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Cosmetic Surgery, Women and Divorce-The Five Most Common Procedures

There has been a recent buzz in the media about "revenge cosmetic surgery" after divorce...
02/08/2011 11:40pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
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There has been a recent buzz in the media about "revenge cosmetic surgery" after divorce, citing several examples of women and men turning to plastic surgery to try to look better so they are able to face their "exe" with confidence.

The reality, however, is that more women than men turn to the scalpel after a breakup. Our society over emphasizes the need for women to look younger in order to compete in the single world. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 9 million cosmetic procedures were performed on American women in 2009 compared with just 900,000 procedures performed on American men!

This is not a surprising statistic. More than 40% of women in a national survey conducted by the National Women's Health Resource Center sought to improve their physical appearance after a divorce or other significant life transitions, such as childbirth or significant weight loss. The study noted that such transitions trigger changes in a woman's mindset, inspiring improvements around health, fitness, and, for 42% of women, their physical appearance. "Of those women motivated to improve their appearance, 45% said they would consider plastic surgery to do so."

It is true that for a woman with reasonable expectations and appropriate motives, cosmetic surgery may provide a boost in confidence and help smooth the transition from married to single life.

In order, the top five cosmetic surgery procedures performed in 2009 on American women, in general, were breast augmentation, liposuction, eyelid lift, abdominoplasty and breast reduction.

So, let's examine the five most common procedures sought by women during the divorce process and see how they compare.

Already, this is the most common operation performed on women, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Women who are divorced, or contemplating divorce, have often considered breast augmentation prior to their marriage difficulties. The divorce process provides a reasonable excuse in their minds to go ahead with the surgery. They are preparing to enter the dating pool and hope to gain confidence.

2) Mommy-Makeover-- Abdominoplasty ("tummy tuck") and Breast Lift with Augmentation

This is a very common operation performed on women after having children, divorced or not. After deciding that their family is complete, and usually once the children are in school, women yearn to have their pre-partum body back! Diet and exercise is the first step, but frequently childbirth and subsequent breast-feeding, stretches the skin and changes the shape of a woman's breasts and abdomen. This combination of procedures can provide a dramatic change in a woman's body and boost self-esteem.

Ideally, women seek this procedure after a vigorous diet and exercise program, but are unable to trim specific areas, such as the lower midsection (" muffin top") or upper outer thighs (" saddlebags"). It is effective, however, I stress to my patients that liposuction is not a weight-loss tool, and optimal results are obtained after diet and exercise are embraced first!

4) Eyelid Lift (blepharoplasty) and or Facelift

Women seek eyelid surgery to remedy a fatigued look around the eyes and remove lower eyelid bags. It is a popular procedure because a subtle, but distinct improvement may be achieved; yet most people don't realize any work has been done. Many times this operation is combined with a regular, or "mini" facelift. This may be a reasonable option and a refreshed, confident look obtained. If overdone, however, there may be an unwelcome extreme change in appearance, so choose this combination of procedures with much consideration and research.

5) Abdominoplasty ("tummy tuck")

After divorce, weight gain or loss from stress and unhappiness is common. Eventually, many women move on and turn to diet and exercise to help turn their life around. If weight loss is extreme, or after childbirth, it may be necessary to trim excess skin of the lower abdominal region and tighten the inner abdominal wall and muscles. Diastasis recti is the medical term used to describe splaying and weakening of the abdominal muscles after extreme weight loss or pregnancy. The woman appears to have a bigger belly because the abdominal contents are pushing outward. Unfortunately, a thousand sit-ups a day will not correct this condition! This operation carries a high level of patient satisfaction.

Cosmetic surgery may inject an extra bit of confidence while moving on with your life. My primary concern is the patient's emotional stability during the divorce process and the ability to make important decisions about surgery during this stressful time. I counsel patients to carefully consider all aspects of their planned cosmetic surgery and understand that one operation is not going to change their lives drastically or magically make their unhappiness or problems disappear. Take your time! If you do decide to have surgery, choose a surgeon board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

I stress that the scalpel should not always be considered the only alternative to looking and feeling better after divorce. Women must be able to recognize and embrace their inner and outer beauty prior to considering cosmetic surgery!