Mummy Makeovers; How Pregnancy Changes the Body
Mummy Makeover | Dr Eddy Dona
Wed 4th Aug 2021
Giving birth and caring for your children can be one of the biggest joys in a mother’s life, but pregnancy can also trigger an avalanche of changes to your body in some not-so-wonderful ways. If you are like most women, you probably have some battle scars to prove it too.
While some women’s bodies may take a while to return to the way they were, others may never completely return to the way they looked before pregnancy, and some of the unexpected changes can be difficult and overwhelming to deal with. Although these changes are natural, many women struggle to accept their postpartum body, especially those that no amount of exercise or restrictive dieting can cure. We do not believe women should have to sacrifice their body confidence after giving birth.
Whether you are pregnant and anticipating the inevitable changes pregnancy brings or want to feel more comfortable in your postpartum body, this article will explore the different ways that pregnancy can affect the body and how a mummy makeover can address some of these issues.
For many women, changes to the breasts are one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, and they continue to change from the first trimester through to the postpartum period.
Within weeks of conceiving, your body starts preparing for lactation by ramping up the production of pregnancy hormones like oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones are essential in preparing the breasts for lactation and are responsible for many of the changes you may experience. Oestrogen stimulates the growth of the breast duct cells and generates the secretion of prolactin, another hormone. Prolactin stimulates breast enlargement and milk production. Progesterone supports the formation and growth of milk-producing cells within the glands of the breasts. As hormone levels rise, so does blood flow, fluid retention and fatty tissue, causing your breasts to feel swollen, sore, sensitive and appear enlarged and veiny.
Increased breast size also causes the breast skin and tissue to stretch and tear, leaving obvious stretch marks behind. Stretch marks occur when the collagen and elastin in your skin stretch beyond the point of repair. If you inherited skin that is predisposed to losing its elasticity, you are more likely to develop those angry-looking purple or red lines. Though there are supposedly creams that promise to prevent them, do not expect miracles.
After you have given birth, the oestrogen and progesterone levels plummet, and prolactin levels rise, allowing lactation to commence. Some breasts naturally revert afterwards, while others appear deflated, sagging and uneven. For some, the loss of a once-buoyant chest can be difficult to accept, despite it being an inevitable process for the female body.
If you want perkier breasts after pregnancy and breastfeeding, procedures like breast augmentation, breast reduction and breast lifts can help. Breast augmentation involves placing implants behind the breast tissue or under the chest muscle. This will increase the volume, shape and placement of your breasts. Breast reduction involves removing excess fat, tissue and skin, creating a more proportionate contour and alleviating the physical discomfort associated with disproportionately large breasts. A breast lift is often accompanied by breast augmentation or breast reduction, but it can also be undertaken alone. The procedure gives the breasts a naturally lifted appearance by removing excess skin and tightening the breast contour.
Nipples & Areolae
When you become pregnant, your breasts go through changes, and your nipples are no exception. You can blame it on the hormones again.
From the first trimester, the nipples protrude more, and Montgomery’s glands (the little bumps surrounding your areolae) become more prominent in preparation for breastfeeding. Progesterone and oestrogen cause the body to stimulate pigment-producing cells, so you can expect the darkening of your nipples and areolae—especially if you already have a darker skin tone. Within a couple of months postpartum, most nipples return to their original appearance. Although, some may continue to appear a little bigger, darker and stretched out than before pregnancy.
If you are feeling self-conscious about your nipple and areolae appearances postpartum, nipple surgery can help. In most cases, the surgery simply reduces the size of the nipple, but it can also include reshaping the areolae to achieve better proportions. This procedure can be performed alone or in conjunction with other cosmetic surgery procedures such as breast augmentation, breast reduction or breast lift.
Abdominal Wall Muscle Separation—Diastasis Recti
One of the more obvious physical signs that a woman is pregnant is the ‘baby bump’, which affects the abdominal muscles.
It is common for the two muscles that run parallel down the middle of your stomach to elongate and separate to accommodate your growing baby during pregnancy. This is known as diastasis recti or divarication.
After the birth, the abdominal muscles may become weaker and appear overstretched, leaving you with a sagging or bulging stomach and stretched skin that cannot retract. Along with the stretched-out skin, excessive fatty deposits between the muscles and organs, and weakened muscles, this separation can also contribute to incontinence, lower back pain, hernias and the stubborn pooch that sticks around long after giving birth.
Studies have found that diastasis recti occurs in approximately two-thirds of women in the third trimester and one-third of women postpartum. Although diastasis recti is often correctable through core-strengthening exercises, lifestyle changes and physical therapy, in some cases, surgery is necessary. This can be corrected with a tummy tuck, which involves tightening the separated muscles. A tummy tuck will also remove excess skin and any stretch mark scarring located on the excess skin that is being removed. By bringing the muscles back together, your stomach will become firmer and flatter, and your waistline narrower.
