We’ve all seen the pictures: women just days post-pregnancy who look like they’ve never seen a baby, let alone carried one for nine months. How do they do it? The answer is, they don’t.
The perfect post-baby body is a media myth, one so poignantly revealed in fitness guru Alexa Jean Brown’s 4-week post-pregnancy pictures. If anyone should have a firm, tight stomach a month after giving birth, it would be Brown. The 26-year old Instagram celebrity is known for her home workout videos, but instead, her widely publicized pictures revealed the sagging stomach every mother knows all too well. And these pictures are a clear indicator that we should stop feeling so bad about our own mommy bodies.
That’s not to say that there’s no hope for anyone who wants to lose the baby weight, just that it takes time and patience. If you’re missing your old shape, here how you can get it back – and keep it.
Where’d My Body Go?
Before you try to reshape your mommy body, it helps to understand why it’s so hard to get back in shape after pregnancy. It may seem like you’re just dealing with some weight gain and loose skin, but it’s really more complicated than that. It’s all about two words: diastasis recti.
Did we lose you? It’s okay – this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Diastasis recti just refers to the separation of the abdominal muscles. It can be caused by things other than pregnancy, such as surgery, and there are differing positions and degrees of severity, but it’s a primary cause of your sagging stomach and continued post-pregnancy incontinence. Until you strengthen and close the gap between these muscles, you’ll be stuck with mommy tummy.
The Limits Of Fitness
There are plenty of ways you can strengthen your stomach muscles to make it flatter after pregnancy, but one of the most important things you can do is change your diet and boost your metabolism. That means focusing on resistance training and eating small, frequent meals.
When it comes to exercises, skip the standard crunches – even though they’re painted as the ideal stomach toning exercises. They’re actually not very useful, especially when dealing with diastasis recti. Crunches will put added pressure on the muscles and won’t do much for strengthening or toning.
Though you may be able to get back to your pre-baby weight fairly quickly after pregnancy, especially if you’re breastfeeding, reaching the same weight doesn’t mean you’ll have the same body. That’s why more women than ever are turning to plastic surgery to bridge the gap between their body now and their pre-baby body.
Tummy tucks are particularly common among women who have given birth because the procedure tightens the abdominal muscles – and those whose diastasis recti is restricted to the lower abdomen can get away with a mini abdominoplasty, rather than a more extensive procedure. Some women also couple this surgery with a breast lift and liposuction for full physical rejuvenation.
Remember, it can take up to a year (or more if you had multiples) for the body to return to its pre-pregnancy shape, so don’t jump the gun when deciding on whether or not to have surgery. Let your body make all the natural progress it can, and then decide how to proceed. And if you’re interested in a breast lift or other augmentation procedure, you should wait three to six months after you stop breastfeeding to allow your milk to dry up and the tissue to normalize.
It’s time to let go of the idea that your body will just bounce back after pregnancy and accept that you’re in a time of transformation. Yes, our bodies are resilient, but pregnancy unknits us and the repairs take time, whether they’re natural or surgical in nature.