When you think of birth, what comes to mind first? Babies? New life? Maybe even an image of a woman in labor, gritting her teeth with her legs in the air?
You’re on the right track with those thoughts, but birth can involve so much more. Sometimes, birth plans get thrown out the window when a baby won’t drop, is breeched (and the doctor will not deliver that way), or there is an emergency and the baby needs to come out NOW. In these situations, a Cesarean Section (most commonly known as C-Section) is necessary.
On the other hand, though, sometimes women opt for a C-Section for any particular reason. It could be that she has already had a C-section and it has been deemed unsafe to have a vaginal delivery, another medical condition prevents her from delivering vaginally, the baby is considered too large to be able to move safely through the birth canal or there are multiple babies that need to be delivered.
After a C-Section, recovery takes much longer than that of a normal (no severe tearing) vaginal delivery. You just had major surgery here, and it isn’t supposed to be taken lightly. That being said, we know that most women have a desire to get their bodies back to where they were before having their baby. That’s what we’re here for, friends. We’ve got some good pointers to help you heal your belly and get it to a place where you feel comfortable showing it off.
8 How It's Done
To understand how to heal your belly, you need to understand what exactly happened to your belly and understand that it takes time to heal. Whoever was in the operating room with you may have already clued you in on the visuals, but let’s go ahead and break it down for you. Lady, if you went through this, you are without a doubt one tough chick.
You will receive an IV to ensure proper fluids and any necessary medications are entering your system. Following that, a spinal block or an epidural will be administered in order to numb the lower half of your body. You will then get a catheter and be shaved for sterility, not for cosmetics, so you might have a rockin’ ‘do down south afterwards. Then, curtain up, it is show time!
We all know that an incision is made through the lower abdomen and then through your uterus. Then poof! A baby is born.
Girl. There is more to it.
Without risking you losing your lunch, here is a little bit of a more detailed explanation of how it is all done:
This can all take place in 10-15 minutes. The longest part is actually when they put you back together and glue/staple/stitch you shut. That, dear lovelies, can take up to 45 minutes.
7 Fake a Flat Tummy
Oh, yay! You’re a bridesmaid in your roomie from college’s wedding. That wedding is going to be so gorgeous; a summer wedding that will be right on the water. The dresses seemed adorable last year when you had a girls’ day and didn’t know you’d be poppin’ out a kid. But now, that form-fitting satin number is questionable.
Oh, sh*t. That wedding is literally three months to the day after your baby was born. To top it all off, you had a C-section.
The problem here is that you cannot change your dress to accommodate your post-partum belly. Luckily , there are numerous shapewear under garment options available these days that can suit any body and any budget. Some of these options include:
6 Focus on Your Core
You read above that your abdominal muscles are literally pulled to the side in order to deliver your baby during a C-section. It will take a while for your muscles to get back to the place where they used to be, and strengthening them will take time, effort and patience.
The key is to start slowly. Sure, you want that six-pack by this summer’s beach trip, but pushing yourself too hard and too fast can result in an injury or a busted incision, as some of these exercises can be done during the first eight weeks at home. Momma, do not hurt yourself; your health is important!
During the first few weeks postpartum, you can practice supine (lying face up) exercises:
- - Belly Breathing: breathe deeply, while focusing on expanding through your diaphragm. Bring your navel in toward your spine as you exhale. Start by doing this 10 times, then the following week increase to 12 times, and increase by small amounts as the weeks progress.
- - Leg slides: lie in bed on your side with your knees bent. Slowly slide one leg out until it is extended fully. Bring it back to the starting position. Do this five times per side. Increase in small amounts as the weeks progress. After two weeks, you can begin doing leg lifts in an upright position by holding a wall and raising your leg to the side, then lowering.
- - Pelvic tilts: bend your knees, raise your pelvis off the bed and lower right away. Repeat. As the weeks progress, you can begin incorporating bracing into the exercise, which means you can draw your navel into your spine as you lower your pelvis.
Once you have made it to the point where you have been cleared for exercise, you will probably want to begin with just two workout sessions per week, roughly 15 minutes long. From there, you can increase length and frequency. Some good exercises to begin with include:
- - Modified side planks
- - Body weight squats
- - Body weight split squats
Initially, you should avoid crunches/sit-ups, any heavily weighted exercises, and anything with direct pressure on the pelvic floor.
5 Get Moving
Losing weight, for anyone, involves some form of exercise. After a C-section, though, it is incredibly important to start slowly and after being cleared by your doctor.
Doing any form of cardiovascular exercise is a top way to burn fat and lose weight, but let’s be realistic here – we don’t want you to start taking boot camp classes or running 10 miles on your first day back in the saddle. No one needs to hemorrhage, ok?
Take baby steps, literally, and start off by walking.
- - For your first walk, keep it to 10-15 minutes and leave the baby at home if you can, or have your spouse, a friend or family member push the stroller along for you so you do not strain yourself. If you feel any pain at all, stop, and try again in two-to-three days.
- - If you were able to do this comfortably, repeat this walk 48 hours later. You can begin doing this same walk three times a week, each with 48 hours between.
- - If, after you have done these walks three consecutive times you feel great, and have experienced no discomfort, you can increase your walk time by 5 minutes and repeat the program.
