A pannus stomach can occur following pregnancy or weight changes when excess skin and fat begin to hang down from the abdomen. It can cause emotional distress, but it is possible to ease the discomfort and remove a pannus stomach.

When skin and fat around the abdomen hang down, it can resemble an apron. As a result, some people refer to a pannus stomach as an “apron belly” or “mother’s apron.”

This article reviews what a pannus stomach is, what causes it, treatment options, and more.

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Pannus stomach occurs when extra skin and fat deposits hang from the stomach or belly area on the abdomen.

It sometimes occurs after pregnancy or weight changes. The excess tissue from a previous body shape can hang down, varying in length and size.

The condition can cause a person to have emotional distress. While some people may feel uncomfortable with the appearance of a pannus stomach, it is possible to reduce or remove it with surgery.

Pannus stomach develops when an excess of skin hangs down from the abdomen.

The main causes include:

  • Pregnancy: After the delivery of a baby, the extra skin necessary to accommodate the pregnancy can hang down, causing a pannus stomach. This is why some people refer to the condition as “mother’s apron.”
  • Obesity: Sometimes, obesity can cause fat deposits to hang down from the abdomen, causing a large abdominal pannus.
  • Weight loss: If a person loses a lot of weight rapidly, such as from bariatric surgery, they may have an excess of skin that hangs from the stomach.

Pannus stomach can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, limit a person’s ability to move. The following are some options a person can consider to help ease discomfort relating to pannus stomach.

Support bands

Support bands may help lift the pannus to sit higher on the body. This may make it easier for a person to walk. It may also help with reducing back pain.

Keeping it clean and dry

A large pannus stomach can lead to ulcers and infections. Taking steps to thoroughly clean and dry the area after getting it wet can help keep it healthy.

Use creams to prevent chafing

The pannus stomach can rub against other areas of the skin. A person can apply anti-chafing creams to the area to help prevent it from causing friction and discomfort.

Infections can also occur in the area due to inflammation from the skin rubbing against itself. Doctors call this inflammation intertrigo. Candida and other organisms can grow in the moist environment under the skin folds. However, baby powder or antifungal powder can help keep the area dry.

In some cases, a very large pannus stomach can cause a person to have trouble walking, performing daily activities, or exercising, which can limit their ability to lose weight.

The skin around a pannus stomach can also contract an infection if a person cannot properly clean and dry the area.

A pannus stomach can become swollen or develop an ulcer, which can be disabling to someone.

If obesity is the cause of the pannus stomach, this brings other risks and complications. Those with obesity have a higher risk of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

It may be possible to reduce a mild case of pannus stomach through diet and exercise. However, surgery is also an option for a large abdominal pannus that hinders a person’s daily activities.

An individual may also wish to opt for cosmetic surgery to reduce a stomach pannus. However, insurance providers will likely not cover such procedures.

Surgery

Sometimes, a person may need to undergo a pannus reduction or removal.

To remove the pannus, a doctor may recommend a panniculectomy. This procedure helps remove the excess skin and fat deposits that comprise the pannus.

A person may want to combine a panniculectomy with a tummy tuck. Also called an abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck can help tighten the abdominal muscles and remove excess skin flaps.

In some cases, insurance may cover the procedure if doctors deem it medically necessary, for example, if it causes an inability to work or get around. A person can speak with a doctor and insurance company to find out if they would qualify for insurance coverage.

Even if someone opts for surgery, a doctor may recommend that a person still makes lifestyle changes, following a nutritious, balanced diet and exercising regularly. This will promote better recovery from surgery and prevent the pannus stomach from returning.

What to expect from a panniculectomy

A doctor will discuss a person’s medical history with them to help them decide if surgery is right for them.

If people smoke or use tobacco, they need to stop for at least 6 weeks before surgery, as these products can interfere with healing following the procedure.

The doctor will inform them of the risks and complications of a panniculectomy. These include the development of:

  • seromas, or fluid buildup inside the body
  • a hematoma, a major bruise
  • a skin infection

If a person decides to go through with surgery, it will take place in a hospital setting.

Below is what typically occurs during a panniculectomy:

  • A person will receive a general anesthetic, so they will be unconscious during the surgery.
  • A surgeon will then make a cut in the lower part of the stomach, above the pubic area.
  • They will then remove the excess fat and skin before stitching the area closed.
  • The surgeon will insert drainage tubes into the abdomen to drain excess fluid from the body.
  • The medical team will then dress the wound using bandages and a compression garment.
  • A person will have to wear the tubes and compression garment until the tubes have drained enough fluid.
  • The medical team can then remove the tubes and garment.

The process may take several hours, and a person may need to stay in the hospital for a few days after the procedure.

Lifestyle changes

People with a mild case of pannus stomach may find they can reduce its size through diet and exercise. This combination can help reduce fat throughout the body.

While it can be tempting to focus solely on crunches, a person should engage in various full-body exercises to help reduce their weight.

They should also not neglect their diet, since most studies show that exercise alone is typically not enough to reduce a person’s weight.

Q:

Is it possible to prevent getting a pannus stomach after giving birth?

Anonymous

A:

The abdomen’s design means it naturally stretches during pregnancy to accommodate the growing fetus. Like a rubber band that stretches to its maximum capacity, the lower abdominal skin may never fully return to the same elasticity it had before the first pregnancy. It may not be possible to entirely prevent the lower abdominal skin stretching during pregnancy. However, staying healthy and active during those 9 months can help people keep their weight gain slow and steady. Individuals can check with their OB/GYN how much activity they can safely do and what they can expect their weight gain to be.

Catherine Hannan, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Pannus stomach can occur due to rapid weight changes or following a pregnancy.

A person can take steps to ease their discomfort with supportive bands, chafing creams, and keeping it clean and dry.

They may be able to reduce the size of the pannus through diet and exercise. However, in some cases, individuals may opt for surgery to remove the pannus.