Losing that pregnancy belly after childbirth is not always an easy task and contrary to what you may think it is not all fat. It can be extremely frustrating for mothers who have otherwise had a relatively flat tummy and now have to battle with the post-pregnancy bulges. However, it is not impossible to reduce the belly with time but any measure that a mother takes must not compromise her health or that of baby.
What is the pregnancy belly?
It is normal for a woman’s belly to expand during pregnancy as it caters for the expanding uterus containing the growing fetus. There is also some degree of fat accumulation due to the effect of pregnancy hormones, increased appetite and less active lifestyle. However, this extra fat is not entirely unhealthy for a mother or the growing baby provided that it is not excessive. It is also a largely unavoidable occurrence and some women who choose to diet during pregnancy may be putting their baby in harm’s way by attempting to avoid a completely natural physiological process.
The ‘flatness’ of the belly is not only determined by abdominal fat. It is also dependent on the conditioning of the abdominal muscles (tautness) and distension due to internal factor like fluid accumulation. With pregnancy the main internal factor is the enlarging uterus. The abdominal muscles are also affected as the pregnancy hormones reduces its tautness. This allows it to stretch as the abdomen enlarges in line with the growing fetus during the course of pregnancy.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Exercise has known health benefits, whether you are pregnant or not. Provided that a woman does not have any pregnancy complications and her doctor gives her approval to exercise during pregnancy, there is no reason not to workout on a regular basis. However, it is important to note that the workouts may have to be changed during pregnancy so as not to risk the mother’s or baby’s health. While exercise is advisable to some extent, it should not be done for the wrong reasons.
Some women exercise to hide or reverse some of the physiological changes in the body that occur with pregnancy. This is not advisable. It can put baby and mother at risk. Exercising during pregnancy should be done for its general health benefits and to limit excessive weight gain but not specifically to counter the moderate weight gain that occurs during a healthy pregnancy. It is even more dangerous when accompanied by strict dieting that may lead to nutritional deficiencies which can compromise the baby’s development in the uterus.
Tummy Flab After Baby
Once baby is born the tummy does not immediately return to its original form. The distension of the abdomen is not entirely due to the size of the baby as the abdominal organs are also compresses to cater for the enlarged uterus. It takes weeks to months for the muscles to return to its original tautness and for the reduction of the additional fat accumulated during pregnancy. Exercise and calorie restriction can help to speed up the process but it needs to be done carefully.
It is important to remember that the mother’s body is recovering from a nine-month strain physically and nutritionally and especially when there was a Cesarean section (C-section) there is a prolonged period of recovery after childbirth. Furthermore there is the added demand of baby’s nutritional requirements for breastfeeding mothers. Attempting to undertake extreme dieting to rapidly lose pregnancy weight gain and reduce belly fat can therefore harm both mother and baby.
How to Lose Pregnancy Belly
Losing the pregnancy belly is not easy and does not occur overnight but it is possible. There is no truth to myths that the belly cannot return to pre-pregnancy form or that breastfeeding after childbirth will prevent weight loss. In fact with regards to the latter, the contrary is true. Women may find that it is easier to lose weight by breastfeeding due to the baby consuming a portion of the mother’s calorie intake. However, weight gain will only be possible if mothers control their calorie intake to a sufficient degree for both their needs and that of baby. It is always advisable to consult with doctor and registered dietitian for any weight loss program.
Here are some of the ways to lose weight after childbirth:
- Eat moderately. You are no longer ‘eating for two’ – a myth that encourages pregnant women to overeat in the first place. While the growing fetus and newborn baby will require nutrition, it will not be to the same level as that of an adult. Do not restrict your calories excessively but a dietitian will be able to tell you how many calories you need to consume for both you and baby.
- Avoid starving yourself. If you are breastfeeding it can affect breast milk production and therefore affect baby’s growth and development. It can also contribute to weight gain as the body starts to store calories as fat on successive meals rather than using it immediately.
- Do not start exercising immediately after childbirth. Your body is still recovering from pregnancy and childbirth so take a few days to weeks to rest. If you had a C-section then you should avoid abdominal exercises for several weeks until the wound fully heals. Always get your doctor’s approval before starting with any exercise regimen.
- Move around with regular duties. While you should not start exercising immediately, do not become sedentary either. Ideally you should be up on your feet a day after childbirth even if it is just walking to the bathroom. Daily activities can help to speed up pregnancy weight loss.
- Do not target the abs specifically. Once your doctor gives you the approval to start exercising you need to choose your workouts carefully. While ab exercises will strengthen the abdominal muscles and help it to tighten, you also need other activities to lose the fat. Walking, stepping and jogging burn calories, use muscles in many parts of the body and also works out the abs.