Giving birth is traumatic for your body in more ways than one. New moms can experience post-partum depression, loss of bladder control and skin discoloration. And that’s just for starters! During pregnancy, abdominal muscles spread and your belly skin stretches to make room for your baby, and the breasts expand as you begin to lactate and then retract when you stop.

It takes the average woman a few months to lose the recommended 25 to 35 pounds gained during pregnancy. But many women find that despite a diligent exercise routine and healthy diet, they just can’t get their pre-pregnancy body back. Even as they drop the pounds, excess skin remains around the abdomen — a poochie stomach — and breasts can sag or appear flat as a result of nursing.

Enter: Mommy Makeovers. The term, as it has come to be known, refers to a combination of a tummy tuck and breast surgery – be it a reduction, a lift or a lift with an augmentation, says Grant Stevens, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Los Angeles and the medical director of Marina Plastic Surgery Associates. Women will frequently add a third surgery, such as liposuction of the thighs, love handles, or muffin top (back fat), or even an eyelid lift (blepharoplasty). Surgeons recommend a woman wait to have her mommy makeover until she is done having all her children and no longer breast feeding.

The Benefits of Mommy Makeovers

“The value of having combined surgery is enormous,” Dr. Stevens says. The patient only has to undergo full anesthesia once, have one day of surgery instead of two or more and endure one recovery process. Combined surgery even saves on costs, he explains. The biggest benefit that Stevens has found is that the woman doesn’t have to delay gratification: “She will get up and walk out with a flat tummy and new-found breasts.” The average surgery time is less than three hours for both procedures. Moreover, when a woman opts to only have a tummy tuck or a breast surgery, she is inevitably back for the other in a year, says Stevens.

Having the two (or more, in some cases) surgeries together is just as safe as having a tummy tuck alone, according to Stevens, who co-authored the paper, “Safe and Consistent Outcomes of Successfully Combining Breast Surgery and Abdominoplasty: An Update,” which was published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal in 2009.

What Happens During a Mommy Makeover

During a tummy tuck on a woman who has had a child, Stevens addresses the excess skin and belly fat and spread-out abdominal muscles. “I remove the fat, tighten the skin, and pull muscles back together,” says Stevens.

If a woman opts for a breast lift (mastopexy), extra skin is removed, and the surrounding tissue is tightened. This can be done with or without the addition of an implant and helps to return breasts to their pre-baby state. In a reduction, which is similar, excess breast fat and tissue is removed, and the skin is tightened. The breasts are smaller and firmer as a result.

The major difference between a lift and a reduction is that with a lift that doesn’t involve an implant, your breasts will be about the same size as they were pre-baby, but perkier and less saggy. The purpose of a reduction is to have your breasts made smaller.

Are Mommy Makeovers Safe?

While combining a tummy tuck and a breast surgery is safe for most women, as with every other plastic surgery, there are some parameters, says Stevens.

Weight is the most important factor to consider. “You can’t do a lengthy surgery on a morbidly obese person, who may have an underlying heart condition.” The results of a tummy tuck are the best on those who are close to their ideal weight, but can’t attain a flat tummy through diet and exercise. As with all cosmetic surgeries, you should confirm that your doctor and his/her operating room is board certified and that he/she has hospital privileges.

Overall, Dr. Stevens, who has preformed more than 1,000 Mommy Makeovers in his more than 30 years in practice, found that there was no difference in the outcome in terms of safety of a combined surgery as there is in a tummy tuck or breast surgery performed separately.