What’s the “C-Section Shelf,” and Is It Here to Stay?

This post was brought to you by Lone Star Plastic Surgery.

Moms who give birth via Cesarean section may notice a swelling pouch of loose skin that rests on or just above their surgical scars. It’s a persistent reminder of the procedure that rarely disappears, even if a woman never wavers from her exercise routine and bypasses the dessert tray. It’s sometimes called the Cesarean pouch or “C-section shelf”…cute names for a decidedly unattractive condition.

This type of pouch is made up of excess fat and loose skin. A C-shelf can differ from one woman to another, with some moms having raised scars and puffy scar tissue, and others with a low-hanging belly shelf, and a handful of lucky mothers emerge from surgery with barely scarring and no shelf. Accordingly, ways to improve the appearance of your abdomen range from nonsurgical fat reduction treatments to surgical procedures, such as a tummy tuck.

Fat vs. Skin

Postpartum fat is a villain that most women expect to fight, but the excess skin is a nuisance that just won’t go away. Exercise and eating right can help reduce fat, and nonsurgical treatments such as CoolSculpt® can kill off stubborn fat to give moms a trimmer midsection. But even then, some women say having a flatter tummy can make the C-shelf appear even more prominent.

It can be doubly frustrating if you go online to search for solutions, and see someone with rock-hard abs and a blog discussing skin-firming creams, as if a cream can possibly reduce the skin hanging from your belly. The truth is that even if you see some skin tightening after having a C-section, most of the time surgery is the only way to remove the excess skin.

Surgical Options for Removing the “C-Shelf”

Tummy Tuck: A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is the one sure way to remove the excess skin that you may try to hide with Spanx. The plastic surgery procedure is considered a cosmetic operation and isn’t covered by health insurance. Most surgeons offer some type of financing so it may be a realistic option for people who otherwise wouldn’t consider plastic surgery. The operation does involve an incision that typically stretches from hip to hip but is just above the pubic area, so the scar can be concealed by a bikini bottom.

If the space between the left and right belly muscles has widened—a condition known as diastasis recti—the surgeon will use sutures to tighten the gap. The skin is then pulled taught and any excess is removed. The surgeon typically includes liposuction during the procedure to remove fat and create a smooth contour.

Mommy Makeover: Most women who have children—whether or not they had C-sections—also experience significant changes to their breasts. Many women who have been through pregnancy and breastfeeding say their breasts look deflated and saggy. Therefore, some moms choose to combine a tummy tuck with cosmetic breast surgery, such as a breast lift or breast augmentation in a procedure called a Mommy Makeover. When asked about mommy makeover recovery time, Frisco, TX, plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Hill says, “The length of the recovery depends on the procedures performed, but mommy makeover recovery typically takes about as long as a complete tummy tuck.” 

Should You Get a Tummy Tuck?

If you’re considering a tummy tuck after a Cesarean delivery, the first step is to schedule consultations with at least a couple of plastic surgeons. You should be at or near the weight you plan to maintain and be in good overall physical health.

Patients often ask about how future pregnancies will affect a tummy tuck, and the short answer is: Don’t get a tummy tuck if you’re planning to get pregnant again. Having another baby likely will undo the surgical results. If you’re getting a mommy makeover, wait for at least six months after you’ve stopped breastfeeding to allow your hormone levels to return to normal.

And one last note to think about: If you’ve got small children at home, you’ll need plenty of help following a tummy tuck because lifting children is strictly off-limits. The precaution helps your body heal so you can realize the full potential of your tummy tuck investment.

Want to learn more about top procedures at Lone Star Plastic Surgery like mommy makeover, breast augmentation, tummy tuck, and even getting rid of that pesky c-shelf?

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