When pregnancy, severe weight loss, or advanced age leave the stomach area saggy and weak — people look to a plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck. Medically referred to as an abdominoplasty, this procedure is a common aspect of a “mommy makeover” package; some women are more eager than others to regain their figures post-pregnancy.

Tummy tucks are becoming increasingly more widespread, though they are not typically covered by insurance. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that the number of tummy tuck procedures has increased 104 percent since the year 2000. But is it actually beneficial?

Let’s start with the definition. A tummy tuck is designed to reshape the contour of the belly area when skin elasticity has been lost, and the abdominal muscles weakened due to extreme body changes.

The procedure takes about 1 to 5 hours to complete and is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the plastic surgeon will disconnect the skin from the underlying tissue, suture the abdominal tissue, and cut away any excess flesh from the area.

When completely healed (full recovery can take about six weeks), the stomach area will be firmer, the abdominal muscles tighter, and the contour of the belly restored.

But, for patients considering a tummy tuck, there may be more in store than just a firmer, more well-defined stomach. Here are some additional medical benefits to consider:

1. Easier to Maintain Weight Loss

According to the October issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery , Swiss researchers found that bariatric patients — people who go under the knife to reduce the size of the stomach in an effort to lose weight — were more likely to keep the weight off post-surgery when they combined it with a tummy tuck.

In fact, patients that combined the two procedures regained an average of only a pound a year as opposed to 4 lbs a year for bariatric patients that didn’t have any body-contouring procedures performed.

Researchers argue that, because of these findings, tummy tucks may be an essential aspect of weight loss surgery and should be covered by insurance.

2. Improved Posture

Carrying an apron of excess skin combined with weakened abdominal muscles can lead to a condition called lordosis , commonly known as “sway back”. This is sometimes accompanied by at least some back pain.

Since a tummy tuck will strengthen and tighten the abdominal muscles, the spine becomes supported, and the patient can stand up a little bit straighter. Any back pain that may have been caused by the previous condition should also be diminished or alleviated entirely.

3. No More Stress Urinary Incontinence

Women who undergo vaginal birth sometimes develop stress urinary incontinence or SUI. This is where the bladder tends to empty itself at awkward times, usually when coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercising.

The plastic surgeon can help the patient recover from this condition during a tummy tuck procedure by obstructing the bladder with soft tissue. These procedures are safe when combined and many women find that they no longer experience SUI following recovery.

4. Relief from Hernias

Ventral hernias can develop when the abdominal muscles become weak. In some cases, hernias can follow a Caesarean section or appendectomy. A ventral hernia is where the intestine or abdominal tissue begins to push through the abdominal wall.

The plastic surgeon can also help this condition during the tummy tuck procedure. The combined procedures are safe, practical, and can save the patient money on medical expenses, as well as on the time spent in recovery.

5. Increased Exercise Tolerance

Excess skin and weak abs can make it difficult to exercise. A tummy tuck can reinvigorate the patient’s love of running, walking, or other aerobic activities. It is well-known that exercise is great for the heart and a person’s general well-being. Frequent exercise can also help to retain weight loss.

Final word

With all of these medical benefits and the boost to one’s self-esteem, it is easy to see why so many men and women would opt for this life-changing cosmetic surgery procedure.

However, it should be noted that a tummy tuck is still considered a major operation with all of the associated risks, including infection. For this reason, a consultation should be scheduled with a qualified plastic surgeon to ensure that the person is in optimal health. There could also be high chances of adverse effects in patients who aren’t normally healthy.

The procedure also carries an average price tag of $5,493. This could place it outside of the price range for many, but to that point there may be other alternatives. Again, consult with a plastic surgeon to see if a tummy tuck is the right course of action, or if another cosmetic surgery procedure (if one at all) is the better course of action.

Dr. M Azhar Ali is a highly-decorated plastic surgeon who operates AMAE Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Center in Bloomfield, Mich. With an extensive record of over 2,500 breast augmentations, 6,000 surgical procedures, and 11 years of training beyond medical school, the board-certified plastic surgeon boasts a 99 percent satisfaction rate and is rated top doctor among his patients.