Why Your Body Does Not 'Snap Back Together' After Childbirth

Why Your Body Does Not 'Snap Back Together' After Childbirth

Even though Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, looked incredible when she stepped out of the hospital only 10 hours after delivering her daughter, it is not the norm for the everyday gal. After the excitement of childbirth, first-time moms are often shocked to discover that their bodies don’t automatically snap back into shape immediately after their baby is born. The first thing I remember after I got home with my new baby was looking sideways in a mirror and gasping… I still looked pregnant! Was I ever going to see a flat tummy again? Wow, how unfair! How come celebrities looked like hot babes shortly after giving birth?!

Expecting yourself to be “red-carpet ready” soon after delivering your baby is unrealistic, even for most celebrities. It will take time for your belly to shrink no matter who you are. Realistically, it takes at least a month for your body to start to get itself back together, usually longer for most women. Right after birth your body is left with a lot of excess fluid that can take a week or two to lose and it can take a full month for your uterus to shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size. So don’t put yourself under the pressure to be “Facebook ready” right after you deliver your baby – it’s just not going to happen and you have far more important things to worry about!

Read about the benefits of natural childbirth

Why does it seem that celebrity moms look better faster? It’s true that most can afford a lot of extra help, but more importantly, they take postpartum recovery seriously. You may not be able to afford a full-time nanny, night-time baby nurse, personal trainer, and a cook, but you too can take your own recovery seriously. Let your own postpartum needs come front and center. Here are my 5 top tips for getting back in shape once your baby has arrived.

1. Avoid Lifting

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Do not lift anything heavier than your newborn baby for the first 6 weeks after childbirth. This is a time to get help with household tasks and lifting a toddler.

2. Pay Attention to your Core

Avoid activities that put pressure on your abdomen, such as getting out of bed by doing a sit up. Instead, get out of bed by rolling over onto your side and swinging your legs over the side of the bed before sitting up.

3. Breathe

Whenever you lift something heavy such as a grocery bag, or a large pot of pasta, EXHALE to reduce the strain on your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.

4. Do Kegel Exercises

Most women can start to do gentle Kegel-type exercises the day after childbirth. Exhale gently each time you contract your pelvic floor muscles. Make sure to get medical clearance from your doctor or midwife first.

5. Take a Walk

Try to start a walking program as soon as possible. Once you have been given the green light to get out of bed, try to start with 2 or 3 ten-minute walks and gradually build up to a 30-minute walk per day.

Read 5 myths about pregnancy and exercise

Most women want to get back into pre-pregnancy shape immediately after childbirth, but it is important to make a slow return to full activity. If you follow these 5 simple tips during the first 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth they will help you to get your bod back into pre-pregnancy shape.

[Editor's Note: Marianne Ryan's book, Baby Bod, further explains the effects of pregnancy on the body, offers many more tips, and gives advice on the best way to get back into shape after having a baby. There is detailed advice in Chapter 8 for moms who had vaginal deliveries, and Chapter 9 gives advice to moms who had C-sections.]

Image: Petras Gagilas

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Marianne Ryan
MARIANNE RYAN PT, OCS is an award-winning author, physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist with more than 30 years' experience treating prenatal and postpartum women. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Marianne Ryan Physical Therapy in New York City and the creator of the groundbreaking DIY "Baby Bod" program, which is the first of its kind to bridge the gap between medical care and fitness advice. As a leading women's health expert (and a mom), Marianne is passionate about helping women reclaim their changed bodies, whether they are pregnant, recently took part in the joy of birth or are experiencing the "joy" of menopause. A much sought-after media guest and speaker, Marianne has appeared on dozens of national TV and radio shows, and has also been featured in Red Book, Fitness Magazine, USA Today, Shape Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. As an educator Ryan taught at Columbia University School of Midwifery Program and the NYU TMJ Dental Clinic. Watch her TEDX video, "What Your Momma Never Told You About Childbirth"