The answer is yes…and no. So many changes take place to your body after you have a baby. For some the changes are subtle, for others they are extreme. This all depends on genetics and lifestyle.
Here are a few changes you can expect that may or may not be permanent, depending on those factors:
After baby, you may have some loose skin around your midsection. It will be more profound at first, then tighten up over the first year postpartum. Some women have greater elasticity in their skin and you may not even be able to tell they’ve had a baby. Some women, like me, have less elasticity and the skin will stay loose. Sticking with a healthy lifestyle from the very beginning of pregnancy can lessen the severity of this. Drinking lots of water, using coconut oil on your skin daily, and gaining weight slowly will help improve your skin elasticity. No amount of sit-ups or crunches will tighten up this skin once it has been stretched. Even when I had six pack abs before this pregnancy, the skin was loose from my first three babies. It didn’t stop me from wearing a two-piece at the beach 🙂
Pregnant women experience a separation of the abdominal muscles towards the end of pregnancy when the growing uterus stretches against them. The problem usually corrects itself within the first year following birth, however sometimes the separation does not close completely, leaving a little tummy bulge. To help heal the separation, there are a few exercises you can try:
- Core contractions – seated in a chair sitting straight up, pull your belly button in towards your spine, contracting your core for 30 seconds. Repeat 10x.
- Kegels – Just like when you were pregnant, continuing these exercises will help to strengthen your pelvic floor. If you’ve never done a kegel, stop your stream of urine while you’re using the restroom – these are the same muscles you will squeeze to do a kegel. Do these for about 10 minutes a day. I usually do them while I watch tv at night.
- If you do have diastasis, AVOID all crunches or any other exercise that makes your abs stick out, like a cone shape. This can actually make it worse.
Mostly genetic, however, just like loose skin, you can minimize stretch marks by following a clean diet and not gaining weight too quickly. You may also be able to help prevent stretch marks by keeping your belly, thighs, and breasts slathered in coconut oil. These will appear red at first but over time will fade and look like scars.
You’ll probably put on fat in your thighs, rear, and arms when you are pregnant, and if you breastfeed, some women will continue to store extra fat in these areas. If you follow a healthy diet and stay active during pregnancy, you can minimize the amount of extra fat you store. Once you have the baby, beware of following a diet TOO low in calories, as it will actually trigger your body to hold onto that fat for dear life, because it will assume you are experiencing famine.
You absolutely can lose body fat postpartum. Exercise daily, stick to a mostly clean diet full of protein, fruits, veggies, healthy fats and complex carbs, and have some patience. If you’re breastfeeding you will probably fall into one of two categories: the mom who loses her baby weight seemingly immediately because of nursing, or the mom whose body doesn’t want to let the last 10 pounds go until nursing is over. This is yet another hormonal safeguard that is in place to keep a calorie reserve for the baby. If you really want to lose those last few pounds of fat, you can try adding in some high intensity interval training (HIIT) to your workouts (example – try doing 5 or 6 sprints once a week), cut your calories a little bit more (no more than 50-100 at a time while nursing) or lowering the amount of starch you’re eating daily. Read more about breastfeeding and fat loss here.
Around 4 months postpartum, your hormones will change once again, and you should experience a period of increased metabolism.
Whether or not you breastfeed, your breasts are going to be somewhat different post-pregnancy. They likely increased in size over the nine months, preparing for breastfeeding. And once your milk comes in, they will swell up once again. This can take a toll on the skin that once held your breasts so firmly in place, making them a little bit less buoyant. Wear a good-fitting bra during your pregnancy, and find an excellent nursing bra, and this should help minimize the stretching of the skin. Coconut oil rubbed on the breasts can help too.
Maybe it’s because I was 37 years old this time around, but I’m actually really tired of seeing women being held to any body standard after they have a baby. So many new moms are killing themselves with exercise they hate and diets they despise just because the message has been placed in their heads over and over again that only one type of body is acceptable, both before and after pregnancy. It has been so programmed into us that many of us have never even really examined why we’re working so hard to fit that body type. You know what I say?
Our bodies are INCREDIBLE. We make HUMANS. We should be celebrating stretch marks and tummies and boobs and start changing our attitudes towards the post-baby body. In my opinion, my body is better after four babies. I’ve been able to get in great shape, the best shape of my life, and I’m also completely in awe of what my body was able to do during pregnancy and childbirth. My stretch marks, loose skin and breasts are my medals of honor, my precious momentos of what my body accomplished, and I’m not letting anyone take away from that.
Love yourself and take care of yourself. Find the exercise that makes you feel strong and proud but is fun too. Eat the healthiest foods that nourish you and make you feel great, but that you love to eat too. Your best body will be the result of this.