Rise of the 'Yummy Mummy:' How Dubai mums are opting for plastic surgery

It’s tough being a new mum: sleepless nights, extra responsibilities. And, all the plastic surgery

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Three quarters of mums are reportedly unhappy with their body, in the age of the “Yummy Mummy.” In Dubai, where numbers of plastic surgeons per capita top the charts, increasing numbers of women are choosing to go under the knife.

It’s tough being a new mum: sleepless nights, extra responsibilities. And, all the plastic surgery.

Amongst the smorgasbord of exotic cosmetic surgery options on websites aimed at Dubai’s expat women, like the ominous-sounding CoolSculpting, Brazilian Fat Transfer and vampire facelift, there is one that sounds much more benign: the Mommy Makeover.

“The miracle of childbirth is the most wonderful experience a woman can have,” the advert starts, gently.

“You wouldn’t trade your children and the experience of being a mom for anything. But,” – and there’s always a ‘but’ when it comes to plastic surgery – “it’s possible your body has changed in many ways and some may not exactly thrill you.”

The ad goes on to detail the assortment of popular surgery procedures that fall within the ‘Mommy Makeover’ umbrella: liposuction, tummy tuck, breast lift, breast augmentation, thigh and arm lifts…

There are other, more minor procedures that can be thrown in as well, including botox, fillers, something called Zeltiq CoolSculpting, thermage and radio frequency microneedles. You can even get your Brazilian Fat Transfer, where fat residing in areas of your body it shouldn’t is taken and injected into areas it should (i.e. your buttocks).

While this all sounds uniquely painful, the object of the Mommy Makeover is for the patient to get hit with a number of different procedures at once and thereby reduce the cost and recovery time.


Dr Matteo Vigo is the Chief of Surgery at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital. In the three-and-a-half years he has been practicing in Dubai he says numbers of women coming in for Mommy Makeover-related procedures has doubled, now comprising about 40 per cent of his workload – around 120 each year.

Some women, generally Westerners, opt for multiple surgeries but the majority, mainly GCC customers, have several procedures done at once – perhaps up to five, depending on the significance of the procedures.

“Because they are mummies they don’t have time. Here the money is not a big issue, the main thing is the time. They want to get fit quick, they want quick results,” Vigo says.

Cosmetic surgery in the UAE is increasing in general, recent figures showing with 56 plastic surgeons per million people Dubai has the highest concentration per capita in the world – almost twice the number in surgery-obsessed Brazil.

Dr Vigo says there are many reasons for this, including Dubai positioning itself as a global and regional medical tourism hub, the concentration of wealth in the region, the influx of foreigners with different ‘looks’, the increased exposure to the body beautiful through traditional and social media, and a greater embrace of more revealing clothing for locals both at home and abroad.

“Before the abaya was a sheet – like a carpet, you put all the dust underneath. Now they look open more.”

For the working woman, the motivation might be professional success.

“In business today in every job appearance is important. If you look young, fresh, healthy and your body is fit you have more chance than [an overweight] woman. If someone has to choose between the same level of competence and knowledge etc, they will choose the [fit] one.”

This is all part of the Yummy Mummy phenomenon – a global fixation on women continuing to hold youthful allure well into their maternal years, personified by ever-trim celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Kate Middleton.

As Vigo, who has operated on a number of celebrities both in Dubai and his native Italy, points out, the rich and famous have all the advantages of personal trainers and advisers both pre-pregnancy and after. Then the surgeon’s knife comes into play in 99 per cent of cases, he estimates.

“They will never admit this but for sure they all do.”

This is a trend Dubai is certainly not immune from. Aside from increasing levels of plastic surgery there are also exhibitions like May’s Yummy Mummy Show.

Several years ago, internet site Mumsnet conducted a poll of 1300 women that showed only a quarter of mothers were happy with their physical appearance. So, why shouldn’t they find ways to rectify that?


Dubai-based freelance journalist and popular blogger Louise Clarke says while she hasn’t considered plastic surgery herself, “I can't say I am totally against it”.

“If you have the money and feel it's important, why not? It's probably not for me – although I'd never say never – but who am I to judge anyone else that wants to feel more confident about their body?,” she asks.

