How Long Before My Belly Is Normal After Pregnancy?

Do you feel self conscious about your post baby body? Does anyone ever ask the unwelcome "When are you due?" now that your baby is 1,2, 5, or 15+ years old? Our bodies change and go through a lot of stress during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. In the United States most women receive very little information and education about what happened to their bodies during pregnancy, why everything feels so different, and what to do about it. The "mummy tummy" is a big topic, important to a lot of Moms, so lets start with this one.

First of all, your body is amazing - never forget that! Beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Teaching our daughters to love themselves starts with us loving ourselves. And teaching our sons to respect and see beauty in all of the glorious variety of women's bodies also starts with us loving our selves. My tip for you? Look at yourself in the mirror each morning, pause for just a moment to take in what you see, and admire YOUR OWN BEAUTY!

Okay, on to the "Mummy Tummy". There are several contributing factors that may affect each of us differently. First there is adipose tissue (fat). So depending how much weight we gained and lost, what body type we have, and what stage of life we are in we may have a higher percentage of fat in general, or particularly in the abdominal area. The solution to that issue lies in calories in, calories out. Aerobic exercise and diet.

Second, your alignment (posture) had to change a lot to accommodate a growing baby, or two, or more... You already had abdominal and pelvic contents (things like stomach, intestines, bladder, etc) and thoracic contents (lungs which are constantly inflating and deflating like balloons; and heart). And then over the course of 40 weeks your precious little bundle grew, along with placenta and amniotic fluid. Things were getting crowded on the inside. So typically the rib cage shifts up and back, the pelvis tips forward, and the abdominal wall stretches out in front (no room to go back - no give in the spine). Positionally you may still be stuck in your pregnant Mom posture, and as a result pushing your belly out in front of you. A good physical therapist can help you correct your alignment with some simple exercises that you can sprinkle in through your day, and that won't take a lot of time. If your alignment is junk, it won't matter what or how many abdominal exercises you do, because you will walking around essentially sticking your gut out.

The third issue that could contribute is diastasis recti. The rectus abdominus is just one of several abdominal muscles that work together as a system. The last time you saw a photo of a hot guy social media with a "6 pack", you were admiring his rectus abdominus. We each have a right and a left rectus. The right and left side are joined together by connective tissue in the middle called the Linea Alba. This connective tissue is kind of stretchy, so it gives during pregnancy. Sometimes it has to give a lot (big baby, multiple babies, you carried all in front, you are short waisted, etc) and the connective tissue can become thinner and over stretched. Kind of like an over stretched elastic waist band. (So to be clear, it is not torn.) It is pretty normal to have a diastasis recti during pregnancy (about 2/3 of women do). Sometimes it improves on its own after baby. And sometimes it doesn't (about 1/3 of the time). So all those great organs on the inside don't have a firm retainer in the front anymore - the elastic has become a bit lax. So all of the "stuff" (organs) on the inside kind of hang out in front pushing against your overstretched elastic, making you look pregnant.

Wether or not you have a diastasis recti matters because:

1) Nobody wants to be asked if they are pregnant when they are not.

2) You should NOT do planks, crunches, and lots of other traditional abdominal strengthening exercises until you understand how to contract your deeper abdominal muscles and manage the internal pressure system or you could make your "mummy tummy" appear worse in spite of all your efforts.

3) The abdominal muscles are part of the "force closure" system that helps to support your lumbar spine, pelvis, and hips. And if the system is not working, you are more likely to back, hip, knee, or even ankle pain.

4. Diastasis recti may also contribute to stress incontinence (leaking pee), and other gastrointestinal issues.

So how long before your belly is normal after pregnancy? Well, that depends. If you are doing the right things to address the right issues, it may take up to a year. Remember, your pregnancy progressed over 9 months. And the first three months after delivery are time for some rest and recuperation for you tucked in between everything that is caring for a newborn. Once you get your 6-8 week clearance to exercise, you probably started doing what ever it was you did before, or whatever it is you are seeing in the media now as the best, surest exercise. But this unlikely the best strategy for you. If you're not addressing all of the issues that contribute in the way they should be addressed, things won't likely change. You will need some guidance and coaching on what to do, how to do it right, and maybe how to fit it in to your life.

So how do you know what the contributing problem(s) is or are? Find yourself a physical therapist who is familiar with the changes in pregnant and post partum women - we don't get much training on women's bodies in traditional physical therapy programs. It is an area of special interest which some of us spend a lot of extra time and money to learn and understand. Not just any physical therapist can help with the particular needs of your post partum body. Your therapist can teach you how to get back to normal alignment and breathing (a whole topic for another day!!), do a very simple test for a diastasis recti, and teach you the most effective corrective exercises.

Your Obstetrician, Physician, or Midwife may not even know that physical therapy can help. You may be the one to educate them. There is a growing body of physical therapists specializing in women's health, and we are uniting across the country and across the world to share information that we believe all women should have access to. How can you help? Share this article. Tell a friend.

If you need help finding a women's health physical therapist in your area, or if you have a question or topic about women's health or pregnancy or post partum changes you would like to see answered , email .

(PS - Please don't blame my Beverly High School English teachers for lack of proper grammar or excessive use of comma's or apostrophe's in this article. They did a great job - really. We were pretty heavy on the sciences in PT school, and the medical system wants it short and sweet. If it drives you crazy and you want to be my proof reader, send me an email at

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