When Does Postpartum Belly Go Away?

It can be hard to process the changes that happen before, during, and after pregnancy. Your body and life change in new and exciting ways. You have a new baby, new responsibilities, and a new body. One area you might feel tempted to work on improving after delivery is your postpartum belly.

During pregnancy, your body changes its shape to accommodate for carrying another human being. You gain stretch marks, add pounds, and crave different foods. After birth, you may find that your body isn’t that different from your pregnant body. For some women, this remains true a year or more after giving birth. It's possible for your postpartum belly to go away, but it takes time and dedication.

What Happens to Postpartum Belly After I Give Birth?

‌Losing weight naturally. When you give birth, you'll lose at least 13 pounds due to fluid loss, the placenta, and your child’s weight leaving your system. After the first week postpartum, you'll probably lose even more weight. But your belly might still look like it did when you were pregnant. 

This is common, and after you give birth, both your stomach and your uterus will start to contract to their pre-pregnancy sizes. Expect it to take around six weeks for your uterus to contract fully. At six weeks, you may have already lost the weight you gained during pregnancy. 

This is especially true if you're breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers shed around 500 calories per day. This is because your body uses your stored calories from pregnancy to produce milk and feed your baby. 

If you have a postpartum belly a year out, don't worry. Adjusting to being a new mom is challenging, and losing a postpartum belly takes time. Keep in mind that some women have less elastic skin than others. If you're one of these people, it might take longer for your stomach to return to its pre-pregnancy shape. 

Abdominal separation. Many women experience something called diastasis recti or abdominal separation while pregnant. This happens when your uterus expands and causes your stomach muscles to separate. It makes your belly stick out. It happens because of hormones and because of the pressure a growing baby puts on your body.

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Abdominal separation happens with women who have had more than one child, twins, or a larger baby. If you have abdominal separation, you might notice that your stomach has an irregular shape or bulge. Some women get back pain. Abdominal separation exists postpartum and takes time to heal.

You can avoid abdominal separation by not putting extra pressure on your stomach while you're pregnant. Try not to do heavy core exercises like planks or sit-ups. After you give birth, try not to lift heavy objects, do intense abdominal stretching, or sit up too quickly.

If you have abdominal separation, be gentle on your body and do some specialized exercises. You can also wear compression underwear or a brace to help resolve your muscle separation. In severe cases, an operation can help repair your abdominal wall. 

Make sure to listen to your body after you give birth. You should experience soreness and pain, but not too much. It's crucial that you don't push yourself past your comfortability and seek help when you need it.

How Can I Improve My Postpartum Belly?

Exercise. Over time, your postpartum belly will lessen on its own. However, there are ways you can improve your postpartum belly at home. Once your doctor says it's OK, try to add exercise to your daily routine. Start with walking and light body weight exercises. Over time, you can add running and core exercises. Good pelvic floor exercises include Kegels.

Eat well. Just like you maintained a healthy diet while pregnant, try to commit to eating healthy postpartum. You'll feel better and provide better nutrients for your baby if breastfeeding. Plus, eating a balanced diet can help you lose your postpartum belly.

Be realistic. Remember that giving birth is one of the most incredible things you'll ever do. It pushes your body in ways you never thought possible. But all that change requires rest and recovery. In the weeks and months postpartum, let yourself rest and heal as much as possible.

You might hear stories on the news about moms who regain their pre-pregnancy bodies right after giving birth. But this isn't the standard experience. Slowly and steadily, if you stick to the recommended diet and timeline for postpartum women, you'll lose weight you gained during pregnancy without having to stress about it. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 12, 2021

Sources

SOURCES: 

Family Doctor: “Recovering from Delivery.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "What Really Helps You Bounce Back After Pregnancy." 

Mayo Clinic: “Weight loss after pregnancy: Reclaiming your body.”

National Women’s Health Network: "What is Postpartum Diastasis Recti?”

Physiotherapy: “Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review.”

Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby: "Abdominal separation (diastasis recti).”

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