It takes time for your abdomen to regain its shape after pregnancy. Your belly may still look round after childbirth and similar to when you were six months pregnant. Hormonal changes and involution of the uterus after birth decrease the size of the postpartum belly. This may happen gradually, and the tummy muscles tighten over time.
Calorie requirements and hormone changes due to breastfeeding can help in uterus involution and weight loss in postpartum. Gentle exercises and a healthy diet could enhance this process. Read this post to know about causes, timelines, and tips to reduce postpartum belly.
What Are The Causes Of Postpartum Belly?
Overstretching of abdominal muscles during pregnancy can cause a saggy appearance of the tummy after childbirth. In addition, some women may experience abdominal rectus diastasis, a condition where the outermost abdominal muscles are separated due to forces stretching linea alba (connective tissue). This can be felt as a bulge in the tummy below the belly button (1).
Extra fluid accumulations in the body decrease steadily during the postpartum period (2). As a result, you may also experience weight loss in postpartum. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to reduce extra pounds gained in pregnancy, and this may also help in uterus involution. You may also try postpartum exercises if there are no health issues after consulting your doctor.
When Does The Postpartum Belly Go In?
The uterus usually contracts and reaches pre-pregnancy size within six to eight weeks after delivery (2). Your belly size can reduce further, and breastfeeding also aids in weight loss. Although some mothers may regain their pre-pregnancy body within a few weeks, it may not happen for most mothers. Linea nigra(dark line) in the tummy and other stretch marks usually fade within a few months after childbirth.
The following factors may play a role in the reduction of the postpartum belly.
- Physical activities and type of exercise
- Amount of weight gained during pregnancy
- Size and shape of tummy before pregnancy
- Less weight gain during pregnancy
- Number of pregnancies
The more the abdomen is stretched during pregnancy, the more time it needs decreases. It may take more time for some mothers to lose weight after childbirth. You may pay more attention to breastfeeding and caring for the baby and yourself in the postpartum period than worrying about immediate weight loss. Even with proper nutrition and exercise, losing a postpartum belly may often take more than six months.
Postpartum Belly Timeline
Mothers can’t reach their pre-pregnancy flat tummy overnight after delivery. Although a few may regain the tummy shape pretty quickly, others may not. Postpartum belly size can change in the following time frames (3).
- After childbirth: Most women look six months pregnant after delivery. Nearly 15 pounds (6.8kg) can be reduced immediately after childbirth. This includes the weight of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. However, the exact amount may vary depending on the baby’s birth weight and amount of amniotic fluid.
- Initial six weeks of postpartum: You may notice a gradual decrease in postpartum weight and belly size during this time since the excess fluid is removed from the body and uterus involutes to its previous size. Approximately one to two pounds (0.45- 0.9 kilogram) weight loss can be seen every month for six months.
- Beyond six weeks of postpartum: Abdominal muscles and skin can be more firm than initial weeks by this time. Although you may not reach pre-pregnancy weight by this time, you can feel changes when the uterus returns to its normal position and size. Most women may reach pre-pregnancy weight by nine months if they eat healthily, exercise, and breastfeed.
How To Make The Postpartum Belly Look Better?
The following tips may help to reduce the size of the postpartum belly and tighten the abdominal muscles.
1. Exclusive breastfeeding
Breastfeeding moms can lose weight easily during postpartum (4). The body requires more calories and nutrients to produce breast milk. Nearly 300 extra calories a day are burned in the initial weeks of postpartum for breastfeeding. In addition to these, hormonal changes in breastfeeding can also boost uterus involution. Reduction in uterus size also reduces the belly size. Gradual weight loss does not impact the breastmilk supply.
2. Healthy diet
A well-balanced, low-calorie diet can help many mothers to lose weight in postpartum. However, fad diets may do more harm than good. Mothers need nutritious foods for breast milk production and to recover from childbirth. So staying away from essential nutrients during this time can cause deficiencies.
You may talk to your doctor or dietician about the calorie requirements based on your weight and activity levels. Including fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich foods, whole grains, and avoiding high-sugar foods, high-fat foods, and junk foods with low nutritional value can help you maintain or lose weight in postpartum.
3. Gentle exercises
Exercises help tone tummy muscles, and you may begin gentle exercises even in the early postpartum weeks. Ask your doctor about the recommendations for postpartum exercises since they can suggest you better based on individual factors such as type of delivery and health status.
You may begin with gentle exercises and gradually increase the intensity. For example, trying pelvic floor exercises can help to tone and tighten the tummy muscles. Pelvic floor exercises could be begun in early postpartum days, even if you had a C-section delivery.
4. Postpartum belly wraps, bands, and other shape wears
Various postpartum shapewear can give the appearance of a reduced tummy. Some women find them comfortable and supportive, while others may not. Although it supports abdominal muscles, the postpartum belly size usually reduces gradually as the uterus size decreases and the muscles become firmer over time.
Most women may not regain exact pre-pregnancy shape even though they reach pre-pregnancy weight. Pregnancy can cause permanent changes in the body, such as a larger waistline, wider hips, and soft belly. So you may keep the fitness goal more realistic to stay healthy in the postpartum period.
Postpartum is a time for mothers to cherish their incredible work of growing and nourishing a new human being. You may learn to accept and enjoy the postpartum belly while gradually saying goodbye to it. Eating healthy, exercising gently, and breastfeeding can help you lose your postpartum belly. Always seek medical advice before trying any diets, supplements, or exercises in the postpartum period to know the best ways for you.
- Treatment Options for Abdominal Rectus Diastasis.
- Breast-feeding and weight loss: What really happens?.
- Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women.