Postpartum Belly: Timeline And When Will It Go Away?

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The postpartum belly does not return to its pre-pregnancy shape immediately after childbirth. Soon after delivery, it may look round and appear as if you are six months pregnant. Hormonal changes and involution of the uterus are the two major factors that help in decreasing the size of the postpartum belly. The process is slow, and the tummy tightening may require some time.

Uterus involution and postpartum weight loss depend on the body’s calorie requirements and hormone changes during breastfeeding. Gentle exercises and a healthy diet may help hasten this process.

Learn more about when the postpartum belly will reduce and some tips to speed up the process.

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 should 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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When should I start wearing a postpartum belly wrap?

If you have had a vaginal delivery, you may start wearing a postpartum belly wrap after two to four days of delivery. If you have had a C-section, you may wear the wrap after ten days to two weeks (5).

2. Does postpartum belly wrapping work?

Postpartum belly wrapping may support your hips, pelvic area, and back, improving your posture and making you stand taller. If you have had a C-section, a belly wrap may also support your incision as it heals (5) (6).

3. How long should I wear a postpartum belly wrap?

Most women wear a postpartum belly wrap for six weeks after delivery to support their healing and posture (5).

Postpartum should be 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.

Key Pointers

  • Postpartum belly looks saggy after childbirth due to overstretching of the abdominal muscles and a condition called rectus diastasis.
  • The uterus reaches its pre-pregnancy stage six to two weeks after delivery, whereas the belly size reduces gradually.
  • Some factors that may affect postpartum belly reduction are physical activities, breastfeeding, and the number of pregnancies.
  • A healthy diet and gentle exercises may help tighten the abdominal muscles.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Treatment Options for Abdominal Rectus Diastasis.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6877697/
  2. Physiology
    Postpartum Changes.
  3. Breast-feeding and weight loss: What really happens?.
    https://www.stclair.org/services/mayo-clinic-health-information/faqs/FAQ-20094993/
  4. Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312189/
  5. The Benefits of Postpartum Belly Binding.
    https://www.newlifebirthservices.org/new-life-blog/2020/4/14/the-benefits-of-postpartum-belly-binding
  6. Postpartum Belly Wraps: Purpose Types Benefits & Risks.
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/postpartum-belly-wrap/
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Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more

Dr. Karla S. Sanchez-Banos

(MD)
Dr. Karla S. Sanchez-Banos is a board-licensed Ob/Gyn in Mexico, specializing in Adolescent Gynecology. She is also trained in Gynecological Endocrinology, granted by AMEGIN (Gynecological Endocrinology Mexican Association). Her decade-old experience includes scientific research in teen pregnancy and the use of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods in the adolescent age group.  Dr. Karla currently works in two private medical centers in... more

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