Designed to dramatically change and adapt in order to carry babies, women’s bodies are incredible feats of engineering.
However, while this process is amazing, it is not perfect, and can result in damage to the body. In particular, women are often left with distortions to the abdomen following pregnancy.
Although it is very common, it is not always talked about. You may be led to believe that the changes to your tummy can be corrected through diet and exercise, and therefore feel ashamed or embarrassed if you are unable to achieve this.
The truth is, much of the damage sustained as a result of pregnancy can only be repaired through reconstructive surgery. This includes:
- Diastasis recti
- Loose skin and stretch marks
- C-section scars
- Umbilical hernias
Below we take a look at each of these conditions and how we can repair them.
Diastasis recti is a condition where the left and right sides of the abdominal muscles (‘six pack’ muscles) separate. It is caused by the overstretching of the linea alba, the tissue that covers the front surface of the belly. There are a number of reasons this stretching can occur but pressure from a developing baby during pregnancy is a key culprit.
Doctors diagnose diastasis recti when the distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle reaches two centimeters or more. Research shows it is a condition that affects that at least 60% of women six weeks after birth, and 30% percent of women still have it a year after birth.
It is especially common in women who carry large babies or twins, or those who are petite in size themselves. The result of diastasis recti is that it leaves a gap or a pooch around the belly button and loose fatty tissue on either side.
Unfortunately, it’s a condition that not only causes aesthetic damage; it can lead to all kinds of problems and pain — like pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, breathing and digestive problems, and pelvic girdle and back pain.
Diastasis recti can be repaired as part of an abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck. The muscles of the abdominal wall are pulled together and tightened from below the ribs to the pubic bone. Meanwhile, excess fat and skin is removed to ensure the stomach has a flat, smooth contour.
Loose Skin and Stretch Marks
The skin of the tummy is stretched during pregnancy and, while it does shrink back after birth, it will have lost some of its elasticity during the process. What this means is the skin might be looser, it might take on a crêpey appearance and in some cases, even sag downwards.
It is also common for stretch marks to appear where the skin has had to expand rapidly and this can give the tummy a stripy, scarred appearance. Stretch marks affect around 8 out of 10 pregnant women.
A tummy tuck will tackle loose skin by pulling it taught, removing the excess and resecuring it, via an incision made below the bikini line. Through this tightening of the skin, the appearance of stretch marks are also improved.
They can be further minimised through non-surgical treatments like Venus Viva, which resurfaces the skin using radiofrequency. Meanwhile, significant skin tightening can also be achieved with non-invasive techniques including Venus Legacy and LPG Endermologie.
Delivering a baby by cesarean section can leave women with a highly visible scar, depending on how well the incision was made and closed and how the individual heals. It can also result in problems like infection, itchiness, rashes and pain, that can occur years after the procedure was performed.
Excess scarring happens when your body goes into overdrive during the healing process. A hypertrophic scar is one that is thicker and raised. They can also be red in colour. Keloid scarring, meanwhile, sees scar tissue extend beyond the original incision site.
A surgical scar excision can be performed as part of a tummy tuck or in isolation. The scar will be cut out and re-sutured with very fine stitches to reduce the scar to a minimum. To prevent excess scar tissue occurring, medication can be injected before, during, or after the excision, or a silicone gel dressing can be worn. Proper post-surgical care can ensure the incision heals nicely.
While most women get a sticky-out belly button during pregnancy, an umbilical hernia is when the navel protrudes so much it is considered ruptured. A true umbilical hernia does not go away after birth and should be repaired to prevent worsening.
Umbilical hernias are the result of a weakness in the abdominal muscle wall, which allows an internal part of the body (abdominal fat or small intestine) to push through. An umbilical hernia appears as a painless lump in or near the belly button and may get bigger when laughing, coughing or going to the toilet.
As well as appearing unattractive, umbilical hernias left untreated can lead to serious conditions like bowel obstruction or strangulation. Umbilical hernia repair is a simple procedure to close the hole in abdominal wall using stitches or a special mesh. At the same time, a desirable flat profile is restored to the belly button. It can be carried out as part of a tummy tuck or in isolation.
If your tummy has sustained postpartum damage, contact Ocean Clinic Marbella to find out how we can help restore your pre-pregnancy appearance.