Preparing for a tummy tuck may seem overwhelming, but getting ready for surgery doesn’t have to be hard. This article contains invaluable tips for preparing your home, meals, pet care and more based on Dr. Beldholm’s feedback from hundreds of tummy tuck patients over the years. You will also find a handy timeline and prep lists throughout this article. To plan for your surgery, you need all the information.
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Recovery time depends on which procedure you will have
Leading up to body contouring surgery, there are some key steps you should take in order to prepare. This article will cover not only basic planning, but will also provide you with insider tips and advice from tummy tuck patients just like you. Following the steps in this guide will guarantee you the most stress-free and comfortable recovery possible.
When preparing for surgery, the first thing to consider is what kind of tummy tuck procedure you will have since recovery time varies. Dr. Beldholm performs four types of tummy tucks, which include:
Recovery time for four different types of tummy tucks
- Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty – Back to work in 10 days to 2 weeks, Driving in 10 days.
- Full Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty – Overnight hospital stay, Back to work in 3-4 weeks, Driving in 2-3 weeks.
- Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty – Overnight hospital stay, Back to work in 3-4 weeks, Driving in 2-3 weeks.
- Body Lift – 2-5 day hospital stay, Back to work in 3-4 weeks, Driving in 4 weeks.
All of the tummy tucks that Dr. Beldholm performs are drainless. This allows you to shower soon after surgery (rather than taking a sponge bath). Drains are also bulky and must be emptied several times per day. Since Dr. Beldholm’s tummy tucks don’t require drains, your planning and aftercare is simplified.
Preparing in advance will allow you to enjoy a smooth recovery. Some patients have family support to rely on, while others do not. Dr. Beldholm even offers a luxury getaway for his patients for an additional fee. This means you won’t have to worry about most of the preparation steps below since they will all be taken care of for you.
For patients recovering at home, here are tips to make your recovery as comfortable and painless as possible.
Download our short guide: “Preparing for your Abdominoplasty Surgery Checklist”
One week before surgery
A week or so before surgery, it is recommended to go grocery shopping. It is essential to have adequate food on hand while you recover since you will not be able to drive to the store. Stock up on healthy snacks such as mixed nuts, whole grain snack bars, natural dried fruits, or even some carrots and hummus.
It is also a good idea to have meals prepared in advance. During the first week of recovery in particular, you will not be up for cooking. Prep and freeze enough meals to get through at least the first week or two of recovery. You can simply thaw meals ahead of time in the refrigerator, then pop them in the microwave when you are ready to eat.
Checklist: Grocery Shopping
- Groceries for at least one week’s worth of frozen meals
- Healthy snacks
- Prepared foods (microwavable) – optional
- Canned foods with tab lids (no can opener needed) – optional
- Prepare and freeze at least one week worth of meals
For patients who have pets, there are steps you can take to make things better during recovery. Place your pet’s food and water bowl in an area that you can to access after your surgery, and so you do not have to bend much. You might also consider buying a pet food bowl riser if your pet is tall enough to reach it. This will reduce how much you need to bend for feedings early in recovery.
If you live on your own, you might also arrange for a neighbor, pet sitter or dog walker to stop by for feeding and walking if necessary. Anything you can do to lighten your load in early recovery will be of benefit to you. You may also consider pet boarding, however most patients are comforted by having their pet nearby as they heal. If you plan to keep your pet at home, plan ahead so that you have the extra help you need.
For patients with very active or jumpy dogs, it would be wise to invest in a pet gate or barrier so that your dog does not jump up on you while you heal.
Checklist: Pet Care
- Pet gate – optional
- Pet food/water bowl riser – optional
- Enlist help from a pet sitter/boarder, dog walker or neighbor – optional
Your bedroom will be your haven in the early stages of recovery. Since you will likely spend a lot of time in bed, it is smart to set yourself up with all the essentials. Preparing your nightstand with all the necessities you think you may need will make your recovery more comfortable.
Getting out of bed can be challenging in the first few days of recovery. (Hint: See our “After Surgery” section below for tips on getting out of bed after your tummy tuck.) Keep plenty of water nearby along with tissues, books or magazines, TV remote control, laptop/tablet and pain medication. Doing so will prevent the need to get up from bed repeatedly.
Dr. Beldholm recommends preparing your bed so that it resembles a beach chair recliner. After surgery, it can be helpful to sit or lay in bed with either your legs or your upper body bent. Bending your hips in this way will take pressure off the wound and reduce your pain. You should either place three pillows upright behind your back, or you can put two pillows under your knees. Whichever is more comfortable for you.
