How can new mums get their taut tummy back after giving birth?
Cheryl (not her real name) worked her guts out at the gym six days a week, went on a strict diet and paid close to $40,000 for non-surgical abdomen shaping treatments.
But, the 35-year-old mum of two still couldn’t get rid of her flabby belly – the result of two pregnancies.
Last year, Cheryl, who gained 30kg during her first pregnancy, went under the knife to get her pre-baby waistline back.
During the procedure, plastic surgeon Chua Jun Jin from Mount Elizabeth Hospital tightened the loose tummy muscles to create a narrower, shapely midriff and removed over 1kg of excess skin from her belly.
“My babies were huge, each weighing around 4.5kg at birth. The pregnancies stretched out my skin so much that after delivery, my saggy belly would fold over my C-section scar. I went into depression for a while because of it,” says Cheryl, whose kids are aged 10 and five.
As much as new mums love their babies, the same can’t be said about their post-baby pooches.
Cue the desperate attempts at using exercise, diets, creams, massages and wraps to squash “mummy tummy”.
But plastic surgeons say these methods or other home remedies usually don’t work on loose skin. In Cheryl’s case, a nip and tuck is what’s needed.
“Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to tighten loose skin other than by surgery. Other skin tightening techniques can only minimally tighten the skin,” says Professor Walter Tan, a specialist in plastic surgery and consultant at Raffles Skin and Aesthetics.
During pregnancy, your skin stretches to accommodate your growing baby.
Skin sags when collagen fibres rupture as it overstretches, giving rise to stretch marks, Prof Tan explains.
“When this happens, the skin can no longer shrink back after delivery and mums will have much looser skin than before,” he says.
Most women will experience some degree of loose skin after pregnancy. A few unlucky ones are left with an extensive amount of loose skin and even an overhanging “skin apron” above underwear, Dr Chua says.
Whether your skin bounces back or succumbs to gravity after pregnancy depends a lot on genes.
Those who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy, have large babies or multiples, tend to suffer more damage to their skin, adds Prof Tan.
While exercise and sensible eating may help you lose weight and excess belly fat, they won’t fix saggy skin, the doctors say.
The bad news doesn’t end there.
Pregnancy usually stretches out and separates your six-pack abdominal muscles, too.
“No matter how many crunches you do, the solid six-pack will never form again. In some mums, the separation of the muscles is so bad that they have an abdominal hernia bulging outwards.
“One of my patients looked like she was still nine months pregnant several months after delivering her twin babies,” Dr Chua says.
A hernia is a medical condition whereby an organ pushes through the muscles that are supposed to hold it in place.
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