After the birth of my son, I remember feeling fantastic. He came into this world via a beautiful water birth, I was home the same night and the life of our little family continued. However after six weeks, I still felt like my upper body was moving independently of my lower body (imagine a marionette puppet or a drunk Iggle Piggle and you might be getting close to how I felt).
I didn't remember this happening with my daughter, but then again she was only 6lb 12 ounces while James was a sizable 9lb 4 ounces. You know your baby is going to be a whopper when strangers ask you if you are having twins! So off to a women's physiotherapist I went (having been to her during pregnancy for another matter) to discover that my abdominal separation was still 2.5 fingers wide. And so my journey to abdominal recovery began.
A support garment played an important part in my recovery and in a recent article on post-birth corsets and waist training in Essential Baby, journalist Catherie Rodie reviewed the benefits of postpartum corsets and waist training. I believe that abdominal bracing, support garments and appropriate exercise programs provide the best opportunity for your abdominal muscles to regain their strength and form.
5 Steps to losing the "Mummy Tummy"
1. Prepare your body for pregnancy and birth
Give yourself the best chance of a speedy recovery after pregnancy by being in good shape prior to and during pregnancy. Maintaining an exercise program and practising abdominal bracing during pregnancy is crucial to this.
2. Postnatal assessment
See a women's physiotherapist around 6 weeks after baby is born for an assessment of your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. And then do everything they say!
3. Pick a corset or support garment to suit you
If the physio doesn't mention it, remember to ask them about abdominal support aids/garments and pick the best option for you. Some popular options are listed below:
- The Belly Firm promotes the Tupler Technique which uses a splint and an exercise program to correct Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation).
- SRC Health produce a great range of pregnancy and postnatal compression garments.
- Belly Co also produce a range of postnatal belly wraps.
4. Choose appropriate postnatal exercise
Cardiovascular exercise will help to get rid of the fat over your tummy. Start off with walking then progress gradually to low impact aerobics or swimming (once you are no longer bleeding) and then later resuming your pre-pregnancy exercise routine (provided you have no incontinence during or after exercise).
When choosing a postnatal exercise program, look for a program that concentrates on core stability (the deep muscles of your tummy), postural strength and stretching. This is not the time to be pushing out 20 burpees. Your entire core needs to work together before it can support high impact exercise. Also, a common myth is that crunches will give you a flat stomach. This is not the case with diastasis recti so give them a miss until your deep core is back to full strength. Once your core is strong you can focus on the surface abdominals to finish of your flat tummy transformation.
5. Go easy on yourself
Some people's abdominals recover in 6 weeks some take 6 months or longer. Be patient and consistent and you will get results. Also, when it comes to weight loss, I am sorry to say there is no quick fix. Your body took nine months to grow that little human being and it now needs time to recover and rejuvenate. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise will get you on the path to reaching your pre-pregnancy weight.
Have you used an abdominal brace or recovery technique that worked for you? We would love to hear about it.
P.S. I would post a picture of my post-birth diastasis recti here but unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to take one at the time. In fact, I can't even give you a photo of me pregnant as I only have one photo and I am wearing the most hideous dress you can imagine. My aversion to being photographed while pregnant is a topic for another blog.