Getting your belly back after baby

Okay. There's no easy, painless way to do this.

So let's just pull the band-aid off quickly, shall we??

Phew. Okay. I have now officially done it ALL on this blog (Labor story in extreme detail? CHECK. One week post-partum bare belly photo? CHECK.)

(But note: I wore all black for a"slimming effect".)

(Too bad all it slimmed was my flat, flat behind.)

Truth be told, I'm actually a little stunned that I look like this one week post partum. In a good way. Because after Zoe was born I looked 7 months pregnant. FOR ABOUT A MONTH. So to have had a 10 lb baby and look only 4 months pregnant a week later feels a bit like success. (I'm sure all women reading who have never been post partum are a bit horrified by this picture while most women who've had a baby KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. Unless, of course, you are Heidi Klum, in which case, OMG HI HEIDI.)

But I digress.....

Where were we? Oh right. How do we go about regaining our prepregnant posture, supporting our backs and looking NOT PREGNANT, possibly even HOTTTT, after having a baby (or two)?

I am a Pilates trainer. I got my body in decent shape after one baby. I have helped numerous women get in shape after having a baby. So I'm about to practice what I preach. And you poor suckers lucky people get to come along for the ride!

First thing you need to know when trying to get your belly back in shape after having a baby is whether you had a c section or a vaginal delivery. (Duh.) If you had a c section, you're going to have to wait to get your doctor's okay before performing any exercises. If you had a vaginal delivery, you can pretty much have at it as soon as you feel ready.

(All people who are going to attempt to follow my advice should get their head examined doctor's okay first, I'm not a doctor, please sign waiver here, BLAH BLAH BLAH.)

Next, you need to find out if you have a diastasis recti. A diastasis recti is the splitting of your "6 pack" abdominal muscles into two halves. While all pregnant women stretch out these muscles during pregnancy, some of us actually split them into vertical halves (lucky us!). You can check, and correct, for one at any time post partum, even years later.

Checking for Diastasis Recti
*Lie down on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
*Place your fingertips on your belly right at the midline, above your belly button.
*Lift your head off the floor and press your fingertips into your belly. You are looking to see if they fall into a trough-like space between the two halves of your ab muscles. Measure how many fingers you can fit into the trough. If two or more fingers fit in the trough width-wise, you have a diastasis and will need to start out with simple exercises to encourage the muscles to come back together.
* Repeat, this time with your fingertips below your belly button. Note how many finger widths you can fit in the trough above and below your belly button.

(These exercises are also safe and good for abdominal training at any time. They are great post partum exercises even if you didn't have a diastasis [you can just leave out the bracing part].)

1. Breathing:
*Lying down on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, lower back curve preserved (ie. do not flatten your back into the floor at any time during this exercise).
*Inhale through your nose to prepare.
*Exhale through your mouth and draw your belly into your spine without tipping your pelvis or flattening your back. You are drawing in your deepest abdominal layer, the transversus abdominus, which acts like a natural girdle and is a vital part of spinal stabilization (which we all need when we're hauling around babies and toddlers and carseats and diaper bags and grocery bags and OMG I NEED A SHERPA EVERY TIME I LEAVE THE HOUSE). Imagine you are trying to fit into a tight pair of jeans (which, seriously, you shouldn't do to yourself until at least 6 months post partum so just IMAGINE, k?) Keep neck, shoulders, and bottom relaxed.
* (Note: If you had a vaginal delivery and you had substantial tearing, you will want to wait until your undercarriage heals. There should be NO pain with this exercise, especially in your pelvic floor. Kegels will help return your pelvic floor muscles to full strength. Once you are ready to begin abdominal exercises, imagine the pelvic floor lifting up with each contraction of your deep abdominal muscles.)
*Repeat 20 times.

Once this feels easy, progress to exercise 2.

2. Breathing with abdominal bracing
*Lie down on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, with a long, thin towel (I like to use my bathrobe belt) under your lower back.
*Cross the towel ends in front of your abs at the level of your largest trough and hold one in each hand (When you noted the trough above and below the navel, where was the biggest trough? Start there. If they were even, start at your navel.)

(Worst picture ever but I had to take it myself so there you go.)
*Inhale through your nose to prepare.
*Exhale through your mouth as you draw you belly into your spine and pull the ends of the towel so that your waist is cinched in and the two halves of your abs are brought back together.
*Repeat 20 times.

Once these feel easy, progress to exercise 3.

3. Breathing and bracing with pelvic tilts.

Same as above, except you add a tilting of your pelvis and a flattening of your lower back into the floor, as you exhale and draw the two halves of your abs together and in toward your spine.

Once these feel easy, progress to exercise 4.

4. Breathing and bracing with chest lifts.

Same as #2, except you add a lifting of your head and shoulders as you exhale and draw the two halves of your abs together and in toward your spine. It's like a slow motion "crunch" with your abs being drawn together by the towel/soft belt.


So there you have it. Some exercises that I will start doing, uh, today? Yes, yes, today.

I have a 3 finger width diastasis and have some serious work to do to get these abs back in shape. I am feeling like my undercarriage is healed enough (Did I mention: 10 LB BABY? SUNNY SIDE UP?) to start some of these exercises (along with some Kegels.).

So I start today.

(Now there, seriously, is more than any of you wanted to know about abdominals and pelvic floors, mine in particular. )

(Any questions? Feel free to email me or leave a comment.)


Hillary said...

First of all, this is great information that I have a feeling I'm going to be coming back to in about, oh, 8 months or so. Thank you!

Secondly, you look awesome and I am amazed your undercarriage is feeling good enough after what? 10 days post-10lb baby.

artemisia said...

This is awesome info, even if I have never had a body.

I am so, so, so amazed at what a woman's body can do.

bluedaisy said...

I am new here but wow, I am totally bookmarking this post. I am currently 12 weeks pregnant with baby #3 and will absolutely need this info come December... Thank you for sharing--you look awesome (10lb baby!!!??). Hope you continue to feel good :)

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

OK, IMPRESSIVE. I am only 6 days behind you and I am still very much in the sitting on my (sore) butt phase. You look great and it is great you feel up to exercising. You go girl!

Eleanor Q. said...

Just so you know I totally did extra ab exercises last night. I've got a 1 finger trough and I'm going to work on it. Thanks for the tips!

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