A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is one of the top five cosmetic surgical procedures in the United States for women ages 30 to 39.

For mothers who are scheduled to have a baby via cesarean delivery, it may seem like combining the birth with a tummy tuck would be ideal. Instead of two separate surgeries, you’d only have one round of anesthetic, one operating room, and one period of recovery. This combination is informally known as a “C-tuck” and it sounds ideal, right?

Well, not exactly. Most doctors would tell you that rolling both surgeries into one isn’t wise. But that doesn’t mean a tummy tuck after you’ve had time to fully recover from a cesarean delivery is out of the question.

Here’s what you should know about getting a tummy tuck after a cesarean delivery, including the best time to consider it.

What’s a tummy tuck?

It sounds deceptively minimal, but a tummy tuck is actually major surgery. The cosmetic procedure involves cutting and sculpting of muscle, tissue, and skin.

Excess fat and skin is removed. The goal is to restore weakened or separated abdominal muscles. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a protruding abdomen, or one that is loose or saggy, can be a result of:

  • heredity
  • a previous surgery
  • aging
  • pregnancy
  • major changes in weight

Learning more about what’s involved during and after a tummy tuck (and keeping in mind that it will piggyback your cesarean delivery) is a good way to highlight why combining procedures can be problematic.

What to expect during a tummy tuck

Before a tummy tuck, you’re given intravenous sedation, or a general aesthetic. A horizontal incision is then made between your bellybutton and the pubic hairline. The precise shape and length of this incision will vary from patient to patient, and it’s related to the amount of excess skin.

Once the incision has been made, the abdominal skin is lifted so that repairs can be made to the muscles below. If there is excess skin in the upper abdomen, a second incision may be necessary.

Next, the abdominal skin is pulled down, trimmed, and sutured together. Your surgeon will create a new opening for your bellybutton, push it through to the surface, and suture that into place. Incisions are closed, and bandages are applied.

You may also have a compression or elastic wrap that’s designed to reduce swelling and provide support to your abdomen during the healing process. In some cases, drainage tubes are also placed beneath the skin to drain blood or fluid.

A full tummy tuck can take anywhere from one to two hours, or longer.

Recovering from a tummy tuck

Recovering from a tummy tuck usually involves medications to facilitate healing and to reduce the possibility of infection. You’ll also be instructed in how to care for the surgical site and drains if you have them.

There will be required follow-up appointments with your doctor. You’ll also be instructed to minimize any lifting and rest as much as possible.

Problems with combining a tummy tuck and cesarean delivery

1. Disappointing results

The goal of a tummy tuck is to help you look your best. To make that happen, you should be in good physical condition before surgery. After carrying a baby for nine months, both your abdominal skin and your uterus have been impressively stretched. That makes it difficult for a surgeon to accurately determine how much tightening needs to be done. This can lead to disappointing results after you’ve healed. 

2. Difficult recovery

Recovering from a tummy tuck or a cesarean delivery is difficult. Recovering from both surgeries at the same time, on top of caring for a newborn baby, is complicated and exhausting. You’ll be very restricted physically, making things difficult.

3. Surgeon logistics

There’s also the matter of finding a plastic surgeon who will agree to perform your tummy tuck immediately after your cesarean delivery. Keep in mind that anything can happen during labor and delivery, and you may find that your carefully scheduled plans don’t work out.

4. Complications

Both procedures have risks, and combining them can increase the potential for complications. A woman may be at an increased risk of blood clots and fluid retention. There’s also a greater chance of infection when the uterus is undergoing surgery, as well as the abdominal wall.

What’s the best time for a tummy tuck after a C-section?

If a tummy tuck is something you’re considering after a cesarean delivery, speak with a certified plastic surgeon. For the best results, you should be back to your original weight and be in good physical condition.

Plan a tummy tuck only if you aren’t planning on becoming pregnant again. Otherwise, you may go through the cost and aggravation of the surgery and recovery only to find your abdomen stretched out again.

Keep in mind that the procedure involves anesthetic and medications. These can be a problem if you’re breast-feeding. Talk to your doctor about what you should and shouldn’t be taking.

Next steps

There may be benefits to getting a tummy tuck after having a baby. You may be a candidate if you’re physically healthy and your weight has stabilized. But it’s important to allow your body time to heal from both your pregnancy and your cesarean delivery.

You won’t want to miss out on enjoying that early bonding time with your new baby with the added stress of recovery from a tummy tuck.

What is the best time to explore whether a tummy tuck is a good decision for you? After you’re done having children. 

Q:

Is the C-tuck trend dangerous for women? Why or why not?

A:

There are several reasons there’s an increased risk: First, there’s a significant amount of blood loss during cesarean deliveries and depending on how extensive the tummy tuck is, there can be even more blood loss during this procedure. The abdomen is distended from pregnancy, so there may be a distortion of the muscles and skin that make the subsequent tuck results disappointing. In addition, there are problems with pain control, returning to normal activity, and risk of infection, and all of these are worse when combining these procedures. For these reasons, combining should probably be limited to very special circumstances.

Dr. Michael Weber Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.