Welcoming a new life into the world is a truly transformative experience for the mother. For one, there are significant physical changes to your body, both during pregnancy and postpartum. Your growing belly is perhaps the most obvious change of all. While abdominal muscles and skin are pretty resilient, pregnancy and childbirth will stretch and strain them tremendously. Needless to say, your abdomen will not snap back to its pre-pregnancy state directly after your baby is born.
Understanding Your Changing Belly
During pregnancy and childbirth, your belly undergoes rapid changes. These include:
- stretching of abdominal muscles to accommodate the growing baby
- accumulation of excess skin and fat around the abdomen due to weight gain
- hormonal changes that help to relax the ligaments and tissues in the abdominal area to facilitate the childbirth process
Here’s what you can expect after delivering your baby:
- Directly after giving birth, your weight can be approximately 5kg lighter, depending on the baby’s size, and weight of amniotic fluid and placenta, with your belly still looking around six months pregnant
- Six weeks post-delivery, your uterus shrinks back to its original size and excess fluids are flushed out, while your abdominal muscles and skin begin to firm up, leaving you with a gradually slimming belly
- Six to eight weeks postpartum, your uterus will return to its normal position in your pelvis
Getting Rid of the Postpartum Belly
There are numerous ways to tone your belly, including proper exercise, a nutrient-rich diet, and plenty of patience and grace. However, do remember that weight gain during pregnancy is a normal occurrence, and your postpartum belly is still adjusting to not carrying your little bundle of joy around. There is no need to rush to get your belly back to its pre-pregnancy state. With proper guidance, diligence and time, you’ll get there.
Incorporate gentle postpartum exercises that develop your core strength. Some gentle ways to get started are pelvic tilts, Kegel exercises and modified crunches and planks. Low-impact cardiovascular exercises like walking or swimming can also aid in burning calories for a healthy weight.
If you have diastasis recti (where the left and right abdominals separate during pregnancy), consult with a postnatal physical therapist for specific exercises that can help to close the gap between the separate muscles.
Remember to get the all-clear from your health provider before getting started on an exercise regime.
A balanced and nutritious diet will support your postpartum recovery. Make sure you have a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains on your menu so you can get all the necessary nutrients to facilitate your healing and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Staying hydrated is also paramount for your skin elasticity and overall health. Drink a sufficient amount of water to promote healthier skin. Don’t forget: adequate water intake is also important for breastfeeding mothers.
While a low-calorie diet can theoretically help you to lose weight postpartum, do note that as a new mother, you’ll need a calorie boost to avoid feeling fatigued. As such, we recommend that you wait until after your postpartum period – preferably a few months after giving birth – to cut back on calories, especially if you’re nursing.
Some healthcare providers may recommend using postpartum support wear such as belly wraps or compression garments to provide gentle support to the abdominal muscles and help with diastasis recti healing or other similar pregnancy-related conditions. These may also help with issues like postpartum back pain and supporting the uterus as it returns to its original size.
Remember, your body goes through tremendous changes during pregnancy and childbirth, so it is essential for you to be kind to it. Consistency and patience are key as you work towards a stronger and more toned abdomen while enjoying motherhood.