Despite that, the 34-year-old says there does seem to be more pressure in Dubai for mothers to look good than in her native UK. Hearing that a plastic surgeon spoke at a recent ‘mummy conference’ left the mum-of-two-boys feeling “perplexed”.

“No one has ever told me (or implied) that I should get Botox, update my wardrobe, or go on a strict diet, but equally those around me are all taking care of their appearance, so there's a certain pressure to toe the line.”

There is also a “big difference” between her friends in Dubai and the UK in the way they look and dress.

“My friends in the UK will throw on something comfortable to head out with the kids. My friends in Dubai will wear something stylish that is practical, but still looks good. More thought goes into it - and yes, that might be also something to do with disposable income. If you have the cash, you can fit the mould.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that body image issues amongst mothers also seem more prevalent in Dubai.
“There is a definite interest in appearances amongst women in Dubai. I have had lots of conversations about detoxes, juicing diets, new exercise classes, and slimming body treatments with friends. I haven't lived in the UK for 6 years, but I imagine it wouldn't be such a point of interest amongst friends.”


Fellow Dubai-based blogger Jelena Bariman, 37, has a four-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter, both of whom she gave birth to back home in the UK. She says she first heard about ‘Mommy Makeover’ plastic surgery while attending post-natal gatherings at the National Childcare Trust.

“I have never been tempted to take such action myself. I do not feel comfortable with plastic surgery becoming an every day reality and no big deal. We should be grateful for what we have,” she says.

Making extra time to put into your appearance as an energy-zapped young mum is hard. She says it can be difficult to get into a proper fitness regime while trying to keep offspring entertained.

“During these long summer school holidays it is not so easy to find time to go to a pilates or yoga class while at the same time keeping the children happy and occupied.”

But surgery also feels a bridge too far for Bariman.

“It is good to take pride in appearance [while] not feeling pressure to have things nipped and tucked.”

Like Clarke, she has definitely noticed a greater focus on appearances in Dubai compared with the UK – which is good or bad, depending on your perspective.

“If you enjoy shopping and spending time thinking of clothes the school-run is a good opportunity to showcase your new clothes. If you are not inclined to spend time thinking of clothes it is a distraction.”

Dr. Martin Kramar is an American-educated, Slovakian psychologist who has been practicing in Dubai for the past five years.

The B R Medical Suites psychologist says a fixation on appearances and addiction to plastic surgery is growing in Dubai, but is still not on the levels he witnessed during the 11 years he lived in the US. One of the more common issues Kramar says he has seen in Dubai is women who refuse to breastfeed in order to keep the shape of their breasts or who cannot due to breast augmentation.

“I have patients who didn’t do any breast feeding unfortunately due to these issues, and that’s very sad.”

Other women feel pressure to reprise their pre-baby bodies for the sake of their husbands.

“There is also a fear maybe in many women they want to look younger because they want to keep the husband satisfied, and make sure he is not going to find someone younger.”

This can result from overt pressure from husbands with unrealistic expectations.

“What counts is that the couple supports each other. The husband shouldn’t have such demands after the wife’s had two or three children and he wants to see the wife as she was 10 years ago.

“The body will fade and that we need to accept.”

Outside pressure and unhealthy fixations are things Vigo sees in many potential clients, leading him to screen out about 20 per cent of those who come for consultations.

“Sometimes the appearance is the main point of the self-esteem. In these patients a small change can be a huge life change and I agree on doing the surgery – for example if you have a very big nose or prominent ears, or huge or very small breasts. If the problem is bigger, for example they want to conquer the husband through plastic surgery, this is not the way. This is something we need to stop and, as plastic surgeons, we need to understand when it’s time to say no.”


Kramar doesn’t dismiss plastic surgery as a suitable option for some women, but cautions that it is no substitute for genuine happiness.

“If somebody is attached too much to the body, it’s not solving the problem. Happiness must be reached in our thoughts and emotions, not how the body looks because it’s always aging.”

Going the plastic surgery route does result in addiction for some people, who develop a body dysmorphia that means no matter how many times they get something remodeled or reshaped it is never enough.

“[For mothers], all the caring and worries are usually connected to the children. If somebody really neglects caring about the body, that’s not good. But if a woman is too preoccupied, it’s also not good. Practice the middle road, exercise, be fit, be healthy to care for the children.”

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