There probably isn’t anything as emotionally turbulent as pregnancy. The kind of emotional roller-coaster and exhaustion that comes at postpartum can take quite the toll on you. But hey, it’s all worth it in the end, right? That said, it’s perfectly normal to want to get back your pre-pregnancy body. Now we’d be lying if we told you there is a specific timespan to get rid of your postpartum belly. Why? Pregnancy is a unique experience for every woman because we’re all different. Despite this, what we can do is give you some tips for flat tummy after pregnancy. Let’s begin, shall we?
What Causes Big Belly After Pregnancy
To guide you through this process, it’s crucial you first understand what causes big bellies after pregnancy. Here are some of the reasons why your tummy will look slightly bigger after pregnancy:
Your Uterus Is Still Enlarged
Now here’s something interesting: Your uterus is only about 3-4 inches when your baby begins growing in it. It’s worthy to note that it can stretch up to about 500 times throughout your pregnancy (3). Now, this takes time too. It doesn’t happen overnight. Knowing this, the chances are that it also won’t shrink back to its original size just as fast, don’t you think so?
The uterus can take anywhere between 6-8 weeks to go fully back to what it was through involution (6). Now, this sounds like a long time to be having that postpartum belly, right? But try not to worry. The female body is quite good at bouncing back to shape under the right conditions.
See, you may experience some afterpains like uterine contractions and cramping that shrinks your uterus back to its size. This usually starts about 72 hours after delivery and continues until involution is complete (6). Some mothers suggest that breastfeeding can ease afterpains (7). Also, wearing a postpartum girdle can be particularly effective in reducing the intensity of these pains.
Your Abdominal Muscles Are Probably Separated
Pregnancy or trauma to your ab muscles can make them separate in what is known as diastasis recti. Now about 66% of women experience this in their third trimester (10). This condition can sometimes lead to the prolonging of your belly pouch postpartum.
So if you’ve lost most of your pregnancy weight and the tummy is still there, diastasis recti may be responsible. This, however, is not always a cause for alarm. True, the cases do vary in intensity, but most don’t require surgical procedures to treat.
There’s Still Some ‘Baby Belly Fat’ Left
Several things contribute to the accumulation of belly fat due to pregnancy. In principle, you will gain more weight if you eat and drink more calories than you burn. Now when you’re pregnant, the hormonal changes can make it hard for you to work out. Therefore, you’ll burn fewer calories daily while technically eating for two or more!
Many women report that the most significant part of their weight gain occurs in their third trimesters. These same hormones will make you hold onto calories and store them as fat. Why you may ask? To help nourish and protect the growing baby. Additionally, this fat is also used to provide nutrients when breastfeeding.
You Still Have The After Pregnancy Loose Skin
This is probably the most common issue new moms face when trying to get back their pre-pregnancy bodies. You see, your skin undergoes intense stretching during the 9-month pregnancy period. As a result, your collagen fibers may break due to this over-stretching.
The loose skin can then create a trickle effect on your postpartum belly. That said, this is not a cause for alarm. There are natural ways that don’t require surgery that will help you minimize that loose skin. We discuss this in detail later in this article.
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How Long Does It Take For Your Stomach To Shrink After Pregnancy
Sure, you now have that belly pouch. Now the question left is how you can lose it. Most importantly, how long will it take for you to get rid of it completely? Let’s find out.
First off, you must understand that these are just general guidelines. It’s not assured that everything will happen within the stipulated time frames. Sometimes it may happen earlier or later. Remember, your body is unique, and so is your experience. Don’t beat yourself over the head if the process takes a little longer.
Based on your Body Mass Index (BMI), you should expect to gain anywhere between 5-8 kilograms if you’re expecting one baby. If you’re pregnant with twins, the range is between 11-28 kilograms (11). Make sure to follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to pregnancy weight gain.
However, you will lose some of this weight immediately after delivery. Why is this? Well, for one there’s your baby’s weight that is gone. Then some kilograms are also lost in the amniotic fluid and blood that is shed during delivery.
