Things you should know before getting a tummy tuck

Aug 05, 2022

MeTime - Things you should know before getting a tummy tuck

The one area of the body that is frustratingly stubborn for many people is the belly. Childbirth, hormonal fluctuations, weight changes, and the natural aging process all lead to the accumulation of excess skin and fat around the stomach area. Unfortunately, many people find that a healthy diet and regular exercise are simply not enough to get rid of the excess fat and loose abdominal skin around the middle.

A plastic surgery procedure called an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck can be performed for successfully removing excess skin and fat from the abdomen and tightening the remaining skin. This cosmetic surgery can give you a smooth and sculpted belly and curvaceous waistline. Many patients have a tummy tuck as part of a mommy makeover after pregnancy. This plastic surgery can also be combined with liposuction for more comprehensive body contouring.

However, you should know that a tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure. There are some things tummy tuck patients should know before undergoing this cosmetic procedure. This can help to ensure the surgery is safe and you get the desired tummy tuck results.

If you are planning on getting a tummy tuck, please continue reading to learn about some of the do's and don'ts before and after a tummy tuck. By doing your homework and fully understanding the benefits and risks of this cosmetic surgery, you can avoid complications and disappointments. Because while an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is a highly effective plastic surgery with long-lasting results, it may not be right for everyone. Here are some facts to know before undergoing tummy tucks.

What should you not do before a tummy tuck?

Don't undertake significant weight loss

Plastic surgeons recommend that you don't undergo rapid weight reduction before your tummy tuck. If you are on a crash diet or other means of trying to lose a great deal of weight, you should stop a few weeks to months before your procedure. It is important for prospective patients to be at a stable body weight before a tummy tuck.

Don't smoke

You should stop using any form of tobacco at least 4 weeks prior to your scheduled tummy tuck plastic surgery. Smoking can lead to wound healing problems and increase the risk of postoperative complications.

Don't drink alcohol

Your board certified plastic surgeon will advise you to stop drinking alcohol for at least one week before and two weeks after your abdominoplasty. This is because alcohol cause dehydration and can interfere with blood clotting and anesthesia.

Don't use herbal medications

Some herbal medications can lead to complications during and after surgical procedures by interfering with blood clotting, blood pressure, and general anesthesia. Give your plastic surgeon a complete list of your medications, including prescription drugs, over the counter medicines, supplements, and herbal products. Don't take anything before your procedure without checking with your doctor first.

Don't hesitate to ask for help

You will not feel like yourself for the first few weeks after your procedure. It is important to seek help from friends and relatives, for example, arranging for someone to drive you home after your tummy tuck, and, if possible, stay with you for a few days during your recovery.

How do you prepare your body for a tummy tuck?

Be at a stable weight

A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty can very effectively sculpt your body and give you the shape that has eluded you despite a healthy lifestyle. However, it's important to understand that this plastic surgery is not a weight loss procedure. People undergoing a tummy tuck should be at or close to their ideal body weight (within 10-15 pounds of the goal weight) for 6-12 months before the procedure. Any weight fluctuation (weight gain or weight loss) after a tummy tuck can undo the results of the surgery and disrupt the contoured shape achieved with the surgery. This may lead to a need for additional procedures. If you plan to lose additional weight, it's a good idea to hold off on a tummy tuck for the time being.

Fuel your body

In the weeks to months prior to your tummy tuck surgery, you should follow a healthy lifestyle so that you are in your overall best health. This includes paying attention to nutrition and eating low-fat and high-protein foods. It will give you the optimal result and also speed up recovery after your tummy tuck.

Stay well hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids like water to stay well hydrated will help you recover faster after surgery day.

Stop taking certain medications

Your plastic surgeon will advise you to stop taking certain medications one week before your tummy tuck. This includes blood thinners and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen that can increase the risk of bleeding. You should also avoid diet pills, herbal teas, supplements, and other over-the-counter products because they can interfere with anesthesia or blood clotting. Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is safe to take for pain control after the surgery.

How do you prepare for recovery from tummy tuck?

Create a comfort zone

You will need a place to rest while your belly area recovers from the plastic surgery. Ideally, this should be a comfortable chair or recliner that doesn't place pressure on the abdominal wall. Most patients like to have a table nearby where there are magazines, books, snacks, devices, the TV remote, etc., within easy reach.

Prepare your home

If you like to keep your home clean, it's a good idea to get this done before you go in for your tummy tuck cosmetic surgery, so you won't need to worry about it after you come back home. It's also a good idea to have a few meals prepared and stored in the freezer, especially if your support person is not much of a cook. Many patients like to have pre-made protein shakes in the fridge - they are a great way to boost energy and provide nutrients even when you don't have much of an appetite.

Set out some comfortable outfits

To avoid bending and reaching for clothes, it might be a good idea to have a few sets of comfortable outfits within easy reach to wear in the next several days after your tummy tuck. Loose, comfortable clothing and flat shoes are the best.

Fill your prescriptions

Your plastic surgeon will give you instructions and prescribe certain medications to take during tummy tuck recovery, for example, pain medications. You should fill these prescriptions and also buy things like compression garments that you will need after your surgery.

