There’s nothing wrong with trying to lose the weight you’ve gained after having a baby. Or perhaps eliminating stretch marks and lightening the skin around their belly. But it’s important to know which aesthetic treatments – from tummy tuck to liposuction and laser treatment – are safe for new mums and how soon after giving birth you should even start considering them.
Lynette Wang had put on close to 20kg during her pregnancy. “My stretch marks were hideous,” says the 39-year-old teacher.
“Topical creams didn’t do much to fade the marks; I needed something more heavy-duty to get the skin around my belly and breasts looking normal again.”
So a few months after she gave birth to her baby boy, she signed up for a series of laser treatments at a popular aesthetic clinic.
New mum Marissa Chan splurged on treatments to help with her blotchy skin tone and a loss of firmness. “I just wanted to feel attractive and healthy again,” says the 34-year-old marketing executive.
Lynette and Marissa are not alone. Dr Low Chai Ling, medical director of The Sloane Clinic, says that she sees many new mothers who are keen to regain their pre-pregnancy figures and skin tone. Over the past year, however, she’s seeing them even sooner after their deliveries, as well as during their pregnancies.
“Women realise that just because they are pregnant, it doesn’t mean that they should totally neglect their skin or their appearance,” she shares. “Most new mums are concerned about the changes their skin has undergone during pregnancy, in particular, pigmentation. They’re also concerned about weight gain and skin laxity.”
(Also read: Saggy belly skin after giving birth: What you can do)
Dr Georgia Lee, founder of TLC Lifestyle Practice, says the new mums who consult her are interested in eliminating stretch marks, lightening the skin around their belly, armpits and bikini region, and losing the weight they gained while pregnant.
Wait a little longer
Aesthetic treatments can encompass both invasive and non-invasive procedures to improve one’s looks and well-being, says Dr Low.
Non-invasive treatments can help with skin conditions that may have developed during pregnancy, such as acne and stretch marks. These treatments, such as IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and chemical peels, are non-surgical and can usually be carried out as soon as a month after delivery.
Invasive treatments, on the other hand, involve surgery. These may include procedures such as a tummy tuck – which is performed to remove excess skin that’s stretched over the abdomen – and liposuction.
Dr Low says that how soon you can have an aesthetic treatment after giving birth depends on how quickly your body heals.
“All new mothers recover from their deliveries at different rates, but I usually tell my patients that there’s no rush to undergo a surgical cosmetic procedure. Their general well-being should always come first,” she explains.
“On average, we’d wait at least six months for a woman to regain her pre-pregnancy body before evaluating her again, to see if she is suitable for an invasive procedure. There are patients who may have to wait a little longer than that.”
Dr Leslie Kuek, a certified cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon from Leslie Kuek Plastic Surgery, agrees, adding: “You still have pregnancy hormones coursing through your system and these hormones have an effect on your body shape,” he says.
“In the meantime, if you want to feel good about your body and get your pre-pregnancy figure back faster, just exercise regularly and stick to a healthy diet.”
Another big reason to stay away from surgical procedures first, especially if you’re breastfeeding: injections and oral medicines are involved, and these can pass into your breast milk, say the doctors.
It’s important to have realistic expectations before considering if you should sign up for a treatment.
For instance, if you put on a lot of weight during your pregnancy, you should not expect liposuction to be the magic formula to help you lose the excess kilos.
“I’d advise getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight first,” says Dr Lee. “Liposuction is not a means of weight management but, rather, something that is carried out to remove localised fat tissue that’s difficult to shift.”
Remember, too, that non-invasive body shaping or toning treatments are best combined with a sensible diet and regular exercise.
(Also read: Best foods to eat for new mums during confinement)
Stretch marks are nearly impossible to eliminate completely so, if you’re looking to get rid of yours, remind yourself that you will likely only be able to improve their appearance.
“I find that gentle treatments performed regularly yield the best results for Asian skin, so it pays to be patient while undergoing treatment for stretch marks,” says Dr Low.
In addition to making sure you are physically ready, and cleared by your gynae to undergo any kind of aesthetic treatment, it’s important to consider the number of sessions required before committing yourself to the procedure, advises Dr Lee.
“The more treatments you have, the more money and time you have to commit. So, if you’re looking for the best results, consider these issues before you get started.”
Also, do ask the aesthetic practitioner or doctor how established the treatment is, and what results you can expect.
Do your research
Whether the procedure you’ve chosen is invasive or not, you want to make sure that the person treating you is qualified and experienced. After all, even non-invasive procedures carry risks, such as burns and scarring from lasers or chemical peels.
Before you even decide on a doctor, therapist or clinic, Dr Kuek advises you to familiarise yourself with the risks of your chosen treatment.
“You can find all this information online. Visit forums and speak to people who’ve done them. Carry out your own research. If something goes wrong during or after your treatment, there’s absolutely no excuse for saying that you had no idea about the risks,” he says.
But do keep in mind that online marketing or advertising is sometimes disguised as patient reviews, so Dr Lee suggests visiting reputable websites to get your information.
Most doctors would be able to manage non-invasive procedures – even your neighbourhood general practitioner. Nevertheless, it’s still important to consider the doctor’s training and experience.
If you are after a treatment that is invasive, Dr Kuek advises you to see a specialist, as general practitioners are not allowed to perform procedures that involve cutting, stitching and surgery.
You may also wish to visit the centre in advance, to make sure that you feel comfortable in that environment and that the therapists are experienced.
Once you’ve chosen a doctor or therapist, make sure that you are comfortable communicating with her. After all, someone who understands your needs will be more likely to provide you with the best care.
Beware of any doctor who tries to talk you into undergoing a treatment you’re not comfortable with and, worse, tries to trap you into paying for a package or series of treatments you’re not interested in.