Pregnancy Belly: The Proverbial Jelly Belly

November 6, 2008

Will My Tummy Ever Be Normal Again? The Pregnancy Belly

The euphoria of having experienced the birth of your baby is ebbing away and the reality of sleeplessness and a body that doesn't look like it used to has begun to set in. It can be hard not to become disconcerted or a little bit depressed over the fact that some people are still asking you when your baby is due. What happened to your tummy and how long is it going to take before it goes back to normal?

It Takes Time After Pregnancy

There's a saying that goes something like this, "It takes nine months to have a baby and a year to get your body back to normal." A year! You probably didn't want to hear that. And, what about those women who have a baby and leave the hospital in their slim jeans? Consider that many of those women who leave the hospital in their slim jeans were probably tiny, very fit and quite young to begin with - so give yourself a break.

When you are pregnant your uterus grows with your baby, stretching to accommodate his presence and growth. Your belly extends as do the muscles and tissues that stretch right along with your uterus. After the baby is born, those muscles don't contract as quickly as a rubber band does. So, you are left with stretched muscles and loose skin.

The stomach muscles, which are often referred to as the "six pack" (really called abdominus recti), often become separated during pregnancy. Most women experience this and never know about it. A few women do not have the separation of muscle - although that is not common. The separation is caused by forceful movement in the area of the navel, which tends to be a weak spot on the body. As the uterus presses against this spot during pregnancy, the muscles stretch so far that they separate. This is called diastasis recti.

Here's a test to tell whether you have diastasis recti. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels tucked in close to your tush, feet flat on the floor. Place the index and middle fingers of one hand on your belly right under your belly button. Lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor as if you are doing a crunch and hold that position as you press down on your belly with your fingers. You should feel hard muscle on either side of your fingers with a soft spot in the center. If you can move your fingers more than two fingers' width from side to side, then you have a separation.

If you have diastasis recti it isn't terminal. You can do some special abdominal exercises, which you can learn about from a personal trainer or a group fitness leader who works especially with post-partum women, which will correct the problem. By being diligent with the exercises and ensuring you are eating a well balanced, healthy diet, your jelly belly should tighten up relatively quickly.

Be kind to yourself. You've just had a baby. If you are one of those women who does not have a separation, then exercise and diet is also the recommended procedure to get that belly back into shape.

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