Mommy Tummy. A term that becomes all too familiar once you’ve carried a baby. But is it Myth or fact? Meaning, is it a legit “condition” that we are doomed to walk the earth with, and no relief in sight? Pouchy belly and weak abs? Or is it something we aren’t fully understanding and could potentially restore back to pre-kid era?
It is more myth than fact. But there are some facts in what happens to our bodies, and what it requires to “get it back”. And P.S I am not referring to stretch marks.
We all know how precious the gift of life is, and whatever our bodies need to do to bring that life into this world is to be celebrated. Beyond childbearing, our bodies are made to be different. To carry weight different. To be shaped different. There is no shame in loving your skin for everything it gives us, does for us and provides us with.
But when I see so many women who are frustrated with their bodies defaulting to “because I had kids” or “mommy tummy,” I want to take us down a strictly anatomy, science-based road. In my years as a personal trainer, then as I became a mom navigating my own journey, I’ve learned that the more we know on a factual, non-emotion-based level, the more equipped we are to make decisions. The more equipped we are to comb through the reality and the fiction.
Things you CANT change: Anatomically
Our bodies change. Spaces widen, muscles and ligaments relax and stretch. Where the baby implants in the uterus will dictate how the baby carries. Then how they end up positioned will also affect how the body must accommodate.
Our rib cage literally gets pushed outward!
Every woman will have a different outcome with this. Think torpedo shape v.s round. That would cause a totally different strain on the abdomen and completely out of the control of the female.
Lastly, the uterus expands. It expands up to 500 times the pre pregnancy size. Wowza! It goes from a couple ounces up to 2 pounds.
This is why you have to give grace to not only your pregnancy body, but your postpartum body in those early weeks.
What we can control that affects “mommy tummy”
When referring to the tummy specifically, the uterus DOES return to normal and the abdominals CAN heal. But it’s like expecting biceps and back muscles but never touching a weight or doing a bicep curl. You have to do the work to help it return to its previous state. You could even make it better.
You can train the core during pregnancy, which will help keep some tension and muscle memory to the middle section while it expands. Our core (including pelvic floor) is made up of numerous muscles that can be trained just like any other muscle in the body. The more we can engage these muscles, and the more regularly we practice certain exercises: the better those muscles will return back to pre-baby.
Another harsh reality. In general if we have access body fat around an area it will appear larger. If you in general had some there to begin with, and then gained more during pregnancy, you simply have more body fat on you that you can either carry or work to lose. It is no different than if you gained 10 pounds over the holidays. You just did it while growing a human. Please note: I am not speaking on the weight we gain from fluid, blood increase, enlarged uterus, milk production. I’m talking about the excess body fat we may have gained. To be slimmer and have a flatter tummy, in general we need to lose body fat.
Where does that leave the great debate?
Yes, the core gets stretched beyond belief, and our body shifts and changes. It is a miracle, and what our bodies do should be celebrated! But I feel we leave women dis-served when we do not empower them with information to help them navigate these areas with facts, science and perspective. No one ever HAS to get rid of a “mommy tummy” for aesthetic reasons. (For function and pelvic floor reasons you should spend some time strengthening it).
It should be a personal decision based on your true feelings, not social pressure, and something you understand will take some time, some work and probably change of some habits. BUT it can be achieved!