A Mom's Guide to Plastic Surgery
The stigma surrounding plastic surgery is disappearing as more mothers share their experiences, and why surgery was right for them.
Plastic surgery is on the rise—according to the most recent statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in 2018, 17.7 million cosmetic procedures were completed, an increase of 2 percent from the previous year.
Overwhelmingly, the bulk of those plastic surgery procedures were done on women. Although the ASPS does not track plastic surgery numbers by childbearing status (the ASPS only tracks statistics for female and male categories), females made up a whopping 92 percent of all cosmetic procedures. In 2018 alone, women underwent 14.7 million cosmetic procedures.
There are some that believe that plastic surgery can be an empowering and positive experience, while others see it as yet another way women are preyed upon for their looks in a world that convinces them they will never be good enough. But no matter which way you look at it, the statistics speak for themselves: Plastic surgery is more popular than ever.
With the trend not going anywhere anytime soon, here's a closer look at why some women are choosing plastic surgery, how much the most common procedures cost, and what you can expect if you choose surgery for yourself.
Why Moms Choose Plastic Surgery
There are many reasons why a woman may want to have plastic surgery done, but mothers in particular may notice that their bodies drastically change after having children—and those changes may not necessarily be something they are willing to embrace.
For instance, Kayla Francis, 27, a married mother of a 6- and 4-year-old from Traverse City, Michigan, shares that she chose to have a breast augmentation and crescent lift (a procedure done to correct sagging) as a direct result of the way her body changed with motherhood.
Francis explains that although she was "blessed" with large breasts, after nursing her children and losing the weight she had gained from her pregnancies, she also "lost" her breasts. "But not in a normal oh-they're-just-not-there kind of way," she notes. "Instead I had all the skin from how big they once were, but nothing underneath. They were saggy and deflated."
Francis chose to wait until she was done having kids, and then elected to have surgery to restore her breasts. "I am extremely fortunate with a husband who wants me to be comfortable in my own skin no matter what and he will do anything to get me there," she adds.
Manish Shah, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon in Denver, believes that plastic surgery can counteract the myth that mothers have to be satisfied with the way their bodies look after childbirth. "A woman is allowed to feel good when she looks in the mirror or is trying to be intimate with her partner," she says. "If her body is a source of discomfort or embarrassment, she has every right to make changes to it."
More Than Meets the Eye
Breast augmentation is still the number one cosmetic surgical procedure, a spot it has held since 2006. Also popular among women are liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, and tummy tucks. Buttocks augmentation with fat graphing has also seen a rise in popularity, with the procedure going up about 10 percent in 2018. Dr. Shah also sees both the "mommy makeover"—a combination of procedures that usually involve a breast lift, tummy tuck, and abdominal and side liposuction—and vaginal rejuvenation continuing to gain popularity. Breast reductions, while still not high in numbers, are also sometimes sought by women who notice a change in their breasts after pregnancy.
In speaking with the women who have elected to have procedures done, it's clear their reasons are not always skin-deep. Danielle M., a 35-year-old married mother of a 2- and 4-year-old, chose to have liposuction at the age of 24. Danielle shares that after losing a baby at 16.5 weeks along, she was scheduled for a dilation and curettage (D&C), when she started contracting at home the day before the surgery. She went through the trauma of delivering her stillborn son at home in her tub.
"I was left with nothing," Danielle says of that time. "All I had was the memory of losing my baby and the body that still looked very much pregnant. I was asked all the time how far along I was and every time it cut a little deeper, so after much counseling, I decided I needed surgery because nothing was helping."
She chose liposuction as a way to help her start recovering from the trauma she had endured. "I don't regret the surgery and I'm glad I did it," she says of her decision. "It was hard to constantly see what I lost any time I had to undress, so removing that 'scar' helped. It helped me heal a little more from the pain I endured, but it didn't take it away so I still had to do the work to heal emotionally. [Plastic surgery] is not a quick fix and therapy was still very much needed."
Are You a Good Candidate for Plastic Surgery?
As Danielle's story demonstrates, plastic surgery is a deeply personal decision, but a good surgeon will work carefully with you to help guide your decision-making.
Dr. Shah explains that a qualified surgeon will ask a variety of questions to anyone seeking plastic surgery to get a good idea of your state of health, cosmetic goals, ability to take the necessary time off after surgery to recover, as well as the risks and benefits of these elective procedures.
Sheila Bond, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon at Bond Plastic Surgery in Montclair, New Jersey, whose patients are primarily mothers, explains that it's very important to have a realistic expectation of the outcome of the surgery, the recovery process, and the long-term results.
"When people think they're going to look one way and that's not possible by anyone's technique, they have to understand that or they will be very dissatisfied," she says. "You want to make sure everyone is on the same level of understanding."
Is Plastic Surgery Safe?
According to Dr. Shah, yes. "The fact is that [plastic surgery] is quite safe when performed on the right patient by a safe, conscientious plastic surgeon."
The most important thing you can do to stay safe when choosing plastic surgery is to do your research on doctors and be aware of any medical conditions that you may have that could affect your surgery and healing (such as an autoimmune disorder).
"You really need to look for someone who is board-certified," explains Dr. Bond. "It really increases complications [when patients] go to a general surgeon, go out of the country, or go for someone cheaper. You're just not going to be happy and you're going to risk your life."
What Does Plastic Surgery Cost?
The cost for plastic surgery varies widely based on factors like where you have the procedure (surgery in California, for instance, will probably cost more than in New Jersey), which surgeon you choose, and if you have any medical conditions that might make the surgery more complicated.
The ASPS lists the average cost of the surgeon fee—which, keep in mind, does not account for all of the other costs of the surgery, such as the facility fees, the prep and recovery time, or staff, anesthesia, etc.—as follows:
- Breast augmentation: $3,824
- Liposuction: $3,518
- Tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty): $6,253
In most cases, say both Dr. Bond and Dr. Shah, insurance will not cover elective plastic surgery for moms. In some cases, a documented abdominal wall hernia or certain conditions related to excess abdominal skin may qualify for insurance coverage, but in most cases, it's up to the patient to finance her surgery.
What to Expect From Recovery
The consensus on recovery from plastic surgery is clear: It can be a rough road. Dr. Bond explains that the immediate recovery for an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is around three weeks, while liposuction and a breast reduction will be closer to one or two weeks. Outside of the initial recovery, however, full healing around the skin will take between 9 and 12 months.
Jennifer, a 39-year-old mother of two young girls, had abdominoplasty and liposuction done when she was 28, before having children. Her surgery was substantial and involved 10 pounds of flesh removal, liposuction on her sides and back, and stitches in her abdominal wall to repair her diastasis recti. She was on complete bed rest for two weeks because she couldn't lay flat and needed help from both of her parents to even do basic tasks.
"Recovery was not a pretty process," she says. "Just walking around was a challenge. Honestly, I cannot imagine doing this surgery with small kids around. You would have to barricade yourself in a room to prevent them from jumping on you. You can't lift anything that weighs more than a gallon of milk for weeks."
For Francis, recovery from breast augmentation surgery was tougher than anticipated and she says she was not able to lift her kids until she was 12 weeks out from surgery. "Healing is so important and if you can't dedicate the time and patience to it, wait until you can," she says. "It is so important to make recovery the priority post-surgery."
The Bottom Line
Motherhood may very well change your body, but only you can decide if those changes are something you can be comfortable with or if they are something you want to dedicate significant time, money, and energy into altering.