10 Tips for Recovering from a Tummy Tuck

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on December 24, 2021
  • Male Nurse Talking With Female Patient In Hospital Room
    Steps to a Successful Recovery
    Although a tummy tuck—or abdominoplasty—is usually elective surgery for cosmetic reasons, it’s still major surgery with an extensive recovery. To make your recovery go as well as possible, think about your needs in the days and weeks following your surgery. Start with these 10 tips, from making yourself comfortable at home to caring for your incision.
  • Woman reading book in bed
    1. Prepare your home ahead of time.
    Pick a recovery area in your home—your bed or a recliner—and prepare it beforehand. Organize a place for your medicines, snacks, drinks, tissues, and cell phone charger. Have plenty of pillows—including a body pillow—for support. Gather reading materials and download movies or a TV series for entertainment. Finally, make sure food and toiletries are at hip level so you don’t have to stretch to reach them.
  • Nurses smiling with patient in hospital bed
    2. Find out where you will spend the first 48 hours after surgery.
    Find out whether you’ll be going home the same day or if you need to arrange short-term aftercare. If you’re going home, you’ll need an adult with you for at least the first 24 hours. In some cases, you may need a night or two of monitored recovery. This could mean staying in the hospital, a licensed recovery facility, or a hotel with a licensed healthcare provider. Discuss the costs of each and ask about discounts or payment plans.
  • Medical
    3. Plan to have an adult caregiver for at least two days.
    You will need an adult caregiver to stay with you at home for at least two days. This person will need to be comfortable emptying and resetting surgical drains if you have them. They will also need to help you manage your medicines. You won’t be able to get around by yourself, so rely on them to help you.
  • Father putting shoes on daughter
    4. Arrange child care for the first two weeks.
    Even if you go home the same day, you won’t be in shape to take care of your children. You’ll need another adult to take over for several days. For young children, you’ll need full-time child care for 1 to 2 weeks. It’s also important to realize you won’t be able to pick up your children for a much longer period—4 to 6 weeks. Prepare them for this ahead of time and practice other ways of offering physical comfort and affection.
  • Rear view of children and father washing dishes at kitchen sink
    5. Have lots of help at home.
    It will be at least 7 to 10 days before you feel like yourself. Get plenty of rest during this time and let others deal with the housework. Remember that you won’t be able to lift anything heavy for 4 to 6 weeks. This includes things like laundry baskets. You also won’t be able to vacuum or do strenuous chores. Light housework—folding clothes or preparing simple meals—is probably safe, but check with your doctor to be sure. If you’re the cook in the house, prepare several meals before you have surgery. Store them in the freezer for others in the family to heat and serve.
  • Medicines in hand
    6. Take your pain medicines.
    Abdominal surgery is painful. You use your abdominal muscles for more movements than you realize. Your belly will be very sore and uncomfortable for at least two days. Take your pain medicines on schedule. It’s better to stay ahead of the pain than try to get it under control once it’s bad. You should have noticeable improvement in your pain and discomfort in 5 to 7 days.
  • Gauze bandages with tape, assorted
    7. Follow your wound care instructions.
    Your doctor will give you detailed instructions for wound care and showering. Your incision will have a dressing that you’ll need to keep clean. Depending on the extent of your tummy tuck, you may also have surgical drains. These drains remain in place for 3 to 14 days. Be prepared to care for the drains several times a day and record the amount of fluid they collect.
  • Medical brace corset
    8. Wear your compression garment.
    You will have a compression garment on when you wake up from surgery. It’s there to control swelling and support your skin as it heals. Most people need to wear this for several weeks. And it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for wearing it. It can shorten your recovery period and reduce the chance of having sagging skin afterwards.
  • Nurse helping patient in hospital
    9. Walk to help yourself heal.
    Believe it or not, you will be up and walking the day after your tummy tuck. It will be slow and uncomfortable at first, but it’s vital. Walking helps prevent dangerous blood clots and reduces swelling. Gradually, walking will get easier and you’ll ease into your normal activities. Most people need to take about two weeks off from work, depending on the activity level. Talk with your doctor about returning to exercise and other strenuous activities. This is usually safe after 4 to 6 weeks.
  • New dress fits perfectly
    10. Don’t judge your results too early.
    Recovery from a tummy tuck is lengthy. It will be hard to see any results early in the process. You will have difficulty standing tall until your internal healing is complete. You will also have some swelling that can take up to six months to fully resolve. Don’t make judgments about your results during this time. And remember, the scar can take up to a year or more to fade. In the meantime, look forward to the slimmer, firmer tummy that’s in your future.
10 Tips for Recovering from a Tummy Tuck
Tummy Tuck

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Tummy Tuck. American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. http://www.smartbeautyguide.com/procedures/body/tummy-tuck 
  2. Tummy Tuck. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/tummy-tuck.html#content 
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Last Review Date: 2021 Dec 24
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