The growing fetus in your tummy during pregnancy can do some irreversible damage to your tummy skin and muscle. Beyond a certain point of stretching, body tissues lose the ability to recoil. Mummies will find that even though they have returned to their pre-pregnant you weight, or less, it is not possible to get back the nip waistline and taut abdominal skin they had prior to pregnancy. We spoke to with Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Chia Hui Ling, from SW1 Plastic Surgery Clinic, who specializes in restorative procedures for mummies, aka mummy makeovers.
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Know Your Anatomy
The stretching separation of the 6-pack muscles in the midline is a condition known as Diastasis of the Recti Abdominis Muscle (DRAM), commonly known as mummy tummy. DRAM loosens the core muscle, your “built-in corset”. Apart from being the cause of a thicker waistline, it weakens the core and can give rise to tummy bulge, hernia, abdominal strain, incontinence and backaches. Similarly, skin when stretched beyond the point of recoil, remains lax even after you lose weight, giving rise to loose abdominal skin and an altered belly button appearance.
These changes do reverse over the course of the first year after pregnancy, but not completely, and in some women more than others. If you have more pregnancies, large fetuses or excessive pregnancy weight gain, your risk of developing DRAM is higher.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Dr Chia recommends to discuss with your obstetrician regarding what is a health weight gain and not to put on excessive weight to prevent over-stretching of your core muscles. “If you want to start exercise for you abs, I suggest seeing a physiotherapist trained in managing DRAM,” explained Dr Chia, “because intensive core exercises, such as planks and sit-ups , can worsen DRAM.” Take a diet high in “healing” nutrients, such as protein, zinc and vitamin C, may promote healing and help the reversal process of DRAM.
What If The Damage Is Done?
For very mild cases of excess fat and loose skin, try non-surgical treatments Thermage (radiofrequency) to tighten skin and Coolshape (cryolipolysis) for fat reduction. If you have significant loose skin, DRAM, fat excess or deformed umbilicus, surgery may better a more effective option.
A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, removes excess skin, repairs DRAM and enhances the look of your belly button. Very often, liposuction is done simultaneously to sculpt the abdomen. For women who have symptomatic DRAM, repair will rebuild the core strength and may improve their symptoms.
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