Checklist: Nightstand Essentials
- Water bottles
- TV remote control
- Laptop or tablet
- Books or magazines
- Game books and crossword puzzles
- Wireless phone charger or 6-10 ft. charging cable for cell phone – optional
- Prepare bed in the “beach recliner position”
Set up your sofa so that it is a comfortable space for you to spend time during the day. You may also want to have pillows under your knees if you plan to lay down on your couch, similar to your bed in the “beach recliner position”.
If you have a lounger or reclining chair, you will likely spend a lot of time in it during the first few weeks of recovery. It is a good idea to set up a table nearby with essentials.
Checklist: Living Room Essentials
- See “Nightstand Essentials” section above
- Throw blanket
- Extra pillows
- Small folding table or TV dinner tray – optional
You will need to pick up your prescriptions prior to surgery day. Dr. Beldholm will call your pharmacy ahead of time so that your medicine can be picked up in advance. You will be prescribed Panadol for pain.
You should also make a schedule for your medication reminders. Set alarms on your phone or write it down. After surgery, it is important to take all your medication as prescribed. For pain medication, taking pills in a timely manner is key for “staying ahead” of the pain.
- Pick up prescriptions from pharmacy
- Make a schedule or set alarms for medications
After surgery, you can expect to have swelling and tenderness. Loose fitting, comfortable clothing is essential during recovery. Soft sweatpants or pajama bottoms and loose tops in natural fabrics are recommended. Avoid tight clothing. Do laundry ahead of time so that you have plenty of clean clothes to wear after surgery.
Dr. Beldholm recommends storing clothing where they can access it without opening heavy drawers or bending. You can leave your dresser drawers ajar for access to your wardrobe. This is not recommended if you have young children around, however.
If you normally keep sweatpants, bottom or casual tops in low dresser drawers, you should move them to a higher drawer at or around waist level. This gives you access without bending or stretching.
As you heal, having extra comforts can make a big difference. Cozy slippers, plush socks or a nice soft robe can make you feel comforted.
Checklist: Wardrobe Essentials
- Sweatpants or other loose bottoms
- Loose tops
- Slippers, robe and thick, comfortable socks – optional
- Ensure clothing is accessible
2-3 weeks before surgery
Arrange for assistance
If you have friends and family who will be helping out while you heal, give plenty of notice and let them know what to expect. Prepare them by sharing your recovery timeline. Let them know what limitations they can expect you to have. Doing so will ease any burdens and help prevent miscommunication while you recover.
The first few days to week after surgery is when you will need assistance the most. If you live on your own, you may ask someone to stay with you during the first few days. Your caretaker will not only assist you, they will also be there in the event of an emergent medical issue.
For patients who do not have friends or family nearby, you are not alone. Dr. Beldholm offers a luxury getaway for patients so you can receive high-quality care while you heal. You may also hire a caretaker, nurse or neighbor to stay with you the the first few days of recovery if you do not have friends or family nearby.
Do not feel embarrassed if you do not have anyone to help. Everyone’s situation is different. Some patients may not have friends or family nearby, others may not feel comfortable asking for help, and still others just prefer to keep their cosmetic surgery private.
If you are unsure about where to turn for assistance, you can trust Dr. Beldholm’s team to advise you on how to get the resources you need.
Ask for a ride
You will not be able to drive home after surgery. It is essential that you arrange for someone to drive you to and from the hospital. Give your family member or friend plenty of advance notice so that they can take off work or arrange childcare if needed. Choose someone who is reliable, trustworthy and supportive to make surgery day as stress free as possible.
If you take advantage of Dr. Beldholm’s luxury getaway program, you will not need to worry about this.
If you only have a wood fire for heating, stock up with at least one week’s worth of kindling. You will be able to light the fire on your knees. Don’t forget to have a stick lighter handy. You might want to have a second lighter too in case the first runs out of fluid.
Shop for essentials in advance
There are some suggested items that you may purchase in the “One week before surgery” section below. If you plan to buy any of these items online, allow plenty of time for shipping. For patients who will make these purchases online, be sure to open the packages prior to surgery. Bending, opening boxes and assembly will be difficult while you recover.
Planning for down time
You will have plenty of down time during your recovery. During the first few days to a week of recovery, you will not be doing much at all except resting. As you begin to heal, you may feel up for doing more things. It is important to not overexert yourself, however.
Recovering from surgery is a great time to relax and take advantage of a little “you” time. While it may not be as wonderful as a vacation or day at the spa, it can give busy professionals and parents a reprieve from everyday life.