- - Once you can walk pain-free for 40 minutes, three-to-four times per week, you can try pushing your baby in a stroller. Try to avoid steep areas, though, as this will possibly strain your core.
Another nice, slow way to ease back into exercise is to practice gentle flow yoga. Stretches focusing on your torso region should not be done until close to six months after a C-Section, though, in order to ensure your incision has healed completely.
While it is better for you to learn from a certified yoga instructor than to follow some instructions online, you can find some nice exercises to start with by watching videos on YouTube.
After you are sure that you can handle the gentle exercises, we listed, and again, as long as you have discussed your exercise plans with your doctor, you can look into more rigorous exercise routines that really get your blood pumping. So, if you were an avid runner, go head and get back to it!
4 Build Muscle Tone
Cardio definitely burns a ton of calories and helps you to lose fat, but strength training builds lean muscle mass. And muscle burns fat, even while you are at rest. Win-win for everyone, right?
Of course, in the beginning, you are only allowed to lift your baby after a C-Section. You have to be extra careful to allow your body to heal.
As time goes on, though, and you are (sort of) beginning to feel semi-normal again, you can begin to incorporate light weight training into your exercise regimen. From there, as you build up your strength and endurance, you can build up the amount you are lifting and the exercises you are doing. Think lifting weights will make you look manly? Not quite. You might be surprised to know that some of the best body transformations stem from a workout regimen focusing on weight training.
Not only that, but starting with low-impact weight training after a C-Section will help you to gain balance, improve coordination and help reduce fat around your belly and other areas. Some other benefits include:
Here are a couple simple exercises to start with:
- Tripod row: hold a dumbbell in each hand, while on all fours with wrists under shoulders. With your right leg extended behind you, bend your left elbow, drawing the weight toward your ribs. Lower, and repeat 12-15 times. Switch sides to complete the set.
- Curl to press: hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a stability ball or chair with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Extend your arms at your sides with your palms facing up, curl the weights toward your shoulders then rotate your palms away from you as you press the dumbbells straight up overhead. Reverse, and bring your arms back to the starting position.
3 Eat the Good Stuff
Are you eating clean ? Does that piece of cake fit your macros? Are you Paleo? Have you gone vegan? Have you done the 21 day fix?
Maybe the above sounds like we are speaking a different language to you. Frankly, we’re confused, too.
There are so many ways for people to eat healthy anymore. Plain and simple, for your purposes, we want to focus on the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet in order to help shed whatever pounds may be lingering on your body after your baby. Specifically, what may be hanging out in your midsection. You want to be sure to fuel your body, but with the good stuff.
Now and then, you might feel the need for a cookie, brownie or bowl of ice cream to make your day just a little bit better. Yeah, we said limit your sugar intake, but seriously, have a treat. The last thing you want to do is deprive yourself completely. You know what happens when you do that? One day, when you do feel the need for a special snack, you will eat four cookies instead of one, or the entire pint of ice cream instead of a scoop. And then you will cry and wallow in your misery. That doesn’t sound fun, does it?
2 Last Resort: Tuck It In
Yes, we know. Surgery really isn’t something that sounds ideal, but what if you have been busting your rear end in the gym for months, you have been eating right, and you still have some extra skin that you cannot get rid of? For some, they say “screw it” and just carry on with life, for others, the answer can be plastic surgery.
Most commonly known as a “tummy tuck”, an abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure that removes excess fat and skin from the abdomen and, in most cases, repairs weak/separated muscles. The end result is a smoother, firmer abdominal profile.
If you have been thinking about getting a tummy tuck, there are some important factors to consider before making your decision. Remember it is surgery, and is not a choice that should be made lightly.
1 The Last Resort: Own Your Body
Confidence is not something that can come easily for any woman who has watched her body change through pregnancy. You have gone from having a cute little belly, to not being able to see your feet, to feeling like a deflated balloon. It can be really hard to feel comfortable in the body you are left with after all is said and done and the pregnancy is over.
Many women have this strong, unending desire to “bounce back” after baby and, in all reality here, the media does not help with this. Seeing celebrity after celebrity showing off their postpartum body just a few months after having a baby can put unnecessary and unrealistic pressure on you.
We are telling you it is time to stop.
Yes, you can wear clothes to make your body look a certain way. Yes, you can lose weight and you can build muscle. You can eat healthy and do everything every personal trainer on social media recommends. But your body might still be different. It may have taken a new shape.
- - Stretch marks may have appeared in places you didn’t know they could appear
- - Maybe you have a few extra pounds that just will not go away
- - Somehow, you now have wider hips, a new shoe size, different hair texture and a different bra size.
You name it, the changes to your body could go on and on. You just had a baby. You grew life inside of that body. It is time for you to own it.
How do you get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.
The best way to build your confidence is to find like-minded friends or even join a new mom support group. Sometimes, something as simple as stalking a hashtag can do wonders for your confidence, too. #Takebackpostpartum has exploded with women posting their “variations of normal” bodies after babies.
Remember how much you have been through in order to grow and sustain a life, or even lives, within your body. It truly is incredible and something you need to give yourself some credit for.