This Mother's Day, we're reminded of the sacrifices moms willingly make for their children, but their youthful figure doesn't have to be one of them. After childbirth, many women see significant changes in their bodies, and they may find excess weight in places they never had it before. That's where a "mommy makeover" comes in.
"Some new moms find their bodies unrecognizable after childbirth. For them, it's not a question of looking like a model, they just want their pre-pregnancy figures back," according to Dr. Lyle Leipziger, Chief of Plastic Surgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center. "They want to be able to wear the same clothes they wore before they became pregnant, and look good," says Dr. Leipziger, whose office is in Great Neck. "After surgery, many women say they look better than ever."
Over the past few years, he has seen increasing numbers of patients in their 20's, 30's and 40's looking to reclaim their pre-pregnancy bodies. The "mommy makeover" targets the areas most affected by childbirth. It may entail a tummy tuck, breast augmentation or breast lift. These procedures are among the fastest growing, most popular cosmetic surgeries, according to Dr. Leipziger.
"Some of the changes women see in their bodies after childbirth cannot be eliminated with diet and exercise alone," he says. "The most common post-pregnancy changes are stretched and sagging breasts or a loss of breast volume, and loose skin over the abdomen or a lower tummy bulge. If this is the case, a breast lift or breast augmentation and a tummy tuck can restore a more youthful figure." Some women are also left with extra weight on their hips, thighs and back, and Dr. Leipziger says liposuction may be the best procedure for these problem areas.
He is also seeing more women who've had babies later in life. "It's not uncommon for women in their late thirties and early forties to come in for a consultation," he says. Generally, women in this age group find that their bodies do not bounce back as easily. He says it's best for women to hold off until they've had their last baby before having
a tummy tuck.
"There's no such thing as a cookie-cutter makeover. Each procedure should be tailored to the individual patient's needs, goals and schedule," Dr. Leipziger says. Women should wait at least six months after giving birth to have cosmetic surgery. If they are nursing, they should wait six months after their baby goes to the bottle before breast enhancement.
Dr. Leipziger says women have different reasons for choosing plastic surgery. Some women are embarrassed by the changes in their body and want to regain the confidence that comes from knowing they look good. They find it easier to buy clothing that flatters their figure. Others plan to return to the work force, and enhancing their appearance boosts their self-confidence when job hunting. In any case, women should always be sure they are having the surgery for themselves, and not to please someone else, he says. Breast surgery generally entails a one- to two-week recovery, and a tummy tuck takes about three weeks.
Dr. Leipziger recommends patients make sure the plastic surgeon is board certified. They should also know how much time is needed for recovery and the total cost beforehand, including anesthesia and operating room fees. They may also want to see before and after photos of previous patients. "After abdominal and breast surgery, many post-pregnancy patients never looked better," Dr. Leipziger says. "Their self-esteem is enhanced and they enjoy a new zest for life."