by Catherine Ann Rauch
Why do I still look pregnant?
You may be very surprised by the way your tummy looks after birth. Even though your baby is out, you may still have a round, squishy midsection that makes you look like you're six months pregnant.
Many women also have a dark line down their abdomen (called a linea nigra
and a web of stretch marks, which are actually little scars caused by the extensive stretching of skin. Those who had a c-section
have surgical scars to contend with as well.
It takes time for your body – especially your belly – to fully recover from pregnancy. Imagine your abdomen as a balloon, slowly inflating as your baby grows. Childbirth doesn't pop the balloon; it just starts a slow leak. But don't worry – it's a steady one.
From the moment your baby is born, hormonal changes cause your uterus to contract, shrinking it back to its pre-pregnancy state. It takes six to eight weeks for your uterus to return to its normal size.
All the cells in your body that swelled during pregnancy begin to release the extra fluid, which is eliminated from your body through urine, vaginal secretions, and sweat. And the extra fat you put on to nourish the baby starts burning off (especially if you're nursing
). But it takes at least a few weeks to notice results.
and the linea nigra, however, endure longer. The good news is that stretch marks usually become considerably less noticeable six to 12 months after you have your baby. Their pigmentation fades and they typically become lighter than the surrounding skin (the color will vary depending on your skin color), but their texture will remain the same. The dark color of the linea nigra will gradually fade over a year, but that too may not completely disappear.
How long will it take for my belly to shrink back to normal?
We've all heard stories of new moms whose tummies are tight and flat immediately after giving birth. Although this does happen, it's rare. For most women it takes months
to get rid of the "pregnancy pouch" – and sometimes it never goes away entirely.
Patience is key. It took nine months for your abdomen to stretch to accommodate a full-term baby, so it makes sense that it would take at least that long to tighten back up.
The speed and degree of this transition depends largely on your normal body size, how much weight you gained during pregnancy, how active you are, and your genes. Women who gained less than 30 pounds and exercised regularly during pregnancy, who breastfeed
, and who have had only one child are more likely to slim down quickly.
If you're not breastfeeding, you'll need to watch how much you're eating in order to lose pregnancy weight. You need fewer calories now that you're not pregnant.
Thursday: diet tips for new moms