Abdominoplasty or a tummy tuck is primarily regarded as a cosmetic procedure. It’s commonly performed on women who’ve struggled to regain their shape post childbirth (although not exclusively). According to a recent study though, the procedure has functional benefits beyond the cosmetic ones which could have a life-changing effect for some women post-partum.
The Australian study, published in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) focused on two common complaints from women who’d given birth: back pain and urinary incontinence. The results were fairly clear cut with less than 2% of the 214 women studied reporting either of the conditions as still being significant six months after the surgery.
Some common post-partum conditions
During pregnancy, the stomach muscles effectively separate by stretching the seam in the middle to make space for the growing baby. Dependent on body shape and fitness levels the problem can be exacerbated but it affects nearly all pregnant women to some extent. The condition known as rectus diastasis doesn’t just leave the stomach looking flabby and out of shape. If the muscles are no longer where they should be there can be other side effects.
Poor posture is common amongst many post-partum women. Weakened muscles and a layer of flabby skin can result in ‘sway back’ (lordosis) which in turn can lead to chronic back pain. The weakened state of the stomach muscles can also leave the body more prone to ventral hernias where tissue begins to force its way through the wall of the abdomen. Stress urinary incontinence is another common condition for women who’ve undergone a vaginal birth.
The lack of muscle definition and excess skin can also lead to a general dip in fitness levels as women find it more difficult to adhere to pre-pregnancy workouts and exercise regimes.
What’s involved in a tummy tuck
Whilst the procedure is relatively straightforward it is still major surgery with up to five hours in the operating theatre and several weeks’ recuperation. Mr Horlock will have sutured the abdominal tissue into place and removed any excess skin and fatty tissue.
By re-strengthening the body’s core everything should start to improve from lifting and sitting up straight to just simply breathing. To further alleviate stress incontinence, a small obstruction can be created to stop leakage from the bladder or the tummy tuck can be combined with a hernia repair.
The study’s lead author, Dr Alastair Taylor believes that it might be time to reclassify abdominoplasty as more than just a cosmetic procedure. She commented: “By reducing the problems of back pain and incontinence, abdominoplasty with rectus repair leads to a better life for women after childbearing.”
It’s clear for any woman who’s experiencing some or all of these post childbirth conditions that a tummy tuck could be much more than just a mummy makeover.