Buy that book you’ve been wanting to read, prepare a list of movies you’ve been meaning to watch, etc. Later in recovery is a great time to catch up on hobbies such as knitting or sewing or light crafting. Think of what low-impact hobbies and activities you might want to catch up on while you heal. It is always helpful to have something nice to look forward to!
1-2 months before surgery
You will be asked to get lab testing or a medical evaluation to clear you for tummy tuck surgery.
Request time off work
The more notice you give your employer, the better. If you have unused vacation days or other paid time off, this would be a good time to use it. Try not to plan surgery during a busy time of year at work.
How much time to ask off work
You may be wondering how much time you need to take off work for a tummy tuck. The guidelines below are general recommendations. This can vary based on your occupation. For example, sedentary workers can return to work sooner than someone who performs physical tasks, frequent bending and/or lifting.
- Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty – Return to work in 10 days to 2 weeks
- Full Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty – Return to work in 3-4 weeks
- Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty – Return to work in 3-4 weeks
- Body Lift – Return to work in 3-4 weeks
You should quit smoking before a tummy tuck. Nicotine impedes healing. It can result in wound splitting (dehiscence) and delay recovery.2 Dr. Beldholm recommends that patients stop using nicotine at least four weeks before and after surgery.
Nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or nicotine gum should not be used. The same goes for e-cigarettes containing nicotine. Quitting cold turkey is one option, but that is not always. Certain prescription medications may be used to curb your nicotine craving. Clear all medications and supplements with your surgeon first. Another option to consider is e-cigarettes with zero-nicotine liquid.
Stop or adjust medications
Several weeks before your tummy tuck, you may be asked to stop or change some medications. This may include certain prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies and vitamins, some of which can impede healing. Certain medications and supplements, such as Vitamin E, for example, act as blood thinners and increase your risk of bleeding after surgery.1
Dr. Beldholm will review your medications with you and let you know which ones must be discontinued or adjusted. It is important to tell your surgeon about any and all drugs you are taking.
After surgery: What to expect and how to plan ahead
Your first week after surgery will be the most challenging physically and mentally. You can expect soreness and swelling for several weeks, and you won’t be able to drive at first. It is important that you get your home set up in advance so that you will be more comfortable during this time.
After surgery, you will need a ride home from the hospital since you will be unable to drive. Someone should also stay with you the first few days to help you recover.
You will visit Dr. Beldholm’s team every couple days after surgery to keep an eye on your progress. You will need a ride to and from these appointments since you will not be cleared to drive.
Dr. Beldholm’s patients will undergo LED light treatments for the first two weeks after surgery. This allows our team to know right away that everything is healing as expected. If there is any problem, we can address it right away. These appointments give patients reassurance that they are healing as expected. Patients feel comforted knowing that we are looking after them.
Tips for moving around after surgery
After any body contouring surgery, your mobility will be limited for several weeks. Moving around can be difficult at first. After surgery, you will take a nap and spend the day recuperating. You will be tired. As you gain more energy over the next few days, be careful not to overexert yourself. Rest is vital to recovery. Always listen to your body!
If you need to bend to ground level, use a wall to support yourself as your drop your knees. Try not to bend your torso, which can be a bit painful.
Getting out of bed can also be hard to do early on. Use arm to leverage yourself into sitting position then sit on edge of bed for a moment and use quads to stand up. You may also use your bedside table for support if needed.
Going to the bathroom after tummy tuck can be challenging at first. If you have had a body lift, these compression garments usually have a hole in the groin so that you can urinate without taking them off. Others may have clips that allow access for going “number two”.
However, wiping your behind can be a bit difficult. Wet wipes might be useful. Having plenty of washers handy. One patient recommended putting it through your legs, holding each end with your hands and wiping that way.
Make sure the toilet paper roll and/or wet wipes are accessible in front of you. You do not want to have to turn around to reach the necessities. You may also consider buying a small stand, shelf or step stool for the wet wipes rather than leaving them atop the toilet cover.
Preparing for tummy tuck surgery in advance makes a world of difference to your recovery. When you know what to expect, you can make choices that allow you to rest and recharge comfortably while you heal.
- Chang, Lawrence K., and Duane C. Whitaker. “The Impact of Herbal Medicines on Dermatologic Surgery.” Dermatologic Surgery, vol. 27, no. 8, 2001, pp. 759–763., doi:10.1046/j.1524-4725.2001.01089.x.\
- McDaniel, Jodi C, and Kristine K Browning. “Smoking, Chronic Wound Healing, and Implications for Evidence-Based Practice.” Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing, 24 Nov. 2014, pp. 415–423.