Post-Baby Body: How to Tighten Skin After Pregnancy
byAndrea CespedesSep 24, 2014
As any pregnant woman knows, giving birth doesn't return the body to its pre-pregnancy condition. Hormones continue to rage, soreness sets in and, even though baby is out, your body still looks like it may be harboring an extra human. In the first 6 to 8 weeks post-pregnancy, accept that your body is readjusting and will take time to shrink down. But, once your doctor has cleared you for exercise, you may get started on reducing the extra flab and skin resulting from your pregnancy.
How much work you must do depends on how much weight you gained during pregnancy, your genes, your normal body size and whether you exercised before giving birth.
Your belly took
nine months to expand and carry a baby; give it some time to shrink back.
Remember that abdominal exercises and skin-perfecting creams won't do much if
you still have pounds to lose. Cardiovascular exercise done at least 30 minutes
per day, five times per week, or more, can help you burn calories to lose
Breastfeeding also helps you burn more calories daily to reduce excess pounds
as does a diet that reduces calories below what you burn and consists of
nutritious, whole, natural foods to fuel healing and breast feeding.
"Exercise is important, but that covers about 30 percent of accomplishing
your fitness goals," notes Jerod Langness, elite National Academy of
Sports Medicine trainer. "The other 70 percent is getting proper nutrition
and recovery. For you to truly have healthy changes that stick, you have to
improve the other 23 hours of your day when you're not exercising. How you eat,
how you handle stress, and how you sleep are vital to getting the results you
are looking for."
Avoid crash diets or consuming fewer than 1,600 calories per day. These tactics
may leave you nutritionally bereft, especially if you're still breastfeeding.
"The best approach for getting the best overall results is to take it on
as a lifestyle change, and not a temporary fix," Langness says.
Before you start
targeted abdominal toning, make sure you don't have a common condition known as
diastus recti. In this situation, the muscles of the right and left side of the
rectus abdominus separate—making it look like you are still several months pregnant.
It might appear as loose skin, a ridge or pooch—and conventional abdominal
exercises such as crunches and sit ups can make it worse.
Your doctor can easily let you know if you have this condition. If so, surgery
may be recommended, although abdominal exercise, postural work and wearing
corset-like undergarments may help, found a meta-analysis published in a 2014
issue of Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects.
Target the Core
If you've lost
the baby weight—hopefully through a sustainable, moderate-calorie diet and
exercise adjustments—and are cleared of diastus recti, but the skin is
pooching and sagging, then it's time to do some targeted exercising to tighten
the area up. Toning the internal abdominal muscles, such as the transverse
abdominus, can help because they wrap horizontally and hold you in like a
Hip bridges, side planks, reverse crunches and bird dogs—in which you kneel
on all fours and raise opposite arms and legs—are valuable, the IDEA Health
and Fitness Association notes. Perform these moves at least three times per
week on non-consecutive days for 10 to 15 repetitions; or for three to five 10-
to 15-second holds for the side plank. A regular mat Pilates class also focuses
on these internal muscles; try it at least twice per week for the most
In addition, moves such as squats—add weight by holding your baby—and
resistance-band rear deltoid flyes and rows also work the stabilizing muscles
of the core as well as your total body. Do these also about three times per
week for 10 to 15 repetitions.
"The exercises that will have the biggest impact in regard to making the
biggest change are the ones that recruit the largest muscles and the most
amount of muscles at one time. Our legs are the largest muscle group in our
bodies, followed by our back muscles and chest muscles," Langness
explains.The back exercises will also help build your muscles to deal with the
strain of carrying baby and constantly picking up bassinets and car seats.
Even if you
exercise, diet or resort to a risky, scar-inducing postpartum tummy tuck, don't
expect your abdominal skin to look exactly like it did before you had a child.
Your skin has stretched to accommodate extra weight and a baby—it is now
different. "It is challenging to truly make everything disappear,"
Langness says, "but in my experience, I have seen women become so fit that
these minor imperfections go virtually unnoticed by everyone but the mom who
Undergarments that help hold you in may be an alternative under clothing while
you wait for exercise and diet to help. Today's versions are breathable and
more comfortable than the clunky girdles of years past. Remember too, aids that
promise immediate, easy results—such as jiggling ab belts and magic
stomach-tightening gels—are unlikely to be effective. Good old-fashioned hard
work and time will help your belly return to a flatter state.