So you survived pregnancy and childbirth? Any mom will tell you: pregnancy and childbirth is no easy feat, especially if you have a c section. While you are left recovering from the grueling task of growing and birthing a tiny human from your body, you are probably pretty surprised by the state of your tummy after baby. Never fear, mama, you can get rid of that post baby belly naturally even after a c section.
But, it’s important to be realistic. Just because all the celebrities have bikini bodies seconds after giving birth either by c section or naturally, doesn’t mean this is normal. Chances are it will take you much longer to reclaim your flat belly after a c section, and that’s ok. Just because it will take a little time and work, doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
Read on to discover tips and trick to shrink your tummy at home after delivery and beat that c section pooch for good.
Here Is What You’ll Discover in This Article (Click any of the links below to jump to each section):
- What is a C Section
- Why you still look pregnant after birth
- How long it will take to get your belly back to normal
- When and how you can diet safely after birth
- What if I don’t want to wait to shrink my tummy after c section?
- HOME REMEDIES to shrink your tummy after a c section delivery
The Mayo Clinic defines a Caesarean Section or C Section as the surgical delivery of a baby through incisions through the mother’s abdomen and uterus. Though a c section may be scheduled ahead of time, often the need for a c section isn’t known until labor is underway. Common reasons for a c section include:
- Stalled Labor
- Lack of Oxygen to the Baby
- Baby’s Position
- Problems with the Umbilical Cord
- Problems with the Placenta
- Health Concerns that Require a Speedy Delivery
- A History of C Sections
Though as many as 1/3 of all American births take place via C Section and they are a common surgery, they are still a major surgery. Before you even begin to think about loosing the post c section belly, you have to allow yourself ample time to heal and recover.
Having dealt with 9 months of weight gain and a growing belly, you were probably pretty excited to not have a big bump for a belly anymore. Don’t pack your pre-baby jeans for the hospital though. Even though the baby is out, your belly might still look a bit pregnant.
Why is that?
Well, several reasons:
- The uterus still needs to shrink. It takes the uterus 6 to 8 weeks to return to its pre-pregnancy state. During this time, you will likely still look a little pregnant and get to experience the joys of continued contractions as the uterus shrinks. (1)
- You may be retaining fluid from your delivery, especially post caesaran section. C section patients are often pumped full of iv fluids during surgery. These fluids take time to get filtered out of the system.
- You are likely holding on to extra weight. In a healthy pregnancy, doctors urge women to gain between 25 and 35 pounds. While you do lose about 10 pounds during birth between a 7 to 8 pound baby and 2 to 3 pounds of amniotic fluid and blood, that still leaves you with an extra 15 to 25 pounds of added weight remaining. (2)
- You may have developed diastasis recti. Medline Plus defines diastasis recti as a separation between the right side and left side of the abdominal wall. In pregnancy, those abdominal muscles get stretched over a growing baby and uterus and can pull apart or thin. After pregnancy, most women’s abdominal muscles close, but a whooping 30 percent are left with a gap wider than 2 finger widths apart. Aside from having annoying health related concerns associated with this abdominal gap like urinary incontinence and hernias, this gap can make a postpartum belly look worse than it needs to.
Your belly will be doing some heavy duty shrinking in the first few weeks post delivery. The excess fluid should work through your system within a couple weeks, and your uterus will begin to shrink, contributing to a thinning belly with little extra work on your part in the beginning.
Do keep in mind: it took 9 long months to grow your belly to the size it was to house a baby. After birth, whether you deliver vaginally or via c section, it will take your uterus 6 to 8 weeks to shrink down to its pre pregnancy size.
So why does it take so long for your uterus to shrink?
According to Baby Center, by the time you actually go into labor or deliver your bundle of joy via c section, your uterus has expanded to be 15 times heavier and hold 500 times more capacity than it did prior to getting pregnant. Unfortunately, your uterus needs time, often referred to as the 4th trimester, to return to its normal size after all that growth.
Immediately post birth, a doctor or nurse can feel your uterus near your belly button, which is approximately where it is located at 20 weeks pregnant. It takes an entire 2 weeks for your uterus to return completely to the pelvis and still another several weeks for your uterus to reach pre- baby size.
During this time, your belly will continue to have a little bit of a bump.
