Immediately after giving birth, most women lose around 10 pounds of their pregnancy weight, according to MayoClinic.com. When they leave the hospital, however, many are surprised to find that they still look about six months pregnant. While the belly does eventually shrink, you can take several measure to speed the process of reducing the swelling in your stomach after pregnancy.
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Breastfeed your baby. When you breastfeed, your body releases a chemical called oxytocin. The release of oxytocin increases uterine contractions, which can speed up the process of shrinking your abdomen. As the uterus returns to its normal size, your stomach will shrink as well. Even if you're breastfeeding, this may take up to six weeks.
Walk your belly off. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends walking as a great exercise after delivery. Walking is generally easy on the joints and doesn't require specialized equipment. Simply put on some comfortable shoes, put your baby in the stroller and get outside. Start slow, with a short walk each day for several days. Over time, increase the distance as well as your pace.
Exercise your abdominal muscles. Pregnancy Today suggests starting with pelvic tilts. To perform these, lie on your back and press your lower back into the floor. Hold for a few counts, then release.
ACOG suggests heel slides as another low-stress abdominal exercise, particularly if you are recovering from a cesarean section. Lie on an exercise mat on the floor, then slowly slide one heel up toward your body so that your knee points toward the ceiling. Slide back to the starting position, then change sides. Perform several repetitions of each exercise a few times a day to shrink your postpartum tummy.
Join a postpartum exercise class. Some classes even allow you to bring your baby along. The instructors understand the postpartum body and can guide you through a workout that's appropriate for you.
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Getting in Shape After Your Baby is Born
- "Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy"; Harms, Roger W., ed.; Harper Collins; 2004
- Pregnancy Today: Postpartum Belly, Back and Bottom Workouts