What are the do's and don'ts after a tummy tuck surgery?

DO ask your doctor about laxatives

You will need to take some pain medications during your recovery from a tummy tuck to ease any discomfort. These medications and the lack of movement can cause you to become constipated in the days after your surgery. Stay well hydrated, eat lots of fiber, and start moving around as soon as your doctor says it's okay. Talk to your doctor about taking milk of magnesia or some other laxative after the surgery. Some doctors advise starting stool softeners a few days before the surgery.   

DO start moving after two weeks

Follow your doctor's instructions about movement and activities. Most patients can start taking gentle walks two to three weeks after a tummy tuck. Movement is important for circulation, to aid healing, and to prevent blood clots. But it's important to increase activity gradually. While you should not stay in bed all day, you also should not do strenuous activity until you've had a chance to heal fully.

DON'T overdo it

To maintain the results of your tummy tuck, you should aim to stay at a stable weight after your surgery. To this end, you should start doing light cardio and light weightlifting two weeks after your procedure. However, it's important to ease back to your exercise routine. Don't do too much too soon. You will need to avoid heavy lifting, such as lifting children, pets, or heavy grocery bags for 4 weeks. You will also need to avoid core exercises that target the abdominal muscles for 3 months. However, you can resume other types of exercises and activities after 6 weeks.

DON'T weigh or measure yourself immediately

There can be a fair bit of swelling and excess fluid for the first 4 weeks after your tummy tuck. If you weigh or measure yourself soon after your tummy tuck surgery, it can lead to disappointment when you see an increase in measurements or weight, which is from the swelling. Don't expect your body to change instantly. Give the swelling and water retention some time to go away. Remember that in most of the before and after tummy tuck photos you see online, the after photos are taken months after the procedure.

What is the difference between a tummy tuck and mini tummy tuck?

A full tummy tuck addresses the entire abdomen. A mini tummy tuck only addresses extra skin, stretch marks, and loose muscles in the lower abdomen (below the belly button), leaving the upper abdomen untouched.  

Advantages of a full tummy tuck include:

Removes excessive skin and tightens loose skin from above and below the belly button.

Provides complete transformation of the abdominal area.

Can address any belly button issues such as an outie.

Disadvantages of a full tummy tuck include:

The recovery period is longer.

Seroma and other wound healing issues are more common compared to a mini abdominoplasty.

Advantages of a mini abdominoplasty include:

Smaller scars.

Faster recovery time.

Disadvantages of a mini abdominoplasty include:

Upper abdominal issues are not addressed.

Less transformative than a full abdominoplasty.

What they don't tell you about tummy tucks

You'll have surgical drains in place

For 1-2 weeks after your tummy tuck surgery, your surgeon will leave surgical drains in place to remove excess fluids and blood from the surgical site and keep the swelling down. These drains are vital for proper healing and require some care, including limitations on bathing. The drains are usually removed 7-10 days after the procedure, and this can be done quickly and painlessly in your surgeon's office. However, occasionally the drains may need to stay in longer.

You'll have to wear a compression garment

Your surgeon will ask you to wear an elasticized, stretchable garment shaped like a girdle for a few days after your tummy tuck. This garment places pressure on the area to provide support and keep the swelling down.

There is significant downtime

Remember that a tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure. You will need will need 4-6 weeks to heal from this plastic surgery. For the first 1-2 weeks, you might feel tired, sore, and swollen. You may even need to take pain medication for the discomfort. Keep in mind that you will need to do more than simply take time off work. You will need someone to help with household chores and childcare. It is important to take it slow and allow your body to heal.

Tummy tuck surgery leaves a permanent scar

The full abdominoplasty technique involves making an incision that extends from hip to hip. This incision leaves a permanent scar along the entire breadth of the abdomen, right above the pubic bone. The scar does fade a little with time, but it can be visible for several years after your tummy tuck. An experienced, board certified plastic surgeon can place the incision carefully so that it is concealed in clothing, including underwear and swimsuit bottoms.

Your clothes may not fit initially

If you've been waiting to jump into a pair of skinny jeans that's been sitting in your wardrobe for years, don't even think about it for 2-3 weeks after your tummy tuck. As mentioned, there can be a fair amount of fluid retention and swelling, so trying to fit into certain types of clothes, say in the first week after a tummy tuck, will only lead to disappointment. After a couple of weeks, however, you will find that your clothes fit much better.

Complete healing can take up to one year

The results of a tummy tuck cosmetic surgery are not visible instantly. Rather, it takes several weeks for the redness, swelling, and soreness to subside. You should know that some subtle swelling can remain for 6-12 months. Similarly, there can be some numbness or loss of sensation that lasts for months and resolves slowly. You will feel like yourself after 3 months but it may take a year for full healing.

Wrapping up

When you're thinking about getting a tummy tuck or other such transformative cosmetic surgery, it's important to choose an experienced plastic surgeon. The MeTime app makes it easy to find the best plastic surgeons who perform tummy tucks in your area. You can chat with experts, share photos, do video calls, get quotes, and much more. A good surgeon will always be transparent and will discuss the pros and cons of the procedure with you frankly, so that you'll know what to expect with an abdominoplasty and can make an informed decision.

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