A recent Western socio-cultural movement, increasing in popularity, is the "Mommy Makeover"...read on for the implications as they relate to eating disorders and body image concerns...
A recent edition of the New York Times includes an article: "Is the 'Mom Job' Really Necessary?", by Natasha Singer. In the article, Ms. Singer interviewed Dr. David Stoker, a plastic surgeon in Marina Del Rey, California, who offers his patients a "surgical cure for the ravages of motherhood." He, like many plastic surgeons nationwide, is calling it a "mommy makeover."
Here are some excerpts from the article:
"Aimed at mothers, [the mommy makeover] usually involves a trifecta: a breast lift with or without breast implants, a tummy tuck and some liposuction. The procedures are intended to hoist slackened skin as well as reduce stretch marks and pregnancy fat."
"The severe physical trauma of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding can have profound negative effects that cause women to lose their hourglass figures," Stoker said. His practice maintains a Web site which describes the surgeries required to overhaul a post-pregnancy body.
"Twenty years ago, a woman did not think she could do something about it and she covered up with discreet clothing," Dr. Stoker said. "But now women don't have to go on feeling self-conscious or resentful about their appearance."
In 1970, "Our Bodies, Ourselves," the seminal guide to women's health, described the cosmetic changes that can happen during and after pregnancy simply as phenomena. But now narrowing beauty norms are
recasting the transformations of motherhood as stigma.
These unforgiving standards are the offspring of pop culture and technology, a union that treats biological changes as if they were as optional as hair color. Gossip magazines excoriate celebrity moms who don't immediately lose their "baby weight." One luxury parenting magazine, recently ran an article that described post-pregnancy breasts as "the ultimate indignity" and promoted implant surgery; a
photo of droopy water-filled balloons accompanied the article.
Many women struggle with the impact of aging and pregnancy on their bodies. But the marketing of the "mommy makeover" seeks to pathologize the postpartum body, characterizing pregnancy and childbirth as maladies with disfiguring aftereffects that can be repaired with the help of scalpels and cannulae.
"The message is that, after having children, women's bodies change for the worse," said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, a nonprofit group in Washington. If marketing could turn the post-pregnancy body "into a socially unacceptable thing, think of how big your audience would be and how many surgeries you could sell them," she said.
Pregnancy affects each woman differently, with age and genetics playing a role in how the body recovers. While many plastic surgeons argue that pregnancy both "deforms" breasts and redistributes fat so that it becomes difficult to exercise away, obstetricians disagree. Dr. Erin E. Tracy, an assistant professor in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at the Harvard Medical School stated, "there is no intrinsic abnormality to the breasts or the abdomen" [caused by pregnancy].
Mommy surgery appeals both as a quick fix for stubborn post-pregnancy weight and as a way to control aging itself. Dozens of doctors devote parts of their Web sites to the mom job, including Dr. Lloyd M. Krieger, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, who offers the "Rodeo Drive Mommy Makeover" for women who want "their tummies and breasts back the way they looked before pregnancy."
Mommy surgery came to public attention earlier this year after the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported a rise in cosmetic surgery among women of child-bearing age (not all of whom are necessarily
mothers). In 2006, doctors nationwide performed more than 325,000 "mommy makeover procedures" on women ages 20 to 39, up 11 percent from 2005, the group said. And in 2007, an episode of the ABC drama "Brothers and Sisters" included a playground scene in which one mother asked, "Do you
think I should get a mommy job?"
One plastic surgeon said that he operates on three to four mothers a week who have breast procedures, tummy tucks and liposuction in one go at a cost of about $12,000 to $15,000, he said. "Women do have trouble getting back together," said the surgeon. And Dr. Stoker said that he performs combination surgeries on mothers at least once a week, at a cost of $10,000 to $30,000.
Mothers of college-age children are also opting for the procedures. Sharlotte Birkland, a neonatal nurse in Sacramento, opted for the surgery. There is more pressure on mothers today to look young and sexy than on previous generations, Birkland said. "I don't think it was an issue for my mother.
But other surgeons worry that packaging multiple procedures under a cutesy nickname could induce women to have additional operations, potentially increasing their risk of everything from infections to death.
Various studies published in medical journals have reported death rates from liposuction at one in 5,000 procedures to one in 50,000 procedures.
Some health advocates aren't buying the idea that cosmetic changes from pregnancy merit medical management.
"Some women go back to their pre-baby weight and some don't," said Judy Norsigian, the executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves, a health group in Boston, and an author of the book of the same name. "The question is, does that need to be treated with a surgical makeover?"
On the blog StrollerDerby, Karen Murphy, a mother of four, lambasted mommy surgery:
"Those badges of motherhood have turned into badges of shame and, if you're the one caught without a tummy tuck, then you won't get invited to the party," she wrote. "It peeves me no end that something as drastic as surgery, as this blatant nonacceptance of one's own body in whatever shape it happens to be in, has become so pervasive."
......This revealing, and deeply troubling, article seems like a good introduction to a discussion of the risks and effects of pregnancy for women with a history of eating disorders...So let's pick up there in the next post.