Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian and me all have that post-baby belly! We all have it, and expectations set forth by the media are R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S.
Kate, what great class you have, you are a true princess. And Kim K, I am sorry the media tore you apart, shame on them.
Your uterus shrinks about a finger’s width every day. In five to six weeks, your uterus will return to pre-pregnancy size. That means in that time it will from the size of a watermelon to the size of an orange. Pretty impressive, right? Your body is remarkably adaptable and your recovery to pre-pregnancy hormone levels, uterus size, etc. is postpartum miracle and your core muscles are just as adaptable. Your body is a machine in the several weeks following birth. But you do need to help that miracle along.
So what can you do?
A woman should not begin exercise until she has permission from her OB to begin exercise, which is usually during the postpartum checkup at 4 or 6 weeks postpartum. Whether childbirth was through vaginal delivery or c-section exercise can be resumed gradually. Although a c-section may take a little longer to recover, considering it is a major surgery. But you can get your stomach back since c-sections do not cut through the muscles like the once did (doctors now perform bikini cut incisions).
While in the 4-6 week postpartum period a mom can do some inner core movements to activate her core muscles. Moves that include the pelvic floor and transverse abdmoninis muscle, like pelvic tilts, kegels and transverse activation. Check out some pelvic floor moves here.
If a mom gained the recommended amount of weight (which was set forward by the Institute of Medicine in 2009) she can get her body back by the 5/6 months mark. At 6 weeks a mom’s body is back to “normal”, and mom is left with loose muscles and loose skin.
Bouncing back to her former self is possible. But mom has to be consistent in both exercise and nutrition. A mom is asked to gain 15-35 lbs over the course of 9 months and that is a significant amount of weight to lose. The good news is 7-8 lbs will go when the baby is born and over the course of the next 6 weeks a few more pounds. But the rest is up to mom! So I suggest when mom gets the green light at 6 weeks it is time to be consistent, work out at least 4x/week. The good news is with all the new research on exercise you can burn a significant amount of calories in 20-30 minutes. The first months should focus on re-training the core muscles, progressive workout routines (specific to the postnatal body) and making it part of the new daily life. Then around 12 weeks mom should be able to get back to her pre-pregnancy routine.
Expectations of having your body back any time before the 6 month mark are quite unreasonable. As moms we have a lot to juggle!