What will my stomach look like after birth?

The stomach does a lot of the heavy lifting during pregnancy, and for most new moms, that means it needs a bit of recovery time before their abdomens look the way they want them to after giving birth.

Between celebrity mom pictures and the occasional true story of a friend, it can be easy to feel inadequate if it takes your body a little time to bounce back, but it’s a totally normal response to the huge range of changes your body has gone through over the past few months.

Why doesn’t it shrink right away?

  • Your uterus: During the course of your pregnancy, your uterus grows from about the size of an orange to the size of a watermelon in order to accommodate Baby. Although it starts to shrink as soon as you give birth, it takes some time to complete the process. 
  • Water retention: A lot of the weight you’ll still have will be water weight from retention during pregnancy. This may be even more of a factor if you have a C-section, since there are often additional fluids given through IV. Most women lose this water weight naturally, and it can help to stay hydrated and to lower your sodium intake slightly. This sounds kind of counter-intuitive, but your body is more likely to hold onto water if you’re not getting enough of it.
  • Diastasis recti: In some cases, pregnancy can cause the muscles in your abdomen that usually lie side by side, running vertically down your stomach, to separate, creating a bulge. Diastasis recti can be treated with physical therapy, though some effects can last a year or longer. Diastasis recti is most common in birthing situations that put higher stress on the abdomen, like multiples, high birth weight babies, pregnancies with mothers over 35, or repeated pregnancies.

What will it look like?

Your abdomen is going to be smaller than it was while you were pregnant because you’re one baby lighter, but for the reasons stated above, it might not be as small as you might expect. New moms are often told that they should prepare to still look about six months pregnant when they leave the hospital. As your body is adjusting and shrinking, your midsection might look a little loose or have a flappy appearance. That’s totally natural and something pretty much every mom has experienced. You might also have some new stretch marks and a different skin texture than you had before pregnancy.

When will it start to go back to normal?

As soon as you give birth, your belly will start get smaller, but it’s not the fastest process. It took about nine months to gain the weight you needed to support Baby, so your belly won’t go back to normal right away. You’ll be losing water weight and burning calories taking care of your little one, and many women lose half of the weight they gained during pregnancy in the first six weeks postpartum. That weight, as you know, is mostly in your midsection.

Staying active and maintaining a healthy diet will help the pounds come off, but you shouldn’t worry about actively trying to lose the weight until your postpartum checkup. With an active lifestyle, your belly should return mostly to normal after a few months. The skin might not be as tight as it was before, and some stretch marks might stick around, but these things will become less noticeable over time.

Is there anything I can do?

Staying active and keeping a balanced diet is the solution for many things, and this is no exception. Some women find that creams or lotions can help tighten skin or reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but there’s no real cure for stretch mark indentation or loose skin. Building muscle through exercise can help get you to a flatter stomach, and staying hydrated is always good for your skin!

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Weight loss after pregnancy: Reclaiming your body.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. July 31, 2015. Web.
  • “Losing weight after pregnancy.” University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland Medical Systems. August 16, 2012. Web.
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