But fitness trainers beg to differ. Pre- and post-natal fitness trainer Gladys Leong, who has three kids, says maintaining a toned flab-free body after pregnancy has “everything to do with diet and exercise”.
For example, taking too much sugary food can speed up ageing due to a process called glycation. This is when the sugar damages proteins in the blood, making the person more vulnerable to skin damage and premature wrinkles, she explains.
Certified personal trainer Kareen Lai, founder of Mums In Sync, says: “I won’t deny that surgery will give mums a taut tummy, but the results probably won’t last if they don’t change their lifestyles or maintain their weight.”
On the other hand, she says studies show that regular exercise can help improve the skin’s elasticity and pliability.
“How good your skin is also depends on how hydrated the soft tissues are, but keeping them well-hydrated isn’t just about drinking water.
“In reality, the more you move, the more hydrated, elastic and healthier your skin will be,” Kareen shares.
But this works only with long-term, consistent effort. Weight loss after having a baby should be gradual so the skin has time to “catch up”, she adds.
“We’re talking about a two- to three-year weight-loss time frame, not a two- to three-month type of magic. With this type of slow and steady weight loss, I’ve seen extremely overweight people acquire an ultra marathon-type of physique, minus the saggy skin,” says Kareen, who has two kids.
Going for tummy tuck
But that did not work for Cheryl.
“Everyone said it takes time for the skin to contract after pregnancy, so I waited.
But even after I lost my pregnancy weight through exercise and dieting, and tried other non-invasive methods, my tummy remained terribly saggy,” says Cheryl, who is now confident enough to don a bikini and midriff-bearing tops after going under the knife.
“In hindsight, I shouldn’t have wasted so much time and money, and gone straight for a tummy tuck instead.”
While surgery might offer quick results, obstetrician and gynaecologist Christopher Ng of GynaeMD Women’s and Rejuvenation Clinic, says it should only be used when other non-invasive forms of treatments have failed, or in severe cases of loose skin.
“Surgery is invasive and has its risks, such as wound infections and death, so this should certainly not be the first line of treatment,” he says.
“It should also be offered once a woman has completed her family, as all the ‘hard work’ would be undone by the next pregnancy.”
It is a myth that “lifting” creams can tighten loose skin after pregnancy, says Dr Chua.
“If you apply them after delivery, it is already too late. Creams can never penetrate the whole layer of skin and can only improve the superficial texture,” he shares.
What you should do to reduce skin damage is to frequently apply moisturiser to common stretch mark areas – tummy, breasts, thighs, buttocks and arms – as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
The first few weeks of pregnancy are the most important.