During the first week, it’s very likely that you’ll be using the bathroom more frequently. You may also find yourself waking up at night soaked in sweat. The increased sweating can be associated with a drop in your pregnancy hormone levels.
You’ll therefore find yourself losing a few kilos by the end of the first month without much hassle (11). 2 weeks later, your uterus will be approaching its original size, making your tummy look flatter.
Breastfeeding can also be very useful in helping you lose weight postpartum. Note that breastfeeding moms use between 400-500 calories in making the full amount of milk most babies need. This is usually within the first 6 months after birth (4).
This study even suggests that most moms who breastfeed exclusively for more than 3 months lose more weight. Ideally, it can take anywhere between 6-8 weeks for your uterus to completely transform back to its original size (6). This is, however, not always the case for all moms.
Now, are you looking for tips for flat tummy after pregnancy? Next, we look at some tricks that’ll help speed things up a bit.
Tips For Getting A Flat Tummy
The postpartum belly can be stubborn. This perhaps has even made you wonder, “can your stomach shrink to its original size postpartum?” Well, with the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits, yes, it can.
Now these guidelines are supposed to help you slim down after pregnancy. Please be aware that it’s imperative that you listen to your doctor’s advice. So don’t make alterations to your health regimen or start exercising before it is okayed by your physician.
Put On A Postpartum Girdle
Using postpartum girdles after delivery has been around for quite some time now. This is likely due to medical-grade tummy binders that are known to kick start your recovery process. So wearing them a day or two after delivery can be of great help.
Some of the more specific benefits of using postpartum girdles include (9):
- They promote blood circulation
- They support your abdominal and back muscles during workout sessions
- Postpartum girdles boost the process of uterus involution and can reduce the pain triggered by it
- They improve your posture
These benefits make them particularly effective at fastening childbirth recovery and getting rid of baby belly fat.
Avoid Junk And Eat Healthy
Taking care of a newborn all day can take quite a toll on you. So it’s not uncommon to crave that parfait or chocolate and completely ignore your healthy dietary patterns. However, you should try as much as possible to resist this urge. The logic is simple. The healthier your food, the better and healthier you’ll feel and be.
That said, this is also not the best time to start a calorie-restricted diet. You need the nutrition to boost your energy levels and help nourish your baby. So to get the right meal plan consult a dietitian. They will help you get the right nutrients nourishing your baby, and boost your energy without risking overconsumption of calories.
Below are some examples of some tasty and healthy snacks you could try out:
- High fiber grains. They will keep your system running smoothly
- Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Stay hydrated
- Yogurt with no added sugars. Sprinkling dried fruit or granola should also do the trick
Here is the general rule: Avoid processed foods, excess sugar, alcohol, and stimulating drinks. Also, adding homemade bone broth to your meals can give you a much-needed nutritional boost. They are a particularly good source of collagen.
Finally, eat more lean and plant-based proteins and healthy fats. They’ll keep you full for longer, so you’ll be able to avoid snacking between meals, lowering the risk of overeating.
Breastfeeding Will Promote Weight Loss
Breastfeeding your baby comes with several benefits. For one, you get to bond together as you provide them with ideal nutrients and strengthen their immune system. That said, breastfeeding also plays an important role in postpartum weight loss.
You can lose as much as 300-500 calories daily when breastfeeding (4). This will ultimately speed up weight loss and, by extension, reduce the after-pregnancy belly pouch.
Get A Postpartum Massage
Sometimes all you need is a little self-care to improve your physical and mental state postpartum. Postpartum massages can help increase blood flow to your abdominal area, which then speeds up your recovery. Additionally, they are an excellent way of dealing with loose skin because massage oils nourish and improve your skin’s elasticity.
This activity can also trigger the release of pleasure hormones like oxytocin that significantly aids involution. So yes, a little self-indulgence will help you shrink your uterus back to its original size.
However, women that underwent c-section need to fully recover before getting massages. It’s advisable that you first get an okay from your doctor before booking an appointment at the massage parlor.
