My stomach immediately after having my son had changed a lot from how is was pre-baby. It stuck out a lot, I had zero muscle definition and my waist measured a good few inches larger. All of this is normal and if you are feeling less than happy with your post baby ab situation do not be disheartened, things do go back to normal and there is no reason why (with a bit of hard work) your stomach won’t get back to where is was pre-baby…or even better!
Once I had settled into life with my new baby and my six week post birth check up at the doctors was out of the way I was keen to look up some exercises to tackle my mummy tummy! I started Googling and YouTube searching for different post partum specific workouts. A term that kept popping up again and again was ‘Diastasis recti’, I decided to do a bit of research into what it was. The term Diastasis recti basically describes the separation of the abdominal muscles that can occur during pregnancy. Basically the growing uterus can cause the two parallel bands of muscle that go down the front of the abdomen either side of the belly button to stretch and separate. The condition can cause the ‘pooch’ like appearance the stomach often has after having a baby but it also has other implications associated with it. Back pain, postural and pelvic problems and gastro intestinal symptoms like constipation and bloating can all be caused or worsened by having Diastasis recti. There is a test that you can perform on yourself to see if you have Diastasis recti and to what extent (it can range from mild to severe separation) and if you search for this on YouTube there are various videos guiding you through. HOWEVER if you do suspect that you may have the condition I would recommend seeing your doctor or asking them to check for you at your six week checkup. My doctor did not check for it routinely so it may be best to ask.
Naturally the most tempting thing to do to combat the post partum pooch is to start doing lots of crunches, planks and other ab exercises. But if you do have Diastasis recti this is the worst thing that you could do. Not all ab exercises are suitable to do if you have the condition and some could actually make it worse. The first thing to do is repair the separation and do exercises that will strengthen the core and pelvic floor. For myself I only had Diastasis recti very mildly, but I still began with repairing before progressing on to doing the ab workouts I would have done pre-pregnancy. Seeing as I am not a post partum fitness expert I am in no position to recommend specific exercises however I used several videos that I sourced on YouTube (by professionals!) The two that I personally would recommend are the post partum workouts on ‘Bodyfit by Amy’s’ channel and if you search for Heidi Powell she also has a great workout. I must admit I did find some of the moves a bit too easy and it felt like I wasn’t pushing myself but we need to remember that the body immediately after having a baby is different to how it was pre baby and it is important to start slow and work your way up.
The good news is that the mummy tummy does not have to be a permanent fixture and with some patience and hard work there is no reason why your body can’t look as good or even better than it did pre baby. For myself I felt like my abdomen was almost completely recovered by around four months post baby and my waist was back to its pre baby size. I did exercise regularly before and during my pregnancy and my bump was pretty small and it is important not to compare your journey with anyone elses as everybody is different. I still class my abdominal area as a ‘work in progress’ and I want to get leaner and add more definition, but as I am currently breastfeeding I have to be careful not to lose too much weight. One thing is for sure pregnancy does not ruin your body and you will feel confident and happy again, don’t feel disheartened about how you look immediately after having a baby! Things do get back to normal.