After the initial 6 to 8 weeks is up, your uterus will have returned to normal and you can begin the process of losing any extra baby weight and toning up your belly in earnest. Be patient with yourself though, it may take almost as long to flatten your belly as it did to grow your bump in the first place.
Most doctors won’t approve a new mom to start doing anything other than very light exercise for 6 weeks after delivery. Post C Section, some doctors recommend waiting 8 weeks or more to let yourself fully heal from your surgery.
According to What to Expect when You’re Expecting, dieting isn’t recommended for first 6 weeks post birth either. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery tax the body quite heavily. A new mom needs all the nutrition she can get to begin to replenish her vitamin and mineral stores.
Patience is key when getting your belly slim after a c section.
It’s is crucial to get your doctor’s ok prior to doing anything more than light exercise post c section.
Now that you’ve been cleared to start exercising and dieting, you probably can’t wait to tone your tummy up after your c section. Follow these 15 tips and tricks and watch your belly shrink away.
No need to wait to start breastfeeding. As soon as your precious bundle of joy is born, you can start breastfeeding. Believe it or not, breastfeeding can actually help flatten your belly. Not only does breastfeeding burn about 500 extra calories per day according to Women’s Health, but it also releases a hormone called oxytocin that stimulates uterine contractions, speeding up your uterus’s return journey to its pelvic home. So how does breastfeeding burn so many calories? Well, the American Pregnancy Association says a breastfeeding mom will secrete 425 and 700 calories into breast milk per day. Because the body does not generally produce this highly specialized milk that includes tons of nutrition for baby, it has to work super hard to do it. To burn roughly the same amount of calories through exercise, a 140 pound woman would have to run a 10 minute mile pace for 45 to 60 minutes every day.
2. USE A POSTPARTUM SUPPORT BELT
Generally within 12 hours of surgery, doctors encourage new moms to get up and move around. Some women find that not having any pressure on the site of the incision is uncomfortable. Others find their abs feel loose and unsupported. To combat this discomfort, some obs actually recommend wearing a postpartum support belt or girdle. The jury is out in the medical community. While some obs swear they help with postpartum discomfort and to compress the uterus, thereby helping it shrink, others think these waist trainers are nothing more than a gimmick. Whether or not it helps shrink your waistline, doctors have been recommending similar belts for a long time to people with back pain due to weakened abdominal muscles. (3)
3. EAT RIGHT
While dieting isn’t recommended during the initial postpartum recovery period, it is always a good idea for your health and for your belly to eat healthy. Fill your plate up with nutritious fare and avoid empty calories. Snack sensibly and don’t pick junk when you could have a handful of nuts, veggies with hummus or some whole milk dairy to get a healthy bite between meals. Don’t drastically cut your calories, especially if you are breastfeeding. Remember your body needs an extra 300 to 500 calories per day to sustain your milk supply. To calculate your new caloric needs, check out this calculator for nursing moms. For a sensible diet plan, check out the 1700 calorie diet, but remember your body may need a few extra calories.
4. GET SOME EXERCISE
Though you won’t be cleared for heavier exercise until 8 weeks after your c section, you can start by doing some light walking each day as soon as you feel up to it. Don’t push yourself too hard, especially in the beginning. After the initial recovery period, you can begin to do some other exercises. Remember to go easy on yourself and follow these tips for postpartum exercise: Easy does it. Even after the initial waiting time, you will likely not be back to your pre-pregnancy self. Take it slow and work up to your pre-pregnancy fitness level as you can. Check yourself for diastasis recti. If you do have the abdominal separation, doing traditional ab exercises can actually make the separation worse and exacerbate the post baby pooch. To check yourself for diastasis recti, lie on your back and gently lift your shoulders off the floor, bringing your rib cage closer to your pelvis. If you feel a gap in your midline that is wider than 2 finger widths wide when your abs are contracted, you likely have diastasis recti. If you find that you have abdominal separation, avoid certain exercises that stretch your abdominal wall like the yoga pose cobra. Additionally avoid lifting heavy objects or any exercise that flexes the upper spine off the floor or causes the abdominal wall to bulge like a traditional crunch, bicycle crunch, or oblique sit up.Instead, try these exercises to heal your diastasis recti and gently close the gap in your abdominal wall:
– abdominal compressions
– pelvic tilts
– toe taps and heel slides
– single-leg stretches
Remember to perform these exercises with proper posture and always keep the belly pulled in. Closing the gap will both build strength in the core and pull your waistline in, beating the baby bulge. To get started with these healing ab exercises, check out this video:
5. HYDRATE YOURSELF
Not only do breastfeeding moms need extra water to make milk, but drinking enough water and eating enough fruits and veggies with a high water content may help fight belly fat. Water fills up your belly so you are less likely to mindlessly snack when you aren’t hungry. Plus studies show a correlation between obesity and hydration. The better hydrated you are, the less likely you are to be obese (4). If water isn’t your favorite beverage, try jazzing it up by adding some lemon or lime or some fresh mint. You can also sip on green tea for a metabolism boosting shot of hydration. You can also nosh on snacks with a high water content like watermelon, cucumber, celery, and lettuce.
