What is the deal with the belly? And what can I do about it?

October 20, 2010

Last month we talked about the stages of recovery after c-section surgery, the month before that c-section scaring and the month before that I introduced myself and explained that I was going to be writing a 5 part series (one post a month) on the topic of cesarean recovery.  Below is part 3 of 5, enjoy!

What is the deal with the belly? And what can I do about it?

The baby is out and cuddled in your arms and you wonder…did they forget something? Why do I still look 6 months pregnant?!

There are a few reasons new moms still carry some belly post partum. Here they are:

  • Uterus: That amazing organ stretches from the size of a big lemon to the size of a watermelon. Once the baby is out, whether by vaginal or c-section delivery, the uterus contracts and shrinks to GRADUALLY go back down to size. That full process takes 6 weeks.  So, the shrinking uterus is part of the reason that you look like you are ready to attend your own baby shower, not bring a baby home. So, be patient with a gradual return to size.
  • Fluid retention: Of the 30# average weight gain, about 8# is baby, 8# is uterus and placenta, 8# is fluid and 6# is fat/weight gain. A lot of that comes out with baby, but plenty of the fluid and the weight gain is held on to longer. C-section moms will have even more fluid retention due to fluids given inter-operatively. C-section moms will also have some tummy area swelling from the work they do inside the abdominal area during surgery. Again, another reason to allow some time.
  • Stretched abdominals: Another part of mama that takes a hit! Stretched and sometimes split ( abdominal diastasis), the abs are lengthened, making them somewhat less effective in sucking it all in.

So not all baby fat–good to know!

There are a few things you can do about the baby belly.

  • Wear really big clothes and admire Bottichelli paintings rather than reading Vogue. NEVER open an In-Style magazine that features a celebrity mom.
  • Use support early on to flush out fluids. All those devices that are “getting the belly back” are really mostly getting the water out and holding in that amazing uterus.  For c-section moms, support helps control swelling too. Think about it, if it was that easy to wrap up and get skinny, we would have done it BEFORE we got pregnant!  So, support methods like binders, compression panties and wraps are fine to use, but just know support is  helping nature along on those early weeks not performing a magic act.
  • Use support to help weak muscles. Again, this passive support is helpful but not a cure-all.  Active shortening (exercise) is very different from passive shortening (wrapping it all in). Support feels good and does prevent weak muscles from hanging or keeps a diastasis supported, it won’t, however, change how a muscle fiber works which is what you need to tighten.
  • Gradually shorten muscle fibers.  The best way for this is exercise. With exercise limited for period post-partum, it is best to start slowly and with help from the literature, a trainer or your MD on how to actively shorten and tighten that tummy again. Goes without saying, best done with cardio. There are great post-baby DVDs out there too. Only start exercise after MD approval since hormones effect muscles, joints and ligaments.
  • Don’t even start to call it a belly until at least 6 weeks. Remember, that first 6 weeks you are still dealing with uterus and fluid. For up to 12 weeks, muscles are naturally accommodating and shortening.  C-moms can also have mild swelling up to 12 weeks. Gradual weight loss and toning is the way to go!

Catherine Brooks OTR, MPH
M. Meunier MD,

C-Panty CEO and Consultant: 18 years of experience in post-surgical rehabilitation in New York City and San Diego and five even more challenging and exciting years of experience as a mom of a three. (All by cesarean, of course!)

“Recover in Comfort” series will address all those things you ever ( or never!) ever wanted to know about c-section delivery.

What is the deal with the belly? And what can I do about it? appeared first on Mom4Life Blog.

Leave a comment