One of the most common concerns that women have about pregnancy is that it will permanently change their bodies. The tummy is a particular area of concern. A flat tummy is highly prized, and many women worry that pregnancy will create a permanent “pooch” in their bellies, making it difficult to achieve that lean look again. What does pregnancy actually do to the abdomen?
While a woman is pregnant, the two sides of her rectus abdominis (the “six-pack muscle”) separate from each other. These two sides of the muscle are connected by a thick piece of connective tissue. (This is what creates the groove that you can see running down the center of a fit person’s belly.) As the two sides of the muscle are pulled apart, this connective tissue gets stretched out.
Doing core workouts during pregnancy doesn’t prevent the muscles from separating. In fact, this can make the separation worse. When the abdominal muscles are active, the tension on the connective tissue in the center is increased, and it can be stretched even more. Some women continue with their core workouts during pregnancy hoping that this will help them get their flat tummies back afterward, when in fact, these workouts are actually making it harder for their bodies to bounce back.
After the woman has the baby and loses the baby weight, the connective tissue between the two sides of the muscle may remain stretched out. This can mean that she still has a “pooch” in her belly, even if she is physically fit and at a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, eating well and exercising just aren’t enough in this situation. The separated abdominal muscles won’t pull back together, no matter how thin and fit you become. Stretched connective tissue will always remain stretched.
A tummy tuck, medically known as abdominoplasty, is designed to help bring together abdominal muscles that have separated. The surgeon removes excess connective tissue between the two halves of the muscle, and then brings them together in order to create a flatter abdominal profile. Pockets of excess fat are also removed to create a smoother and leaner profile, and excess loose skin is removed to create a taut tummy.
According to Dr. A.M. Yenikomshian, a cosmetic surgeon with three decades of experience who practices at The Center for Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery in San Jose, “Among the best candidates for abdominoplasty are mothers who are finished having children and who wish to restore their figures to their pre-pregnancy form.”
A woman who wants to have a tummy tuck should wait to do so until she’s sure that she’s finished having kids. If you have a tummy tuck and then get pregnant again, the results are often lost during the pregnancy, and then you’ll need another tummy tuck to get them back again.
It’s important to recognize that a tummy tuck isn’t a weight loss procedure. Although some pockets of excess fat will be removed, the procedure won’t remove large amounts of excess fat. You’ll get the best results from your tummy tuck if you’re at or close to your ideal weight when you have the procedure.