement surgery options: augmentation only, a lift with augmentation or lift only. The type of surgery you undergo depends on your individual needs. Another option that some women choose is a breast reduction with lift.

If your abdominal region has stretch marks and unsightly, loose skin that hangs down, a tummy tuck can recontour your abdomen. This surgical procedure repairs abdominal muscle that has been stretched during pregnancy and tightens and flattens the abdominal wall, creating a smoother and firmer appearance. A tummy tuck is more invasive than breast enhancement surgery, and recovery time is generally six weeks. Avoid exertion, such as heavy lifting, straining and exercise.

If you have excess fat in your abdomen but no loose, hanging skin, liposuction can slim and reshape the area by removing fat deposits. Liposuction is less invasive than a tummy tuck and generally requires a recovery period of five days to two weeks. You may decide to have a tummy tuck and liposuction.

Before undergoing surgery, discuss the estimated recovery time with your plastic surgeon. You will have to miss work and limit your activities. Even a task as simple as lifting your child may be difficult. So make sure you know all the post-op restrictions, and follow your doctor’s guidelines to ensure a full and safe recovery.

“A mommy makeover is something you do for yourself—not to please anyone else,” says Sullivan. “So make sure your plastic surgeon listens to you, and don’t let anyone talk you into having surgery you don’t want. All surgery has risks, so be proactive. Do your homework, and explore your options. Go online to see if your plastic surgeon is board certified in plastic surgery—not another area of medicine. A mommy makeover is a major decision, so you need to be in good hands with a surgeon you trust.”

“Mommy makeovers are a great way for women to improve their body image and self-esteem,” adds Coats-Walton. “Women lead active, busy lives, and they want to look their best. It goes without saying that when you look good, you feel good. It’s refreshing to see beautiful, bold women taking care of themselves and enjoying life. And there’s definitely nothing selfish about that.”


Resources

Fitness

The American Council on Exercise® (ACE)

The American Council on Exercise® (ACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to enriching quality of life through safe and effective exercise and physical activity. Its website includes information about types of exercises, workouts, fitness product reviews, healthy recipes and more. You can also search for an ACE-certified personal trainer in your area.

www.acefitness.org

 

Postnatal Classes

  • Baby Boot Camp®

Baby Boot Camp® stroller-based fitness classes are designed specifically to help moms get fit. Classes combine strength-training exercises with cardiovascular drills. Pilates, yoga and abdominal exercises help improve core strength. Visit the website to search for a class in your area.

www.babybootcamp.com

  • Stroller Strides®

Stroller Strides® is a total fitness program that moms can do with their babies. It includes power walking and intervals of strength and body toning exercises using exercise tubing, the stroller and the environment. This unique program also provides moms with the opportunity to meet other moms, engage in playgroups with their babies and form lasting friendships. Visit the website to search for a class in your area.

www.strollerstrides.com

 

Dermatology

 

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the largest dermatology group in the United States, represents nearly all practicing dermatologists. Its website includes information about skin conditions, skin care and safety and more. You can also search for a dermatologist in your area.

 

www.aad.org

 

Plastic Surgery

 

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)

 

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest plastic surgery specialty organization in the world. Its website includes information about procedures, patient safety and more. You can also search for a plastic surgeon in your area.

 

www.plasticsurgery.org

 

The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. helps patients by providing information about the board- certification process and identifying which doctors are board certified. Check the website to see if your plastic surgeon is board certified.

www.abplsurg.org