While you’re pregnant, watching your baby bump grow is exciting! When tracking pregnancy-related changes in your body and awaiting your precious baby’s arrival, you likely took plenty of pictures to document your beautiful growing belly.
After giving birth, you’ll probably notice that your post-baby belly and other features do not live up to your pre-pregnancy shape. Now you’re wondering: How long will the baby weight stick around? Is it natural to have loose skin on my stomach like this? How can I improve my “Mom pooch?” There’s no need to worry—you’re not alone in this. Moms worldwide have been asking these questions (and more) about postpartum body changes since the beginning.
At RMC, we cater to each milestone from prenatal to postnatal care, and we know what you’re going through; we’re here for you, Mama. Today we’re sharing the answers you’re looking for and advice on everything concerning your postpartum belly. Read on to learn more!
Why Do I Still Have a Pregnancy Bump?
Your bump first appears during pregnancy as your uterus expands beyond your pubic bone, causing your abdomen to protrude. Throughout the nine months of your pregnancy, the uterine expansion will progress; baby growth and developing pregnancy organs will cause your tummy to stretch like a balloon.
As a result of all the stretching and strain, you’ll be left with a “pregnancy pouch” for a while, as if the balloon deflated. Stretch marks, extra belly fat, and loose skin remain for most Moms, and it’s not uncommon for a new Mom to leave the hospital looking six months pregnant.
Your stomach muscles are pulling and stretching well beyond their normal position to support these developments through the entire nine months of your pregnancy. They’re working overtime during labor and delivery. If you have a firmer bump along the middle of your tummy—bulging out near or around your belly button—you may have a condition known as diastasis recti.
Diastasis recti (abdominal separation) occurs when the connective tissue of a mother’s linea alba thins and broadens, separating the abdominal muscles into an abnormal position and pushing out the hip joints and abdominal region. The condition is quite common, affecting 30–60% of women in the postpartum period, and is often not a cause for immediate medical attention. Treatment options are available for the success of future pregnancies and cosmetic reasons.
When Will My Postpartum Belly Return to Pre-Pregnancy Size?
Right after giving birth, most Moms lose weight—some lose up to twelve pounds. The size and weight of the baby, placental tissue, and remaining amniotic fluid expelled during delivery determine initial postpartum weight loss. Moms recovering from C-sections can typically expect their scars to heal in a few weeks.
In the first six weeks after giving birth, hormonal changes will begin to cause the uterus to shrink and your abdominal muscles to contract; the skin on your postpartum belly will steadily tighten. Any leftover fluids and hormonal secretions that drive much of your leftover swelling will excrete vaginally and through perspiration.
In six to eight weeks, your uterus will likely return to its pre-pregnancy state, and tummy muscles will continue to retract. The size and appearance of your postpartum stomach will significantly improve following these naturally occurring processes. However, you’ll probably notice that you still have some extra fat, loose skin, stretch marks, and excess weight.
When Can I Get Back to My Pre-Pregnancy Weight?
Most prenatal care physicians will endorse healthy weight goals for expecting mothers for the good of their baby’s development in the womb. Recommended weight goals for pregnancy tend to average 25–30 pounds, depending on the mother’s BMI.
You’ll likely lose much of that weight over two months after giving birth as your uterus shrinks and your body flushes out the remaining fluids. Nonetheless, your body could take anywhere from six to nine months postpartum—and in some cases, as long as two years—to return to pre-pregnancy weight.
How to Lose Weight and Improve Your Postpartum Belly
Your postpartum weight loss timeline has the potential to speed up depending on your diet and lifestyle, exercise routine, and breastfeeding, even. Luckily, there are safe and healthy ways to lose weight and progress towards your pre-pregnancy body goals.
Many moms find they can lose weight—burning up to 300 calories daily—throughout their postpartum period by breastfeeding. When you breastfeed, your caloric intake increases the optimal production of breast milk—you’ll probably feel hungry often. The calories you burn by breastfeeding may not exceed how many calories you should consume, so some breastfeeding Moms will experience weight gain instead of weight loss.
Healthy Diet and Nutrition
Eating healthy food is an excellent way to promote weight loss, healing, and recovery for your post-pregnancy belly and the rest of your body. A healthy diet for postpartum recovery will include protein-rich foods such as lean meats, beans, legumes, and nutrient-fortified fruits and vegetables for essential vitamins. Some other things you’ll want to consider (or reconsider) before assessing your postpartum nutrition—for losing weight—include:
- First, speak to a postpartum nutrition specialist or discuss your diet and weight loss goals for your postpartum belly with your OB/GYN—especially if you’re a new Mom.
- A low-calorie diet. You probably already know that lowering caloric intake—while eating healthy—can promote weight loss for pre-pregnancy bodies, but before you start counting calories:
- You should wait a few months because your body needs those extra calories while recovering, or at least six weeks if supervised by a physician.
- As mentioned in the above sections, a breastfeeding Mom must remember that calories are necessary to produce milk. If you are currently breastfeeding, avoid restricting calories.
- Never restrict your daily calorie intake below the recommended guidelines for your weight and body type; it’s safer to fulfill your hunger with a healthy diet, maintain adequate nutrition, and burn any excess calories with postpartum-safe exercise.
- Avoid eating foods with low nutritional value or high-sugar foods that can easily lead you to gain weight while trying to lose it.
Pelvic Floor and Core Exercises
Extra weight, sagging skin, and slack, stretched abdominal muscles can add to the “Mom pooch” for several months or even years, but low-strain exercise can expedite your overall progress. In the early days of your postpartum period, you can safely begin pelvic floor workouts to tone your abdominal muscles and perform light activities to burn calories, such as swimming, walking, and baby lifts! With a physician’s approval or approval from a postpartum physical therapist, you can further tighten your tummy muscles with core workouts.
We’re Here to Support Your Postpartum Weight Loss Journey
If you have yet to return to your pre-pregnancy shape, try to be patient and gentle with yourself. The postpartum belly blues can get rough, but remember to appreciate your beautiful body for all the hard work it’s done to bring your precious baby into the world—you deserve it!
At RMC in Anniston, Alabama, our maternal medical care team is committed to patient safety, comfort, and guiding new parents through one of the happiest moments in life; we’re here to support you in this time—get in touch with us today to ask questions or make an appointment!