Abdominal wall repair the answer to stubborn mommy pooch, doctor says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- What new mom doesn't want to get her pre-baby body back? Yet, many women face years and years of working out and are left with a mid-section that still looks pregnant. Well, there's a surgery to fix that.

Laura Cates' tummy troubles began when she had a Cesarean section when her son was born. Recovery didn't go as expected. Cates endured an umbilical hernia with doctors also discovering she suffers from Diastasis Recti, noticeable when the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy but don't return after delivery.

"My belly just didn't go away and I was stuck with that painful belly button feeling," said Cates.

For years she tried targeted ab exercises and diets but she says nothing seemed to work.

"It's keeping that kind of pregnant, stretched-out feeling, that heaviness that any woman watching could relate to," she said.

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It happens to so many moms: Months, even years after giving birth, they just can't get their pre-baby tummy back.

More than her outward appearance, Cates said the Diastasis Recti also impacted her day-to-day activities.

"I can't really do anything on all fours, like weeding or pulling the filter out of the pool," Cates said.

Board-certified Houston plastic surgeon Mark Schusterman recommended an abdominal wall repair surgery and tummy tuck.

"We'll go in and not only remove that excess skin but also tighten those muscles up," Dr. Schusterman explained the surgery. "It strengthens those muscles, allows the abdominal wall to be restrengthened and give a lot of support to the back and overall health."

For most patients, recovery time is about four to six weeks but can vary, like in Cates' case. She was back in action in three to four weeks.

"My middle was given back to me and now I feel like I have an internal corset," she said of her ability to bend over and pick things up without pain.

Now, free from the pain and self-consciousness of her mid-section, Cates says she can fit into her little blue dream dress that has been hanging, unworn on a hanger.

"I just kept it back in the closet thinking one day I'll be able to wear this," said Cates.

An abdominal wall repair and tummy tuck surgery usually ranges from $8,000 to $10,000. The surgery is not usually covered by insurance but in some instances, when there is significant hernia repair involved, insurance may cover some of the cost.

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