At 41, Amy Henry of Voorheesville feels young. Now, she wants a body to match.
The mother of four sons aged 13, 14, 19 and 22, Henry was tired of looking in the mirror and seeing loose, sagging skin hanging around her lower stomach as a result of childbirth.
“You can hide it in clothes, but when you take your clothes off, it’s a constant reminder,” said Henry. “Having and raising children is a joy, but you always have that reminder that your body has been abused.”
After a 30-pound weight loss about two years ago, Henry, a nurse at St. Clare’s Hospital, started thinking about having what’s called a “mommy makeover.”
“A mommy makeover is a tummy tuck and maybe a little liposuction, combined with a breast augmentation, or in some cases, a breast reduction,” explained Schenectady plastic surgeon Dr. Patricia Fox. “The age varies depending on when the mother has completed her family.”
More than 325,000 tummy tuck, breast augmentation and breast lift procedures were done on women ages 20 to 39 in 2006, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
“Obviously, there are some women who have babies and gain enormous amounts of weight,” said Fox, chief of plastic surgery at St. Clare’s. “But I think the vast majority of women today are much more health-conscious and wellness-oriented, and they try to keep their weight gain during their pregnancy to a reasonable number.”
The problem is, even women who gain the recommended 20 to 30 pounds while they’re pregnant still have to deal with sagging skin around their bellies depending on their skin types.
“I tell my patients we don’t get to pick what kind of fabric we are made of,” Fox explained. “Some women tend to have skin that stretches like a thick rubber band. For other women, it’s like when you blow up a balloon, it’s tight. But you blow it up once or twice, let the air out, and it never goes back to the same size.”
And the damage is not all on the outside. While the uterus is usually about the size of an orange, a pregnancy stretches it against the abdominal wall. As the baby grows and forces the uterus against the inside of the muscle wall of the abdomen, those two vertical muscles get stretched apart, resulting in a bulge of the lower tummy that can’t be fixed with diet and exercise alone.
At the same time, women who breast-feed are often left with smaller breasts, resulting in stretch marks and hanging breasts.
As anesthesia has improved, Fox said, plastic surgeons are able to perform multiple procedures in a reasonable amount of time by working on the same patient at the same time.
“Depending on the problems, we may do some body contouring involving the tummy and breasts and maybe some liposuction,” said Fox.
In some cases, Fox said plastic surgeons are able to put breast implants through the same incision they use to tighten the tummy.
Melissa Carl, 38, of Voorheesville, the mother of twin boys, said her stomach and breasts looked awful after she gave birth 28 months ago.
“The skin on my stomach was so stretched I could do a thousand sit-ups a day and it wouldn’t help any,” said Carl, who decided she did not want any more children. “And my breasts went down to basically nothing.”
Carl had a friend who had her breasts done by Fox. So she decided to go in for a consultation for a mommy makeover.
“Dr. Fox answered all my questions and didn’t make me feel rushed,” said Carl, who had surgery on Jan. 29.
“She stitched my stomach muscles back together and stretched the skin down and was able to put my implants in through my stomach incision so I have no scars on top,” said Carl. “Today my stomach is even better than it was before I got pregnant, and I’ve gone from a 34A to a 34C. I couldn’t be happier.”
Happy with results
Lisa Kot of Latham was 46 when she decided she wanted a mommy makeover two years ago. The mother of two adult children, Kot said she was tired of the “little pouch” of skin that hung over her slacks after having had two Caesarean sections.
“My bellybutton was nonexistent and my breasts were not firm,” said Kot. “They had no tone, kind of like a banana.”
Today, Kot said she is very happy with the results.
“She made me a bellybutton, and it actually looks like a little heart,” said Kot, a nurse for the state Department of Health. “She placed the silicone implants through my abdomen, so I have no scars on my breasts. It was painful for a few days after, but my pain was managed well, and it was worth it. I have so much more confidence, and my self esteem is so much better. It was really a gift I gave myself.”
Fox said the procedures usually take between four and five hours.
“If I have to do liposuction, it takes a little longer,” she said.
Fox, who said she does an average of one mommy makeover a week, said most of the women tend to be in their 30s or 40s.
“They’re at a place where they are done having babies, and they are saying, ‘I want to do this for me,’ ” said Fox.
Recovery takes about a week, and most patients are back to work within two to three weeks.
Amy Henry had her mommy makeover on April 8 at St. Clare’s Hospital.
A week later she said everything went really well.
“Although I’m still quite swollen, each day I get a little better,” said Henry, who went home the day after her surgery. “I still have to wear a compression binder to keep the swelling down, but overall I feel good.”
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