Perhaps you’ve had it all your life, or maybe you recently had a child and now you see it. You might have lost weight, and now that thing is driving down your self-esteem. You just want it gone.
You know what we’re talking about — the dreaded stomach pouch of loose skin or fat that hangs down from the abdomen.
This loose skin can make you feel extremely self-conscious, but the marvels of modern plastic surgery help you remove that skin and boost your confidence.
If belly pooch has got you feeling down, consider getting a tummy tuck. We’ve got all the information you need to understand it.
What is a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is also called abdominoplasty, which removes excess skin and fat around the abdomen. The surgery also restores weakened abdominal muscles, making the abdomen look smooth and firm.
Everyone, even people with a low-weight, healthy diet, and frequent exercise routine, can get a saggy stomach because of pregnancy or age. It affects both men and women, so a tummy tuck shouldn’t be considered “just for women” (although they’re the demographic typically to get it).
A tummy tuck requires anesthesia, even if you get the least invasive type. In most procedures, the surgeon will make an incision at the lower abdomen at a level between your pubic bone and belly button. The incision will cut horizontally between the hip bones, and the surgeon will remove excess fat and skin, tighten the abdominal muscles, and stitch you back up.
After the surgery, you’ll be unable to exercise intensely, lift heavy items, or do much else besides resting. You’ll be forced to wear an abdominal binder that accommodates your external drains, as the binder reduces the chances of excess fluid accumulating under your skin, which is called seroma. It’s akin to what happens when you get a blister, so keeping pressure on at all times on your skin reduces the chance of seroma, which could reduce the aesthetic results of your procedure.
But if you wear your binder and properly recover, a tummy tuck gives you the flat, smooth, younger-looking stomach that many people strive for. Before scheduling a tummy tuck, though, know that there is no one-size-fits-all option.
Types of Tummy Tuck Surgeries
There are three types of tummy tucks:
The standard, which is also called a “full” or “complete” tummy tuck. It’s ideal for people wanting a flat stomach immediately above and below the belly button. The surgeon makes an incision along the abdomen between your hip bones and around your belly button. They pull the skin taught, then reposition the belly button and close the incision. The typical recovery period for a standard tummy tuck is about two weeks before you can resume your normal activities.
Mini tummy tucks, where the surgeon tightens skin solely below the belly button. The surgery is less invasive and is better suited for thinner patients with a small bulge of skin above the mons pubis. The surgeon tightens the abdominal muscles and skin before closing the incision. The belly button remains the same. Mini tummy tucks warrant lighter anesthesia than a full tummy tuck, so this operation is a little cheaper.
Finally, the extended tummy tuck is the most invasive surgery, tackling the full abdomen and parts of the hips and lower back. It’s best for healthy people seeking to resculpt their upper body, especially after substantial weight loss.
The surgeon cuts a horizontal line across the lower belly and a vertical cut through the belly button. After liposuction to remove the fat around the lower back and hips, along with contouring the area, the surgeon repositions the belly button and closes the incisions.
This surgery is the most expensive as it warrants the most time and anesthesia, and will take about three to four weeks to recover from. Of all the tummy tuck techniques, this surgical technique is the most invasive, but it also provides the most dramatic results.
Who Should Consider Getting a Tummy Tuck?
Speaking with your surgeon during consultations helps you decide which procedure is right for you. The most common reasons to get a tummy tuck include the following:
No matter how many laps you run, no matter how many spinach smoothies you have for breakfast, you’ll get a belly pouch if it runs in your family. Sometimes we don’t get lucky in such regard, so a tummy tuck procedure can fix the downfalls of our heredity.
Our skin can’t combat the downward forces of gravity forever, so in addition to face and arm sagging, our bellies sag through time as well. Tummy tucks give a more youthful-looking body by removing saggy skin.
Even if you’re thin, having children deflates the abdominal skin due to nine months of its incremental stretching. Perhaps the skin can bounce back if you’re young, but that’s not the case for older mothers. Some women want their pre-pregnancy body back, which requires a tummy tuck.
Excess fat around the body stretches out your skin. While you can lose the fat, you can’t lose that skin, which hangs heavy and saggy on the body. Therefore, formerly obese people who undergo a gastric bypass or in other ways lose a lot of weight will want to do something about the noticeably excess skin they’ve gained.
The prime candidates for a tummy tuck are those who are physically healthy, maintain a consistent weight, and have realistic expectations of what the procedure will do.
It will remove excess skin and give your stomach a tighter appearance. It will not lose the weight for you, so you cannot use a tummy tuck as an excuse for an appropriate exercise and diet regimen. Surgeons will also prefer nonsmokers, as cigarette smoking raises surgery risks.
Who Shouldn’t Consider Getting a Tummy Tuck?
Overly Idealistic Expectations
Don’t get a tummy tuck if you have idealized expectations of what the results will be. It’s not going to turn you into a supermodel if you don’t put in the work or have the genetics to have that body. If you expect a tummy tuck to fix your body image issues instead of alleviating the discomfort you have over loose skin, you’ll be disappointed.
