Three years ago, I made the decision to get a tummy tuck. Why? At age 36, I was an athlete with five kids. I had spent my 20s and 30s training and competing in triathlons and marathons, including Ironman triathlons. I had given birth to three kids from 2001-2005, then had two more kids in 2007 and 2008. My last baby was born via emergency C-section, and throughout my pregnancies, I gained about 70 pounds each time. After this last pregnancy, my stomach looked like a deflated balloon.
I first met with the plastic surgeon in December 2015 when I weighed about 190 pounds. He said that he could make a big difference in the appearance of my stomach if I lost another 20 pounds — so that’s just what I did! After losing that weight, he told me that I would still have some loose skin and that it wouldn’t tighten up on its own. He said that he could tighten up the muscles as well as remove some of the skin hanging down below my belly button — but only if I was done having kids (I was!).
So fast forward to May 2017; at this point, my weight hovered around 165 pounds.
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8 days post op tummy tuck
When considering a tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, you’ll more than likely envision the end result right from the very start. Convey these goals to the board-certified plastic surgeon during your consultation. From there, the two of you can discuss how to effectively achieve them. It’s also essential to understand what recovery will look like, and how long it will take. This helps ensure you’ve set realistic expectations.
The timeline for tummy tuck recovery varies, based on the individual patient and factors such as age, general health, type of tummy tuck (extended or mini), and level of post-surgery care. After the procedure, your surgeon will discuss your specific road to healing, but patients typically see results and feel fully recovered eight weeks later.
Long Island’s premier plastic surgery practice Buglino Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery developed a useful timeline explaining the various stages of recovery following your abdominoplasty. For more specific information, contact your surgeon.
Immediately After Surgery
Your abdomen will be secured with an abdominal binder, which is later exchanged for a compression garment. A mesh strip surgical dressing will be placed along the incisions, and small tubes around these, to drain any built-up fluid.
Follow your surgeon’s instructions to ensure you are adequately prepared for a successful recovery. You’ll be told how to care for your drain tubes. The secured mesh over the incision will not require any daily maintenance. You will be instructed on the types of physical activity to avoid, how long to wear an abdominal pressure garment, and more. You won’t be able to drive yourself home, so make the proper arrangements.
Several Days After Surgery
Because you’ll have limited mobility for a few days following the abdominoplasty, you’ll need to recruit help. You’ll have difficulty bending, lifting, and standing for long periods, so having someone around to provide assistance can be beneficial to your recovery.
You may feel some pain and tenderness at the site for several days. Most surgeons will prescribe antibiotics and anticoagulants for patients to take. An abdominal support garment should also help with swelling and discomfort.
Patients may want to keep their diets light in the days following surgery to ensure they’re not straining their stomach muscles. Try to eat low-sodium foods to reduce inflammation, and increase fiber intake to decrease strain during bowel movements.
Alcohol, smoking, and excessive sun exposure should be avoided for at least three months post-surgery.
One to Three Weeks After Surgery
It’s also essential to understand what recovery will look like, and how long it will take. This helps ensure you’ve set realistic expectations.
During the follow-up visit with your surgeon, he or she will decide if it is the right time to remove your mesh strip bandage. At this time, you should already notice a significant change in your stomach’s contour.
After the checkup, you’ll need to continue wearing your support garment, based on your surgeon’s instructions.
If you have a sedentary job, you can likely return to work. However, if it requires heavy lifting and constant standing or bending, you may not be able to resume work for two to three weeks.
Those looking to jump back on the treadmill or elliptical machine will need to wait about three weeks. Although ultimately determined on a case-by-case basis, it will commonly take approximately six weeks to return to weight training. When you resume either of these activities, keep an eye on your incision. If you notice any swelling, limit your activity and contact your surgeon.
One to Three Months After Surgery
Many will still experience swelling in the months following a tummy tuck. You may also feel a numbness, pulling sensation, or experience bruising in your abdomen area. The incision should be fully healed, but it’s possible your remaining scar will still appear red and raised. This will eventually become flat and fade.
One to two months after surgery, it’s generally safe to resume normal activities, including strength training or a profession that involves physical activity. However, your surgeon will make the ultimate determination.
One Year After Surgery
One year later, your abdominoplasty should be fully healed, and results visible. Your inflammation should be gone, and your scar faded. Although the latter will never completely disappear, it should be nearly invisible, and hidden beneath your underwear line.
Ensure you’re maintaining your results with a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Gaining or losing weight may change the appearance of your abdominal area, and produce sagging skin. This is one of the reasons why patients should wait until they’ve had all their children before undergoing the procedure. If you maintain your weight, the results of an abdominoplasty by a board-certified surgeon will last a lifetime.
worst days after tummy tuck
Atlanta plastic surgeon Marcus Crawford offers a breakdown of what our patients can expect during the tummy tuck recovery period.
WEEK 1 AFTER SURGERY
Diet: Patients should maintain a diet that is low in sodium for the first week after surgery to reduce swelling.
Side Effects: Patients experience some pain, bruising, swelling, and tightness the first week after surgery.
Drains: Most patients will require the use of a drain for the first few days after surgery; the drain directs excess fluid away from the incision and out of the body. In most cases, the drain can be removed in three to seven days.
Bandages: Tummy tuck bandages may be replaced, and the area around the incision gently cleaned, every other day after surgery.
Compression Garment: Patients should wear a compression garment at all times in the week after surgery. The compression garment will aid in healing and help patients achieve their desired contour.
Showering: In many cases, patients can take a shower a day or two after surgery. However, if you are feeling lightheaded, it is a good idea to wait. Patients with drains may find it easier to sponge bathe for a few days after surgery.
Off Limits: A number of activities are off limits the first week after tummy tuck surgery. These include: driving, exercise, work, chores, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Week One Recovery Tips:
- Take pain medication as directed
- Wear a compression garment
- Use an ice compress to minimize pain and swelling
- Limit movement
- Stay slightly bent at the waist
- Have 24-hour care and assistance for the first three days after surgery
- Stay hydrated
- Stay in bed and rest
WEEK 2 AFTER SURGERY
Diet: Patients will be ready to go back to their regular diet the second week after surgery, but it is a good idea to continue to limit sodium this week.
Side Effects: At this point, there is still swelling in the treatment area. However, the pain, bruising, and feeling of tightness are beginning to fade.
Massage: The second week after surgery, patients can begin to lightly massage to treatment area to promote healing.
Scar treatments: Patients can usually begin treatment to minimize scarring the second week after surgery. Scar minimizing techniques may include the application of vitamin E or silicone sheets to the incision.
Compression Garment: To achieve the best possible results, patients should continue to wear a compression garment two weeks after surgery.
Work: Patients may feel ready to return to work and other obligations 10 to 14 days after surgery. Patients that undergo tummy tuck in combination with another treatment, such as liposuction, butt lift, breast augmentation, arm lift, or thigh lift, may need an extra few days to recover.
Off Limits: A number of activities remain off limits the second week after tummy tuck surgery. These include: exercise, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Week Two Recovery Tips:
- Drink plenty of water
- Wear a compression garment
- Start taking brief walks a few times throughout the day to get your blood flowing
WEEKS 3 AND 4 AFTER SURGERY
Diet: Many patients return to their normal diet by the third and fourth week after surgery. However, it is important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet to stay at your ideal weight range.
Exercise: Patients can usually engage in light exercise four weeks after surgery. However, more strenuous moves such as sit-ups and weight lifting should be avoided until six weeks after surgery.