New techniques repair post pregnancy tearing

New surgical techniques can help reverse damage done to stomach muscles after pregnancy.
Monday, July 28, 2014
There is no doubt pregnancy can change a woman's figure, but for some women that change can be extreme and last for year after delivery. Now, new surgical techniques can help reverse that damage.

Some women might appreciate the attention people often direct at an expecting mom -- unless, of course, they're not really pregnant.

"People would literally come up from somewhere else and asked me when I was due," says Christine, a mother of two from the South Bay, who asked to not to use her last name.

She says her body changed dramatically after the birth of her second child, when she suffered a severe tear in the muscles of the abdomen. She says exercise could not reverse the damage.

"It was my entire torso, it just bubbled out," she remembers.

Christine finally turned to plastic surgeon Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler, who says the condition is the result of a severe, but not uncommon side effect of some pregnancies, called rectus muscle diastasis.

"The rectus muscles are the muscles in the abdomen that make the six pack, and so rectus muscle diastasis is separation of these muscles which can lead to weakness and certainly a fullness and protruding appearance to the abdomen, kind of like what pregnancy looks like," Zeidler says.

Zeidler says common surgeries pull the muscles back into position with sutures. But in Christine's case, she opted to add an emerging technology as well. It's a protein mesh, designed to support to the repair.

"It's a very strong mesh, but not a permanent one. So her body over the course of one or two years will slowly replace the protein mesh," explains Zeidler.

She says the technique can often allow patients to begin the recovery process more quickly after the surgery, strengthening the muscles with moderate exercise. For Christine the difference was noticeable almost immediately after the procedure, with the bulging from her tear flattened back into place. A cosmetic improvement, she considers life changing.

"I went out to a restaurant and didn't have to ask someone to move their entire table for me get by," she says.

Full recovery can still take several months, but with work, Zeidler says patients can recapture their normal figure.

"I think she'll have success in regaining muscles in the abdomen and that her results may be better than they are today," she says.

Even though tearing is the result of pregnancy, the repair procedure is often considered cosmetic and therefore not covered by insurance.

Written and produced by Tim Didion
Related Topics:
health women's health pregnancy surgery San Francisco
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