Keep realistic expectations when considering a tummy tuck and look thoroughly at the examples that other people’s bodies provide. You’ll look like you, just a little firmer.
Having More Children
Since tummy tucks stretch out your skin, don’t get one if you plan on having kids in the future, as it will essentially render useless the tummy tuck you obtained. Some pregnancies happen accidentally, which is completely fine. But if you can help it, only get a tummy tuck if you know you don’t want more children.
Losing More Weight
If you’ve lost a substantial amount of weight but plan on losing more, it would be best to get a tummy tuck when your weight stabilizes. The excess skin incurred during the weight loss process can be annoying, but you’ll have to wait until you lose as much weight as you can before getting a tummy tuck, as getting multiple abdominoplasties can be costly and cumbersome for surgeons.
Inefficient Recovery Time
If you’re too busy to recover properly — which means abstaining from work and domestic chores — then you shouldn’t get a tummy tuck. Jumping back into your old routine too quickly after your surgery could lead to worse aesthetic results or even medical complications like seroma or infection.
Only undergo this surgery when you know, for a fact, that you can give yourself the recommended amount of time to heal. Talk with your surgeon about the recovery details for your specific surgery.
How to Prepare for a Tummy Tuck
Prepare for a tummy tuck like you would any other surgery. Refrain from smoking cigarettes, first off. Get lab tests and proper medical evaluation to ensure you can get the surgery, then find a suitable surgeon who will work with your needs.
Acquire any medication you need for the surgery such as pain killers, or adjust the medication you’re already taking so it won’t interfere with the abdominoplasty. Refrain from taking aspirin or other blood thinners before the surgery.
Finally, ensure you have safe, reliable transportation and help before and after the surgery. You can’t drive yourself or care for yourself well while recovering, so guarantee you have assistance.
Benefits of Getting a Tummy Tuck
The biggest reason people get a tummy tuck is for comfort. It not only feels physically uncomfortable to carry around loose, saggy skin, but the appearance of such skin can hinder someone’s self-esteem. Removing the excess skin can make you feel much better, physically and mentally.
In addition to better mental health and aesthetics, there are medical benefits to a tummy tuck. For example, some women develop stress urinary incontinence after vaginal birth. The SUI can cause uncontrollable urination through exercising, coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Tummy tucks have assuaged severe cases of SUI, as the weight of excess skin can pull on the bladder or obstruct the area. Less skin means stronger tissue near the pelvic area, which reduces incontinence.
Tummy Tuck Risks
As with any surgery, complications can arise during a tummy tuck. While most tummy tucks successfully occur without an issue, below are some of the most common problems seen during the procedure:
- Excessive bleeding
- Seroma (fluid accumulating under the skin)
- Anesthesia risks
- Numbness in areas involved in the surgery
- Excessive scarring
- Fat necrosis (death of fat tissue) under the skin
- Disfavorable aesthetic results
- Skin discoloration around incision sites
Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Talk to your surgeon about potential complications that could arise during surgery based on your circumstances.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
Everyone heals at different paces. Take stock of how long it typically takes your body to heal from a wound and use it to gauge how long it would take for you to recover.
In general, you’ll need around two weeks to recover from a tummy tuck. Mini tummy tucks require about a week while an extended tummy tuck can take you three to four weeks before fully recovering.
Understand the Recovery Timeline for a Tummy Tuck
You’ll have drains sticking out of your abdomen for the first few days after surgery, depending on how invasive it was. You’ll also have an abdominal binder restricting your motion, as well as intense soreness and pain around the surgery site. Keep your prescribed antibiotics, painkillers, and anticoagulants on hand.
Intense pain will persist throughout the first few days after surgery, but time will eventually reduce the pain. You’ll take your drains out within a week and remove your abdominal binder around that time as well. In general, it will take about six weeks before you’re back to normal.
What is the Average Cost of a Tummy Tuck?
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a tummy tuck is around $6,253 in 2018. Depending on your location and the skill level of your surgeon, the cost could vary widely.
Other websites have calculated the average to be around $8,000 after polling users who underwent a tummy tuck. In general, expect a price range between $3,000 and $12,000.
Can a Tummy Tuck Be Covered By Insurance?
The answer will be no most of the time, as insurance companies consider a tummy tuck a cosmetic procedure. The only time a tummy tuck will be covered by insurance is if it hinders the individual’s daily functioning or health. In such a case, an insurance company might cover a tummy-tuck-like panniculectomy versus a full tummy tuck.
Alternatives to Tummy Tuck
Subdermal tissue heating, called ThermiTight, is a nonsurgical skin tightening procedure where radiofrequency energy is used on mild to moderate saggy skin to promote collagen growth. ThermiTight requires little to no recovery time, so people with busy schedules prefer it over a tummy tuck. The procedure cannot be used for people with severe skin sagging, though.