Are you still getting asked, 'when is the baby due?' Please note most people are not that rude, but as you snuggle up to your newborn baby you may silently wonder, 'why do I still look 6 months pregnant after giving birth?!' Well, the answer may not be so complicated. Our bodies experience some pretty drastic physical changes during pregnancy to make room for our growing bundles of joys. But if you think you'll have your killer abs back and be running marathons 6 weeks after delivery, you are wildly mistaken. After giving birth you'll want to slow down and take care of yourself. Please understand the path to a successful postpartum recovery period might now be as fast as you thought. It WILL take you longer to "bounce back after baby" than you had originally hoped and THAT'S OK! The good news is that your baby belly pooch does NOT have to be permanent.
Why Do I Still Have a Belly After Birth?
There are a few reasons new moms still carry some belly postpartum so give yourself grace and allow your body time to heal. Remember that it took your body 9 months to GROW AN ENTIRE HUMAN and to give yourself grace if you're not quit fitting into your prepregnancy jeans a few days or weeks after birth. Here's why it can take some time to heal after birth:
That amazing organ stretches from the size of a big lemon to the size of a watermelon. Once the baby is out, whether by vaginal or c-section delivery, the uterus contracts and shrinks to GRADUALLY go back down to size. That full process takes 6 weeks. So, the shrinking uterus is part of the reason that you look like you are ready to attend your own baby shower, not bring a baby home. So, be patient with a gradual return to size.
Of the 30# average wt gain, about 8# is baby, 8# is uterus and placenta, 8# is fluid and 6# is fat/weight gain. A lot of that comes out with baby, but plenty of the fluid and the weight gain is held on to longer. C-section moms will have even more fluid retention due to fluids given inter-operatively. C-section moms will also have some tummy area swelling from the work they do inside the abdominal area during surgery. Again, another reason to allow some time.
Another part of mama that takes a hit! Stretched and sometimes split ( abdominal diastasis), the abs are lengthened, making them somewhat less effective in sucking it all in.
Hurrah! Just when you started to regret those prenatal cupcakes, we determined IT'S NOT ALL BABY FAT!
What Can I Do About My Belly After Baby?
If you're like many moms, you would like to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, or atleast not need to keep wearing your maternity pants. There are a few things you can do about the baby belly!
- Wear really big clothes (#YogaPantsAreLife) and NEVER open an In-Style magazine that features a celebrity mom. But seriously, DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER MOMS, especially if they have personal trainers, private chefs and live-in help. Your crock-pot loving, fitness-app loving, sleepless new mom self is perfect just the way you are.
Compression Clothes & Belly Binders
Use support early on to flush out fluids. All those devices that are “getting the belly back” are really mostly getting the water out and holding in that amazing uterus. For c-section moms, support helps control swelling too. Think about it, if it was that easy to wrap up and get skinny, we would have done it BEFORE we got pregnant! So, support methods like binders, compression panties and wraps are fine to use, but just know support is helping nature along on those early weeks not performing a magic act. Also, be aware that too much compression can actually prevent healing. Your MD can discuss more of that. C-Panty was designed by medical professionals to provide gentle, consistent support to be used over time.
Use support to help weak muscles. Again, this passive support is helpful but not a cure-all. Active shortening (exercise) is very different from passive shortening (wrapping it all in). Support feels good and does prevent weak muscles from hanging or keeps a diastasis supported, it won’t, however, change how a muscle fiber works which is what you need to tighten.
- Gradually shorten muscle fibers. The best way for this is exercise. With exercise limited for period post-partum, it is best to start slowly and with help from the literature, a trainer or your MD on how to actively shorten and tighten that tummy again. Goes without saying, best done with cardio. There are great post-baby DVDs out there too. Only start exercise after MD approval since hormones effect muscles, joints and ligaments.
- Don’t even start to call it a belly until at least 3 months. Remember, that first 6 weeks you are still dealing with uterus and fluid. For up to 12 weeks, muscles are naturally accommodating and shortening. C-moms can also have mild swelling up to 12 weeks. Gradual weight loss and toning is the way to go!