After having a baby, you may notice some changes in your appearance. No matter how much dieting or exercise you try, there’s typically some excess skin that you can’t get rid of. Although liposuction can remove excess fat, unfortunately, it can’t remove that excess skin. So while a tummy tuck feels enticing, you may also be wondering, “How painful is a tummy tuck?”
If you just had a baby or lost an excessive amount of weight and are curious to learn more about tummy tucks, you’re in the right place. We’ll go over everything you need to know about how painful a tummy tuck is.
What is a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck, also known by the surgical term, abdominoplasty, is a procedure in which excess skin around the middle and lower abdomen is removed by a plastic surgeon. It’s a popular procedure not only for moms after having a baby but for those who have had a massive weight loss.
This procedure reshapes and contours the stomach by removing excess skin and fat while simultaneously tightening the abdominal muscles.
What Happens During a Tummy Tuck?
To determine how painful a tummy tuck will be, you’ll first need to know which type of tummy tuck procedure you’ll have. There are mini tummy tucks, standard tummy tucks, and extensive tummy tucks.
A mini tummy tuck will cause less discomfort than a standard tummy tuck. A patient who needs an extensive tummy tuck may have more discomfort than someone who gets a standard tummy tuck.
The most common tummy tuck is the standard tummy tuck, which is the one we’ll mainly focus on in this article.
Steps for a standard tummy tuck procedure:
- The procedure starts with anesthesia to ensure that you’re comfortable during surgery.
- Once you’re comfortable, an incision will be made horizontally from one hip to the other. The shape and length will vary from person to person, which is determined by the amount of excess skin.
- Sometimes, a second incision near the belly button is necessary.
- Excess skin is removed, and the remaining skin is then sutured together.
- The belly button is essentially “lifted” and sutured into position.
- After everything looks good, the incisions are closed with sutures or tapes designed to hold the skin together.
- Lastly, you see your results! Tummy tucks will give the appearance of a flatter and firmer abdomen that looks more proportional to your size and weight.
We know what you’re thinking, and it seems like a lot, but try not to worry too much about the details of the surgery. Your doctor will ensure you’re comfortable during and after surgery.
For more information on what to expect on the day of your tummy tuck, as well as preparation prior to procedure day, read this article.
How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?
The exact cost of a tummy tuck varies on the location you’re at and the doctor you choose. It’s important to do your research and find a board-certified surgeon. Though it may be more costly, you can expect better results and possibly even a smoother recovery.
For more information on how much a tummy tuck costs, read this article.
Does a Tummy Tuck Help with Weight Loss?
One misconception is that a tummy tuck is a replacement for weight loss or can assist in losing weight. In actuality, tummy tucks are recommended for patients who are close to or at their desired or normal weight for their physique.
Although some patients may drop a few pounds from the removal of excess skin, it should be thought more of a contouring procedure than a weight loss procedure.
Will a Tummy Tuck Leave Me With Scars?
One thing to keep in mind is you will have some scarring after having a tummy tuck. However, surgeons are knowledgeable about how to “hide” the scars to make them less noticeable.
Most tummy tucks will result in a hip-to-hip scar, but many doctors will do their best to hide the scar underneath the bikini line.
You may also have a small scar near your belly button since they relocate it during your procedure.
For a mini tummy tuck, patients will only have a small amount of skin removal and have a scar slightly larger than a C-section according to Dr. Luis Macias, M.D.
Should I Get Liposuction in Addition to the Tummy Tuck Procedure?
If your surgeon suggests liposuction, it may be worth considering. While you may feel like you’re being sold an upsell, liposuction can assist in better sculpting of the love handle area.
Sometimes, when the skin from the upper abdominal area is pulled down, there may be an unnatural bulge near the hips. Liposuction can help contour these areas.
Keep in mind, liposuction is a procedure that is separate from the tummy tuck itself. You may have additional costs or discomforts.
Who Should Get a Tummy Tuck?
Though a tummy tuck is a procedure many moms swear by, it isn’t for everyone. Below are some signs that a tummy tuck is right for you.
Men or Women With Loose Abdominal Muscles
If you’ve tried hard to exercise and strengthen your abs, then abdominoplasty surgery may be able to help. During surgery, the surgeon will pull the muscles together creating firmer muscles.
Someone Whose Skin Lacks Elasticity
Skin that’s been stretched out because of pregnancy or weight gain results in skin that lacks elasticity. Removing excess fat won’t fix the loose skin itself. Tummy tucks work great for both men and women who have excess skin.
Mamas Who Only Feel Comfortable in Maternity Clothes (Even After Giving Birth)
Weight loss through dieting and exercise can take you a long way, but for some, that last little bit can be impossible to lose. If you feel like the only clothes that fit you after giving birth are maternity clothes, it may be a sign that a tummy tuck can help.
Candidates for Tummy Tucks Are:
- Typically in their 20s to 60s
- In good health overall
- Desiring a flatter stomach, stronger abs, and a more sculpted waistline
Although postpartum mamas are the typical clients for tummy tucks, both men and women can benefit from the procedure.
Who’s Not a Candidate for a Tummy Tuck:
- Moms who plan to get pregnant again
- Smokers who are not ready to stop
- Someone who still has a good amount of weight to lose
Benefits of Having a Tummy Tuck
One great benefit of a tummy tuck is a boost in self-esteem and confidence, but there are other benefits aside from just the way you look.
Some other benefits may include:
- Possible help with urinary incontinence: There have been studies that suggest because of the strength gained in the abdominal area, a tummy tuck could help with urinary incontinence as well.
