What Hurts More, a C-section or an Abdominoplasty?


Dr Bernard Beldholm

Many women are worried about the pain from tummy tuck. That is understandable. Some discomfort is expected with any surgery. It can be helpful to use past experience to gauge how much pain to expect. Many women ask: What hurts more, a c-section or a tummy tuck? Read on to find out the answer.

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What is more painful, a tummy tuck or c-section?

Surgery is a big decision. Patients have all kinds of questions for Dr. Bernard Beldholm when they come in for a consultation. Doctor Bernard always makes time to answer all questions. If you are still researching tummy tuck surgery, he wants to put your fears to rest. Knowing what to expect walking into surgery can be a huge relief.

So, is a tummy tuck similar to a c-section in terms of pain? That’s something many women want to know.

While patients have different experiences, most plastic surgeons would agree that a cesarean section is more painful than most tummy tucks. A tummy tuck without muscle repair just involves the top layers of the tummy. A c-section is also a major surgery, but the healing time is longer. We’re talking months for a c-section compared to 6-8 weeks for a tummy tuck. A c-section goes deeper into the abdominal cavity than a tummy tuck without muscle repair.

Is a tummy tuck really that painful?

The first few days are the hardest. Discomfort peaks within the first 72 hours, and then gradually begins to subside. There will be a lot of swelling at first. Swelling can persist for months, but it peaks during the first week. This is one reason the early days of recovery are more difficult. While uncomfortable, may women tolerate the initial discomfort quite well.

It’s important to remember that any pain or discomfort will subside in the coming days and weeks. Simply knowing that can help you push through it. Most women find the inconvenience well worth it in the end. After all, you have a beautiful new body to feel excited about!

When you remain still, whether reclined in bed or lying on the couch, you will not feel much discomfort. Most women say they notice discomfort only when they sit up, stand or shift positions in bed.

It may be tempting to stay in bed and rest 24/7, but that is not a good idea. It is vital that you begin walking the same day of surgery, and continue walking a bit more each day, especially in the first 14 days post-op. The health benefits of walking after tummy tuck are well proven.

Download our short guide: “Preparing for your Abdominoplasty Surgery Checklist”

Preparing for your Tummy Tuck Surgery

Everyone experiences pain differently

No doubt you’ve researched the pain associated with abdominoplasty. That’s probably why you found this article, after all. You can read all sorts of patient experiences online, but the truth is that you won’t know what it’s like until you experience it for yourself. That’s not to say you should be fearful about getting surgery, although this is a natural reaction to the unknown.

The takeaway is, don’t be scared by what you read online. Every patient experiences pain differently. Be strong and stay positive — You can handle it! Many thousands of women around the world have had surgery and managed recovery quite well.

Accepting that you will experience temporary discomfort, swelling and limited mobility for a brief time after surgery makes it easier. It’s all about knowing what to expect and being prepared.

Tips to make tummy tuck recovery more comfortable

In the early phase of recovery, your mobility will be limited. Rest is important to recovery, but so is walking. You should walk for a few minutes every couple of hours, even on Day 1. Dr. Beldholm wants you to have a safe and comfortable recovery.

Here are some tips to reduce pain as you heal from abdominoplasty:

  • Avoiding twisting and turning
  • Walk bent over
  • Remember, pain is only temporary
  • Think positive! Your new body is worth it
  • Do not attempt to lift groceries, etc.
  • Follow aftercare instructions
  • Wear compression garments to reduce swelling
  • See more tips on preparing for tummy tuck surgery

Not all tummy tucks are the same

The pain may differ based on the type of tummy tuck you had. Some tummy tucks are more extensive than others. For example, one patient may have had a mini tummy tuck, while another had a body lift or fleur-de-lis surgery. A mini tummy tuck has a much quicker healing time and causes less tissue trauma, so the recovery is easier and less painful.

If you had torn abdominal muscle repair (diastasis recti repair), that is a more involved surgery than a tummy tuck without muscle repair. This can affect post-op discomfort.

Some patients also add liposuction to the procedure. All these factors can affect how much discomfort you feel after surgery.

Extensive tummy tucks like a body lift or fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty are more involved procedures. Therefore, the incision, discomfort and recovery time are different. Even still, some women tolerate the discomfort and pain better than others. Not only that, but there are different techniques that cosmetic surgeons may use.

The latest tummy tuck techniques are less painful than the past

Abdominoplasty is always improving. Newer tummy tuck techniques aim to reduce pain and downtime, speed healing and minimize surgical risks.

Dr. Beldholm is constantly studying the latest and greatest tummy tuck techniques to improve the experience for his patients and make recovery easier. Today’s methods are designed to be less invasive, so there is often less tissue trauma than techniques of the past. Dr. Beldholm uses a technique known as VASER lipo-abdominoplasty.

In his experience, patients experience less pain with this method. This is a drainless procedure, which also reduces pain, inconvenience and infection risks.

If you heard horror stories about pain from someone who had surgery a long time ago, this could be why. The tummy tuck your mother-in-law had 20 years ago is probably very different from the tummy tuck you will have today. Thus, you can’t really make a precise comparison of the pain. With the old type of tummy tuck, the abdominal flaps are lifted all the way to the ribs, creating a much bigger area of pain.

Why does a tummy tuck hurt?

Pain and discomfort is a normal response to surgery. Dr. Beldholm provides non-narcotic pain medication to ease your pain. When you wake from surgery, local anesthetic blockers make it so you won’t feel much discomfort at all on Day 1. This lasts for about 24 hours. You will just wake up groggy and probably tired from anesthesia.

Surgery, by nature, is controlled damage to skin and underlying tissue. That is how we remove excess body fat and unwanted loose skin, giving you the beautiful, slim tummy of your dreams. Temporary discomfort is to be expected. This usually peaks in the first few days after surgery, then subsides. Every day, you will feel a bit more comfortable. The discomfort does not last forever.

Over the next few days and weeks, you will start to feel much more comfortable. However, some patients report occasional minor shooting pain as the nerves and tissue repair themselves. This is not usually so much painful as it is surprising. You may feel a slight burning sensation. This is nothing to be concerned about.

Reducing swelling can also make you feel more comfortable. Compression garments are used for this purpose. However, some women find them uncomfortable. Doctor Bernard provides high-quality compression garments that are more comfortable to wear than ordinary garments.

In fact, you will wake from surgery with the compression garment already in place when you see Doctor Bernard for a tummy tuck, so there is nothing you need to do. Compression garments also help stabilize your body so there is less tension on the wound as it heals.

Healing from abdominoplasty

Doctor Bernard wants every patient to be comfortable, so you will be closely monitored after surgery. You will be back to feeling like yourself in no time. In just a few short weeks after surgery, most patients can even start exercising again.

So, which hurts more, a c-section or a tummy tuck?

A standard tummy tuck (without ab muscle repair) tends to be less invasive than a c-section since it only deals with the surface of the abdominal cavity and skin.

However, your mileage may vary. If you had abdominal muscle repair, liposuction or a more extensive tummy tuck (ex. fleur-de-lis, body lift, extended tummy tuck), there may be more discomfort. Again, each patient experiences pain differently.

With standard tummy tuck, most patients report the usual initial pain and soreness, noting that is it mainly just difficult to get comfortable in bed and walking at first.

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30 Belmore Rd
Lorn NSW 2320


This website contains adult content. You must be 18 years or over to read. All surgery carries risks. You should seek a second opinion before proceeding. Results vary from patient to patient. See our disclaimer.
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