Why is it So Difficult to Get a Flat Tummy After Childbirth

Michelle Hardaway, MD
Article by
Farmington Plastic Surgeon

Becoming a mother can be one of the most satisfying experiences for women. What is not
expected is the body changes that can occur after pregnancy, which can be permanent. Despite
exercise, diets, sit ups and core exercises, many women are unable to restore that before
pregnancy flat stomach.
During pregnancy, the abdominal wall muscles stretch with the growth of the baby. Weight gain
is necessary for a healthy infant. The skin along with the muscles stretch. If the growth of the
baby occurs faster than the skin stretches, stretch marks occur on the skin. The stretch marks
are due to damage to the deeper structures of the skin. This is the reason that many lotions and
potions that are sold do not take away the stretch marks. Presently, there are some treatments
that can improve (decrease the appearance) of the stretch marks by stimulating collagen
production. Examples are Fraxel laser treatments and nonsurgical skin tightening treatments
such as Refirme and Thermage. When weight is lost after pregnancy, the skin is often loose and
hanging.
The muscles also stretch during pregnancy. After pregnancy, the tissue between the muscles are
unable to return to their previous state because of the amount of stretching that has occurred.
The medical term is called diastasis. The tissue between the muscles (rectus abdominus) has
been permanently stretched. This occurs more is some women than others.
For many women, liposuction will not give them the flat look that they desire. The muscles are
stretched and there is loose hanging skin. A tummy tuck or an abdominoplasty would be the
best option is this case. In this procedure, the muscles are tightened and the loose skin is
removed. The incision is horizontal and can be easily covered with underwear.
If there is mainly excess fat on the lower part of the abdomen, liposuction may give some
improvement. Liposuction will not treat loose skin. The types of liposuction that involve heat
such as Vaser liposelection or various types of Laser liposuction can help the skin shrink better
than standard liposuction.
It is important to tell your plastic surgeon what your desired goals are in order to avoid
disappointment after treatment. Unrealistic expectations can cause disappointment after any
procedure.