In my role as a woman’s health and fitness specialist, specialising in postnatal exercise I come across many new mums who ask this question!
If you are a first-time mother, you may be a little shocked at how your body looks immediately after giving birth;
What was previously a full, round hard belly now resembles something more like a deflated bundle of skin with no muscle or tone in sight.
What you need to remember is that this is totally normal, and over the first six weeks as your uterus is contracting, so will some of your ‘belly’. The rest will be up to your postnatal exercise and nutrition routine.
So What Happened….?
- Your skin stretched to accommodate your growing baby.
- Your abdominal muscles lengthened and stretched too & you were not able to ‘work’ them via exercise as before.
- The incisions made if you had a C -section procedure may have created a temporary tissue and nerve disconnection between your brain and your tummy muscles which will take time to re-establish and repair
- The mid-point of your abdominal muscles (The Linea Alba) has stretched to accommodate your growing baby.
- Your abdominal area has developed cellulite & is generally wobbly and un-toned.
Is There Any Hope?
Skin can regain its good tone once stretched – it’s pretty elastic but sadly this ‘pinging-back’ mechanism lessens as you age.
Abdominal muscles once stretched, can be strengthened and shortened – ABSOLUTELY!
A ‘disconnected’ C- section tummy can become reconnected and strong again… ABSOLUTELY!
The Linea Alba can regain it’s strength naturally, the closer to your birth the better your chances.
Cellulite has 4 main contributing factors:
- Your hormones (namely excess oestrogen)
- Storage of excess calories as fat
- Storage of toxins in fat cells
- Poor circulation
You can do a few things immediately to help the situation:
- Skin brushing,
- reducing fat intake and calories generally,
- exercising off your fat stores
- cutting out toxins (ie tea coffee, alcohol, processed food).
What Factors Might Slow Your Progress?
- If your pre-pregnancy tummy was already stretched through you being either overweight or previous pregnancies, especially those close together.
- If you’re an older mum, unfortunately collagen production is on the decline but all is not lost.
- If you were a small woman carrying a very big baby and your skin was very over-stretched.
- The further away from your pregnancy you are ie., the older your baby.
- If you had a C-Section versus a Vaginal Birth.
Where Do I Start?
Check for Sensation, Connection, Control & Ability
- How do your tummy muscles feel?
- Can you pull your belly button in and hold it?
- Have you lost any sensation/control compared to before pregnancy?
- When you pull your belly button in deeply towards your spine, can you feel your pelvic floor muscles working?
- When you squeeze and lift up your front pelvic floor muscles (like you are stopping the flow of wee) can you feel your abdominal muscles working?
- Do you feel that your abdominals fail you or are really weakened in any day to day activities?
Generally speaking, you should wait until your six week examination before beginning any postnatal exercise program; However you can start to exercise your pelvic floor and abdominals (with gentle exercises) as soon as you feel ready.
Some recommended postnatal exercises include:
- Yoga and Pilates
- Brisk walking – if you were running previously, you will need to work up to that again – see my blog on running after childbirth
- Strength training Low impact aerobic workouts
It is a good idea to enlist the help of a health professional, such as a personal trainer specialising in women’s health and fitness or woman’s health physiotherapist to help you with your programme.