HELP AT HAND: Many women’s breasts - among other body bits - go south after giving birth, and many women can only dream of their bodies returning to their pre-pregnancy state. Picture: Max Pixel

Imagine sculpting your body back to its pre-pregnancy self, writes Marchelle Abrahams.

It’s been six months since you’ve given birth, you’ve been going to the gym regularly and eating healthy. And, yet, you just can’t seem to shift that extra weight.

“Unfortunately, in the age of reality TV and social media, more and more moms strive to emulate celebrities in various ways,” explains Durban North counselling psychologist, Rakhi Beekrum. “It’s not just fashion, make-up and skincare, but many of them feel pressurised to lose weight after pregnancy because of unrealistic expectations set by celebrities.”

It also makes us buy into an idea that, sadly, is not reality.

And here’s why: Michigan University researchers looked at data for 32 000 women who had given birth between one and four times. They found that mothers kept putting on weight by eating food off their child’s plate or sitting down for longer periods.

Lead study author, Olga Yakusheva, said: “Mothers tend to put the needs of their children first, so they might not be exercising or taking care of themselves.”

But what if you could wave a magic wand and make all those extra kilos disappear?

Cape Town-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr Clare Neser, understands the challenges that women face, especially after giving birth. And she might be the closest thing to a magic wand that we have.

Neser, who specialises in facial, non-surgical, reconstructive, breast and body procedures, hopes her solution of sculpting the body back to its former pregnancy self, gives women a rejuvenated sense of confidence with the Mommy Makeover.

“When one has a baby, there’s a lot of changes that happen, so you get more flabby, you get a bit bigger, the tummy expands with the pregnancy.

“There’s a lot of extra skin that is there as well. The breasts change with breastfeeding and all the hormones of pregnancy.”

Asked why moms consider something as drastic as plastic surgery, Dr Neser explains that anything to correct these areas are what most of her female patients enquire about.

Breast lifts, breast implants, and sometimes even breast reductions are on top of their wish-lists.

‘MAGIC WAND’: Cape Town-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr Clare Neser.

“Looking at the rest of the body, most people ask for tummy tucks and liposuction to get rid of the saddle bags,” she adds.

Yes, reconstructive surgery boosts confidence, but there are the health benefits as well.

Separation of the abdominal muscles is very common after pregnancy. One theory is that it could be responsible for back pain and incontinence - symptoms many women face after birth.

To rectify this, a tummy tuck with rectus plication is recommended.

The same goes for breasts. While breastfeeding, breast tissue grows in size because of hormones produced by the body. As all moms know, the results are less than glamorous, but it can be easily remedied with mastopexy, breast augmentation or augmentation-mastopexy.

But, like any surgical procedure, there are risks attached. Neser stresses the importance of waiting at least six months after you have stopped breastfeeding.

“There are a lot of changes that happen, both physically as well as emotionally. Some women tend to lose weight naturally after birth. By that time breasts would have returned to their baseline and not have ongoing changes.”

She also adds that she would only recommend surgery once moms have completed their families, because “if one were to have another baby, all those changes happen again and one would negate the beneficial effects of the surgery”.

The psychological changes after birth are not insignificant, says Neser, so it is important that every patient has good support and understands what their results will be and what the recovery period entails.

“It’s quite important to make sure that they know what to expect and that you, as their plastic surgeon, can deliver that. It’s about understanding their needs and also making sure that person has no underlying issues like postnatal depression that will influence their decision,” she states.

Beekrum agrees, adding that sometimes the outcome of plastic surgery does not meet the expectations of the patient.

“I always recommend a psychological assessment. Often the person requesting the plastic surgery hasn’t looked deeper into many aspects.

“For example, how are they expecting the plastic surgery to improve their lives; are there underlying self-esteem issues or depression; who are they really doing the surgery for?”

The dangers of expectations not being met can vary; but, at the end of the day, it’s your choice to make.

And, it seems, recipients of Neser’s Mommy Makeovers are very happy with the outcomes. “Generally, patients are extremely happy to be back, or at least as close as possible, to what they were before pregnancy. It’s a great boost as far as their self-confidence goes,” she concludes.

* For more info, see: www.clareneser.co.za