Is tummy tuck considered cosmetic surgery?

The answer to this question is more complicated than it should be. The fact is that abdominoplasty surgery has both cosmetic and health benefits for a majority of patients. However, in Australia, this procedure is considered cosmetic unless it’s associated with complications following substantial weight loss. So, in terms of your private health fund, you will not be covered for any costs related to a post-pregnancy tummy tuck.

Medical benefits of the postpartum abdominoplasty

Despite being officially considered cosmetic, it’s important to acknowledge the actual medical benefits of the abdominoplasty for post-pregnancy patients. The therapeutic benefits from this “cosmetic” surgery are common knowledge within the medical profession and should not be understated.

While some women undergo minimal physical changes, pregnancy can leave other women debilitated. These changes go beyond aesthetics, often with chronic pain and even urinary incontinence. The potential medical benefits of abdominoplasty could be crucial in these cases.

Parenthood means a tremendous amount of change; schedules, activities, and new responsibilities. Post childbirth, women also have to adjust to their changed body. A tummy tuck may do more than make cosmetic changes; it may improve post-pregnancy trauma.

In the same way, you may require surgery to resolve pain from a sports injury; an abdominoplasty can significantly relieve trauma for postpartum women.

Current research on the health benefits of abdominoplasty surgery hopefully means this procedure is covered by insurance in the future. Until then, women will foot the bill even if they will medically benefit from this type of surgical intervention.

  • A full tummy tuck may tighten loose or weakened abdominal muscles which can significantly improve a patient’s posture and relieve backache.
  • Many patients also find that the tummy tuck improves urinary incontinence post-pregnancy.
  • A tummy tuck may be performed along with side hernia repair, strengthening the abdominal muscles and reducing recurrence of a hernia.
  • In both postpartum women and weight loss patients, abdominoplasty repairs diastasis recti, help protruding abdominal muscles where exercise is not appropriate. 
  • Abdominoplasty can also provide relief by removing any excess skin that can cause itching and infection. 

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Back pain can affect your everyday life

Back pain is a significant concern for many women following childbirth. And the reduced mobility and consistent pain can make the smallest tasks difficult to complete. The lack of rest or proper sleep is also of particular concern for new mothers with back pain.

In this situation, it’s difficult to understand why we don’t value remedies like a tummy tuck for their medical benefits.

Studies suggest that around half of women have some disability from back pain following childbirth. While urinary incontinence was a concern for more than a third

  • It can take between six weeks to six months after abdominoplasty for back pain to resolve. And urinary incontinence improved within six weeks. The improvements were similar regardless of the abdominoplasty technique used.
  • Post-surgery improvements likely result from strengthening and stabilizing the abdominal and pelvic area with the repair of abdominal muscle separation (rectus diastasis) following pregnancy.

Things to know before considering abdominoplasty 

The reduction and elimination of back pain and incontinence result in a better life postpartum. And health insurance should recognize these functional benefits as well as cosmetic improvements.

Before you choose to have a tummy tuck, issues to keep in mind include:

  • The results of abdominoplasty are permanent as long as you maintain weight. If you’re planning significant weight loss or considering future pregnancies, delay the operation.
  • Abdominoplasty doesn’t specifically treat stretch marks, but those in the treated area disappear with skin removal.
  • Smokers have a higher risk of complications from any procedure, so it’s a great idea to quit smoking before having surgery.
  • Talk to your GP to determine the source of any pain before seeking a resolution with surgery. More traditional methods, including ones that do not involve surgery, may be available to treat your back better.

Making decisions about abdominoplasty surgery

Only licensed and accredited facilities can perform abdominoplasty, and a registered anaesthetist must be present.

Operations are under general anaesthetic with the length of the procedure depends on the specific surgery though it can take up to five hours.

There are two main types of abdominoplasty:

  • A full tummy tuck entails horizontal, curved incision near the pubic hairline, from one hip to the other. The surgeon removes excess fat and skin as well as repositioning of the navel and tightening underlying muscles across the abdominal.
  • Partial abdominoplasty or mini tummy tuck removes excess skin below the navel and tightens the lower abdominals. The incision is much smaller.

Which procedure is for you?

Humans come in different shapes and sizes, and many of us struggle to achieve perfect midsection. The type of tummy tuck you need will depend on your individual goals, particularly how much extra fat and skin you have around the midsection.

  • While it’s best to postpone a tummy tuck until your family is complete, it doesn’t impact your ability to get pregnant. While abdominoplasty doesn’t interfere with reproductive ability, pregnancy can undo the results. And you might end up with more skin laxity or more fatty deposits postpartum.
  • For small amounts of loose skin and not much extra fat, a mini tummy tuck might be the most appropriate option. The incision, in this case, is considerably smaller than during a full tummy tuck. A mini surgery is a good option if you don’t have much laxity in the abdominal muscles.
  • If you have some looseness or laxity in the muscles, your surgeon might recommend you have a full tummy tuck. The incision, in this case, is usually larger and longer, but, the results are more dramatic.
  • Another option may be to combine abdominoplasty with liposuction. Although abdominoplasty removes some fat, liposuction is more targeted and can be performed on places such as thighs and hips at the same time as the abdominoplasty.
  • It’s important to remember that corrective surgery it’s not a substitute for eating a healthy diet or regular exercise. It can help refine the results following weight loss, but it isn’t a weight-loss tool itself.

Why choosing a qualified medical practitioner is crucial

Seek advice from a GP about finding a reputable medical practitioner. At the initial consultation, ask the surgeon about their training and experience. Only a specialist, experienced in the tummy tuck procedure should perform your surgery. Ask for their certification for this specialized surgery.

Consider asking for a second opinion. You must research and inform yourself before deciding to have an abdominoplasty.

Some of the possible complications your surgeon should discuss pre-op:

  • Wound infections may require antibiotics
  • Pain and discomfort around the operation area
  • The possibility of a haematoma that may need drainage
  • The raised, thickened scars including keloid and hypertrophic scars, form over incisions.
  • You may have temporary numbness around the operation site
  • Areas that do not heal and may need a skin graft
  • Bending forward be uncomfortable due to the tightened skin
  • Excess fluid may accumulate under the skin (seroma) around an operated site
  • In extreme circumstances, a blood transfusion for blood loss during surgery
  • In worse cases, blood clots, which may become life-threatening if they move to the lungs
  • You may experience nausea and vomiting from the general anaesthetic

Your current medical status and abdominoplasty 

Before abdominoplasty, you need to discuss existing medical conditions and medical history with your medical practitioner:

  • Discuss any mental health issues, illnesses, and treatments
  • Talk about medications you are currently on and include any vitamins and supplements.
  • And any reactions to medications as well as allergies.

This discussion allows your surgeon to assess the risks and complications of the surgery. They’ll also be able to tell you what preparations you will need to make to ensure your healthy recovery.

Conclusion

Abdominoplasty surgery effectively removes extra skin and fat from a patient’s abdomen. And repairing the weak or separated muscles can be a significant factor in reducing or eliminating back pain and resolving other medical issues.

Popular as part of the ‘mommy makeover’ and considered a confidence booster, even the mini tummy tuck can be instrumental in repairing both physical and psychological trauma postpartum.

The tummy tuck remains one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in Australia. Nevertheless, it’s an invasive treatment that may not be suitable for everyone.

Others who may benefit from this surgery include people who’ve experienced significant weight loss. But aging and heredity factors can also weaken muscles and require medical intervention.

Abdominoplasty doesn’t prevent future weight gain, and before you consider surgery seek out advice on alternatives. Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.