6. TRY A SMART CLEANSE
No this doesn’t mean try a fad diet or a lemon water cleanse. This simply means go for a few days and cut out all junk while filling up on fresh veggies and fruits and drinking lots of water. Eating a diet rich in fiber and nutrients while drinking plenty of water and green tea will get your digestive system moving to promote regularity and flush any toxins out of your system.
7. STOCK HEALTHY SNACKS
8. MINIMIZE STRETCH MARKS
While stretch marks don’t directly contribute to a loose tummy after a c section, they can make you feel like the problem is magnified. While there is no way to totally get stretch marks to disappear, rubbing cocoa butter on them can lessen the appearance of stretch marks and help speed up the process of fading them. Plus the act of massaging the lotion onto your belly will help break up any fluid that has accumulated.
9. GO ON A BRISK WALK
Cardio helps burn through belly fat. In the beginning days of motherhood, you might not feel up to doing an aerobic class or going on a run, but taking a walk can help you get moving and flatten your belly post baby. As you feel up to it and the doctor, pick up the pace and burn through that lingering belly fat by going on at least 3 brisk walks per week. Art Weltman, PhD, director of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia tells Health, “Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss.”New moms can take advantage of extra calorie burn. Baby wearing while briskly walking or pushing your little bundle of joy in a stroller will up the resistance and burn more calories.
10. START EARLY
Just because you are supposed to take it easy for a few weeks after delivery and allow yourself ample time to recover, doesn’t mean you should totally ignore your diet and exercise habits. Until the doctor clears you to start working out, go on light walks and make sure to choose healthy food over empty junk food. Making healthy choices from the start will set you up for flat belly success much sooner.
11. INCLUDE BABY
Many new moms struggle to find the time to work out while tending to their new baby. Instead of trying to cram a workout in while your little one sleeps, check out a workout you can do with baby. Go on a walk with your baby, use your baby as resistance and get in some weight training, or check out your local gym. Many gyms offer programs like Stroller Strides designed to get new moms back in tip top shape while including baby in the workout. You can also check out some at home workouts you can do with baby here.
12. KEEP A FOOD AND EXERCISE LOG
Write down everything you eat and portions. Keeping a journal makes you more likely to stay accountable and keep the weight off. Studies show that people that log their meals and workouts are more likely to loose more weight and more likely to keep it off than those who do not. (5)
13. MAKE EXERCISE ENJOYABLE
Find something you like to do for exercise. By picking an activity you like, you are more likely to make it a priority and fit it in regularly. Plus choosing an exercise routine you enjoy gives new moms much needed me time while working towards the goal of a flat belly after a c section.
14. TRY A MASSAGE
Not only is a massage a well deserved break for a tired new mom, but a massage can help break up belly fat and flatten your tummy post baby. Massage helps stimulate lymph nodes and break up stagnant fluid. When the fluid is dispersed, the body can process it better and help it diminish. This loss in fluid results in a loss of waist circumference and a flatter looking tummy. (6)
15. BE PREPARED
If you start to prepare for your flat belly before your little one is born, you will have a head start to getting your belly flat again. So how can you prepare to get back in shape while you’re still pregnant? Stay active during your pregnancy and continue to exercise if your doctor allows it. When you make freezer meals ahead of the baby’s birth, choose healthy freezer meals, like crock pot chicken and veggies, over unhealthy casseroles.
Yes, getting rid of your post c section tummy is possible with a little hard work and a lot of patience. While it seems like every celebrity gives birth and is immediately bikini ready, the reality is different. Before you should even begin worrying about your tummy, you need to allow yourself ample time to heal and recovery from pregnancy, birth, and major surgery.