- Repairing the diastasis recti: After pregnancy, many women experience diastasis recti resulting in a bulge in their bellies. Tummy tucks are the only medically proven way to repair diastasis recti.
- You can feel your abs engage again: Gaining strength back in your core will help you feel like you’re getting a better workout long-term and should feel your abs engaging again. You should wait until at least 5-6 weeks following your tummy tuck to begin working out again.
- Clothes fit better: Because excess skin or fat around the midsection can create a disproportionate figure, removing it allows you to wear clothes comfortably without needing extra bagginess to cover your tummy.
How Painful is a Tummy Tuck?
As with any surgery, there’s some pain after a tummy tuck procedure. However, most men and women will feel better and recover after a few weeks.
Some swelling and moderate pain are common during post-operative recovery. Although some of this is from the surgery itself, it can also be from movements made during the healing process.
Your surgeon may even offer a pain reliever injected directly into your abdominal muscles during surgery, which can subside pain for up to 72 hours after surgery. It may be worth mentioning to your doctor if you’re worried about how painful the tummy tuck will be.
In most cases, the pain shouldn’t be severe enough to require pain medicine for more than 3 days. By that point, you’ll begin to heal and can take over-the-counter pain relievers.
It’s important to follow post-op instructions and limit movement as much as possible to decrease the pain.
What Types of Discomfort to Expect After a Tummy Tuck
It’s common to assume that the pain will come from the incision made during the tummy tuck procedure. Typically, the surgeon will ensure that the area is numbed post-op to reduce discomfort.
The muscles may also be tightened, and that could cause some minor to moderate pain or discomfort towards the middle of the abdomen.
Discomfort From a Drainage Tube
Not all tummy tucks look the same. In some cases, the surgeon may place a drainage tube. This may cause discomfort around where the temporary drainage tube is left for the week after the procedure.
The drainage tube:
- Is placed on a case by case basis
- May cause site soreness
- Shouldn’t cause swelling or bleeding – this isn’t normal
Your surgeon will want to ensure that the surgical area drains properly, and a drainage tube may be necessary to tell the surgeon if the healing process is going smoothly.
Pain Management After a Tummy Tuck
Most men and women experience mild to moderate pain after the procedure. Managing all the common sources of discomfort should be your top priority.
It’s important to note that some over-the-counter medications can cause complications. Be sure to check with your doctor to get a list of the best medications before surgery. This way, you can have everything you need waiting for you at home once the procedure is done.
Injection of Pain Medication
Oftentimes, a surgeon will inject pain medications around the sensory nerves to block the nerves. This should help with post-op pain.
Talk with your doctor about which medications will be best and not result in complications. They may prescribe you something or suggest an over-the-counter option, such as an NSAID.
It’s worth noting that long-acting narcotics are often prescribed because these particular medicines won’t result in bleeding. However, even low doses of narcotics can cause constipation and high doses can pose a risk for addiction.
For patients with severe nausea who struggle with oral medications, a pain pump may be an option. This device delivers the medication via an inserted tube.
Post-Operative Care and Pain
Following post-operative care instructions will be one of the most important factors in reducing overall pain.
Ideally, the first week after surgery should include a lot of rest. The less movement there is around the site, the less pain you should experience.
You May Be Bent Over for At Least a Few Days
After having your stomach muscles tightened and your remaining skin pulled tautly, you’ll bend over at the waist for a few days. This could cause some back pain, so be sure to get some Icy Hot to help subside this discomfort.
Reaching for things higher than eye level may also prove to be an additional challenge for the first week. Before surgery, arrange items, such as food in the refrigerator, in case you struggle to reach higher shelves.
This position will also change the way you sleep. A wedge pillow can greatly help you get a comfortable night’s rest after surgery.
You’ll Most Likely Need Help for the First Week
Because tummy tucks are outpatient procedures, you’ll be able to go home as soon as the surgery is over. Not only will you need someone to drive you, but it’s important to have a helping hand for at least a few days.
It’s hard to give an exact amount of days you’ll need a second set of hands because every person heals at a different pace and has different needs.
For mothers with young kids at home, this help will give you time to heal properly. The last thing you want to do is risk injuring yourself and winding up back into the doctor’s office.
Wearing a Compression Garment
Once the surgery is finished, a compression garment will be given to wear. This will help reduce swelling while supporting the abdomen, which promotes proper healing.
Each patient is different, but most patients will wear the compression garment for two weeks to two months.
If the compression garment causes discomfort, talk to your doctor. This may mean it needs to be readjusted.
Taking Care of the Incision
As with other surgeries, you should expect to have a few bandages or surgical dressings. Your doctor will give you instructions on how often bandages will need to be changed.
An important part of your at-home care is to keep your wounds clean and intact. Remaining gentle around these areas is important to avoid bleeding or even possible injury.
If any swelling or bleeding occurs, this isn’t normal, and your doctor should be notified.
Some doctors will prescribe antibiotics to either take orally or to apply directly to the surgical site. This will greatly reduce your risk of developing an infection.
How painful is a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck is an invasive procedure that, like any other, will cause some discomfort. Your pain tolerance, how much skin needs to be removed, and how well you follow post-operative care will determine how painful a tummy tuck will be. Typically, you should expect mild to moderate pain but may be able to take pain medication after the procedure.
Thousands of women get tummy tucks and feel happy and confident with their new tummies, so try not to worry too much. If you have any other concerns, consult with a plastic surgeon so they can answer all the questions you have.