We have previously written about the importance of doing your homework before proceeding with cosmetic procedures, on how best to prepare for surgery and even pondered what is beauty? As a natural next step, we wondered how surgeons help patients prepare for cosmetic surgery, with a particular slant on emotional preparation.

“The journey to and beyond surgery is an emotional rollercoaster,” says Dr. Anh Nguyen, a plastic surgeon who performs surgery on the face, breasts and body. “It is a ride that we as surgeons expect and are prepared for.”

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

Make informed decisions

“Choosing to undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery is an important decision”, says Dr Nguyen. “It is a decision that requires careful consideration on many levels—intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, socially, sexually, physically and financially.”

You need to know what you are getting into and what it takes. Dr Nguyen stresses, “It is vital to ensure patients are as well-informed of the procedure, the pros and cons, alternatives, risks and complications and implications if they were to occur during both the postoperative and recovery period.

“At the same time it is important to help patients be as well-prepared for the journey ahead. They have to know what to expect during the postoperative recovery period, about when they can return home, go to work and return to their normal social life.”

Understand your options

You need to do your homework and understand the many options you have for the same outcome. No one has to have a particular procedure at all costs, especially where elective surgery is concerned. There may be several procedures that achieve the same or similar results.

Choose your surgeon wisely

Choice of surgeon is a key decision you must make with cosmetic surgery. Selecting a qualified surgeon who has ample experience and a great reputation for performing your chosen type of surgery is extremely important.

“As surgeons, we have the privilege to potentially make a tangible difference on many levels,” says Dr Nguyen.

In fact, she says it is one of the reasons that made her choose to become a plastic surgeon. Other reasons that attracted her to this field are “the breadth and depth and variety of work in all parts of the body, including reconstructive, aesthetic, trauma and hand surgery.” She appreciates the attention to detail necessary in the field as well as how cosmetic surgery is the marriage of art and science.

“I also had faith that the specialty was advancing with developments in research and education and training. So it made cosmetic surgery an exciting area to enter.” “We can help make a difference not just with anatomical, functional and aesthetic correction or improvement but with potential benefits to self-esteem, body image and confidence that are sometimes as important as, or more important than disease and illness.

“I work with my patients and build a strong doctor-patient relationship with them through their journey, as do most surgeons I know” says Dr Nguyen.

Ask yourself what your motives are

You should choose to have cosmetic surgery for the right reasons. Being unhappy about how you look can have a direct negative impact on your self-esteem and confidence and sometimes cloud your judgment about how you really look.

Dr Nguyen is a mother to young children and she says “being a mum has given me more insight into the way women feel about their bodies.

“We help our patients prepare emotionally for this journey by making sure they are doing it for themselves and for the right reasons. Having surgery with unrealistic expectations or having surgery in the hope that it will appease someone else, for example, will likely lead to disappointment at the very least.”

Once the decision is made, be comfortable and confident about it

According to Dr Nguyen, it is very common for women and men to “ride an emotional rollercoaster pondering whether or not to take the plunge; and wondering about doing something that they may have been wanting to do for a long time.”

She says it is common to have doubts about whether the decision to have cosmetic surgery is the ‘right’ one. “Women especially often feel guilty that they are considering cosmetic procedures, because they are used to forever being responsible for others and putting everyone else’s needs before their own.”

Being comfortable and confident helps you prepare emotionally for the surgery ahead.

Be clear about your expectations and explain them to your surgeon

Not doing so can lead to later disappointments. Surgeons will try to understand your expectations clearly if you are able to articulate them clearly, but the articulation is up to you.

Dr Nguyen emphasises that it is crucial for patients to have a clear goal and objective for having surgery, and to make sure that those goals are achievable.

“We make sure we know what it is that the patient wants to achieve and why and that the patient is very clear in what they wish to achieve.”

Work with your surgeon on preparation for surgery

A good doctor-patient relationship will help you trust your surgeon, and make you feel less apprehensive or stressed about the upcoming operation.

“As surgeons we understand that it is natural for you to have these feelings,” assures Dr Nguyen. “Your journey to and beyond surgery is an emotional rollercoaster ride for you; one that we as surgeons expect and are prepared for.”

Says Dr Nguyen: “I often encourage patients to prepare themselves emotionally by ensuring they feel confident and comfortable about their decision to proceed with surgery, that they trust their surgeon and have the support of their loved ones.

“Additionally, I try to help my patients prepare emotionally for surgery by helping to put their minds at ease. I do this because I really try to understand how they feel about themselves and their bodies, what they want to achieve and why it is so important to them.”

“By understanding what my patient’s objective is, I believe I can assure my patients that we are on the same page, and are striving to achieve the same outcome; and that helps patients relax and feel more at ease.”

“Most people are also interested in knowing how the procedure can affect their parenting and sex life during the post operative period,” says Dr Nguyen. “Knowing these things, and by asking questions and getting answers moves you closer to being as prepared as possible before surgery. This will also help allay potential fears and anxieties leading up to the surgery.”

“I love working hard and take pride in having the privilege to help my patients look and feel better, says Dr Nguyen. “As a woman I understand perfectly that women may feel insecure and unhappy with their appearance. I am passionate about helping women look and feel their best because I believe women should celebrate their achievements and also be proud of their bodies.”

Take good care of yourself before surgery

“I advise patients to get the best health they can leading up to surgery by eating well, resting and sleeping well,” says Dr Nguyen.

Surround yourself with positive people

It is important to have a positive and supportive environment in preparation for surgery. So you need to work on developing positive attitudes, consciously staying away from negative downward spirals and to surround yourself with positive people who will support and encourage your recovery.

Make sure you have the support of your loved ones during and after surgery.

For more information

For more information on preparation for surgery, you may want to read the following:

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