Excess Fat Removal
Many of us expected that the extra kilos would fall off on their own after birth. While it is true that women tend to lose weight postpartum, the weight loss trajectory is not always as straightforward as we think. In fact, it is common to lose lots of weight in the first couple of weeks postpartum and then hit a frustrating baby–weight plateau. This is why:
Like most weight-related issues, hormones can play a big role. Prolactin, a hormone increasingly referred to as the ‘fat-storing hormone’, is raised during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Prolactin is secreted to stimulate milk production while increasing appetite and slowing metabolic function—essentially storing fat as insurance to nourish the baby. This biological pressure to eat more, coupled with other ‘hungry hormones’ like leptin and ghrelin that prompt unsatiable cravings for sweet, salty and starchy food, make it very difficult to lose weight.
You may have heard that breastfeeding is an easy means of weight loss, but, unfortunately, that is not entirely true. You will burn some stored body fat by breastfeeding, but, as explained above, your body actually protects some fat for breastfeeding. It is unsurprising then that studies that have measured the effect of breastfeeding on weight loss have found only a very small effect. Breastfeeding mums only lost approximately 0.6kg to 2kg more weight than mums who did not breastfeed in the first year.
You may experience a build-up of stubborn fat deposits within the stomach, breasts and legs. Though exercise and diet are often enough to tame your fat deposits, many women find themselves unable to return their pre-pregnancy body—despite how healthy they are. If you have had a baby months ago and have a belly bulge that simply will not budge, it could be a sign of diastasis recti—the separation of your abdominal muscles.
Liposuction, otherwise known as lipectomy or lipoplasty, is a procedure that removes localised excess fat deposits to slim and sculpt specific areas of the body. Liposuction is the second most popular cosmetic surgery in Australia after breast augmentation. Liposuction has a successful history of eliminating stubborn body bulges that persist when exercise and nutrition have failed.
Excess Skin & Stretch Mark Scarring
Pregnancy can bring lots of changes to your skin. A woman’s face, areolae, stomach and moles often darken during pregnancy, and stretch marks and scars on the stomach, hips and thighs are often an unwanted souvenir.
These telltale marks painted across the body can be one of the hardest things to eradicate postpartum. There is no miracle cream. They may fade, but the skin is unlikely to completely regenerate.
Skin is made of collagen and elastin, so it expands with weight gain. Once stretched and torn from expanding to accommodate the growing foetus, your skin may have trouble returning to its original shape.
Unfortunately, there is no diet, exercise or non-surgical treatment that can reverse permanently stretched or excess skin. One of the biggest changes postpartum is excess loose skin. This often occurs on the tummy area since the belly skin stretches a great deal to accommodate a growing baby.
In less severe cases, non-surgical treatments may lessen the appearance of stretch marks. In more severe cases, surgical options such as a tummy tuck, thigh lift or arm lift can be more effective.
The Good News?
It is no secret that pregnancy and childbirth take a huge toll on the body. The bitter truth is that no matter how much miracle cream you apply or how many prenatal yoga classes you attend, once you start carrying a baby, your body will expand and change in ways you are not quite prepared for.
Sadly, many of these physical changes can alter the way we feel about ourselves. However, it does not have to be a life sentence. You can have your beautiful baby and body too with a ‘mummy makeover’.
A mummy makeover is a combination of plastic surgery procedures that restores your body to its pre-pregnancy state—and sometimes even better! The procedure typically involves a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), breast surgery (including breast augmentation, breast reduction and breast lift) and body contouring (liposuction). However, many additional treatments, such as a thigh lift or cosmetic injections, can be performed during a mummy makeover, depending on your specific concerns.
A mummy makeover is a way to regain your figure and confidence in your postpartum body. For more information or to book a consultation with Dr Dona, please contact our clinic on 1300 373 662 or email [email protected].
Dr Dona (FRACS) is one of the most in-demand specialist plastic surgeons in Sydney, Australia and is a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPA). Following his medicine degree at the University of Sydney in 1996, Dr Dona then began a further 11 years of intensive training to become a Specialist Cosmetic, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon.
Since opening his private practice in Bella Vista in 2009, Dr Dona has had patients from all over Australia seeking his expertise treatment and specialisation in cosmetic surgical procedures. Dr Dona is highly sought after for his expertise and experience in all of the cosmetic surgeries he performs. From Breast Augmentations to Tummy Tucks, Brazilian Butt Lifts and every other procedure that he performs, Dr Dona treats every patient with care and precision as if he were performing surgery on his own family member.
Despite running a busy private practice, Dr Dona still dedicates part of his time to Sydney’s largest teaching public hospitals, having provided training to over 50 specialist plastic surgeons and many more doctors. Eddy also commits part of his time to working in some of Sydney’s busiest public hospitals, including providing emergency on-call services. This is where Dr Dona is often required to reconstruct the bodies of those affected by trauma and cancer.