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Try Some Postnatal Fitness
That said, postnatal fitness is crucial. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise for postpartum women (8). Next, we look at how you can safely be proactive if you’re a couple of months postpartum and feeling stronger.
Now, if you’ve been wondering how to get a flat stomach, here’s the trick: Start with workouts that target your abdominal muscles. Also, don’t go for crunches immediately.
It’s normal for your abdominal muscles to stretch out during pregnancies. Eventually, they start healing and repairing themselves. Research, however, indicates that crunches performed too early weaken the connective tissue even more (1). This makes it weaker and thinner, which is not ideal for a string and supportive core.
Therefore, you should first aim to strengthen your deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis. This study of 40 postpartum women with diastasis recti shows just how effective core-strengthening exercises are (2). Now there are several lower ab workouts for women that can help you do that. So you just have to pick the one you’re most comfortable with.
Have you been wondering how to flatten stomach fat postpartum? Pelvic tilts are a particularly good way to start. However, you should first consult your doctor before trying any abs exercises while pregnant and postpartum. Below we look at how you can safely and effectively perform pelvic tilts.
- Lie on your back, then place your feet flat on the floor. Now bend your legs.
- Next, pull your belly button in toward your spine while lifting your pelvis off the floor.
- Now tighten your butt and hold this position for 5 seconds. Aim for about 5 sets of 20 reps.
Other great post pregnancy workouts include:
- Lie on your back, then bend your knees. Ensure your thighs are perpendicular to the floor.
- Use your abs to bring your knees toward your chest.
- Hold the position for 2 counts and perform 10 reps
- Lie on your back and straighten your legs.
- Next, lift both of your legs, then make a scissor motion by lifting and lowering them alternately.
- Perform 15-20 reps.
- Lie down with your forearms placed on the floor.
- Now rise onto your toes and gently suck in your belly.
- Next, tighten your butt and hold this position for 20 seconds. Continue building up as you get stronger.
You should be able to advance to deeper abdominal workouts within 8-12 weeks. Other pregnancy weight loss exercises that’ll help you lose the baby weight include:
- Yoga. These low-impact activities will help you strengthen your mind and body. Always feel free to ask for modifications for certain postures if you’re new to them.
- Walks. This is perhaps the most gentle way of starting your postnatal workouts. Walking will activate your lymphatic system and will help you tone your core muscles safely.
- Core-strengthening exercises. Weakened core muscles can result in reduced mobility and back pains. Strengthening them effectively reduces fat levels in your tummy by building more muscle mass.
So if you’ve been wondering how to tighten stomach fat after pregnancy, the answer is simple. Stay proactive, eat healthy, and most importantly, listen to your doctor.
Navigating pregnancy is not always the easiest thing to do. It’s also normal for your body to undergo some physical changes during this period. Some of them disappear after birth, but for others, it could take some time. Postpartum tummy fat is one such change.
Now, these tips for flat tummy after pregnancy will help speed things up, but remember, it’s a process. Don’t rush your body. Be patient and give it enough time to recover.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effect of exercise on diastasis of the rectus (n.d., pubmed.gov)
- Efficacy of deep core stability exercise program in postpartum women with diastasis recti abdominis: a randomised controlled trial (2019, nih.gov)
- Fetal Development: Stages of Growth (2020, clevelandclinic.org)
- Losing Weight While Breastfeeding (2019, eatright.org)
- Optimizing Postpartum Care (2018, acog.org)
- Physiological Uterine Involution in Primiparous and Multiparous Women: Ultrasound Study (2017, hindawi.com)
- Postpartum Pain Management (n.d., nwh.org)
- Pregnant and Postpartum Women (2020, cdc.gov)
- Randomized controlled trial of abdominal binders for postoperative pain, distress, and blood loss after cesarean delivery (2017, pubmed.gov)
- Treatment Options for Abdominal Rectus Diastasis (2019, frontiersin.org)
- Weight Gain During Pregnancy (2020, acog.org)