As joyful as a new mother feels about the birth of her baby, she is often not pleased with her post-pregnancy stomach. A pooch of excess fat and loose skin below your belly button may leave you looking like your are still six months pregnant. However, with time and a little effort, you can have your belly looking as good -- or better -- than ever.
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Skin and Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your uterus expands to contain an approximately 7-lb. baby, the placenta and 500 to 1,000 ml of amniotic fluid. By the 38th week of pregnanc,y it has grown to about five times its normal size, according to "Obstetric and Newborn Care I." This exceptional growth places a great strain on your belly skin. Stretch marks -- little tears in the tissue beneath your skin -- allow your skin to stretch as your baby grows. To help prevent stretch marks and reduce the strain on your belly skin, gain the amount of weight your doctor recommends -- usually about 25 to 35 lbs. -- and gain that weight at a slow, steady rate.
Your skin's elasticity determines how easily it can stretch and then return to normal. The more elastic your skin, the greater the likelihood that it will shrink back to normal after you give birth. While skin can stretch quite a lot, rapid weight gain or weight loss -- as can occur during pregnancy -- may exceed the skin's normal elasticity. In some cases, if the weight changes are extreme, the skin may lose its elasticity and become permanently stretched out.
There is no set amount of time that it takes for belly skin to tighten after giving birth. Your age, genetics, skin elasticity and whether you exercise influence how long it will take. Since it took nine months for your body to grow a baby, BabyCenter.com recommends that you be prepared for it to take nine months or longer for your body to return to your prepregnancy form. Also, if your skin was strained because you gained more than 30 lbs. or were pregnant with multiples, it may take longer for your belly skin to tighten. The loose skin may even remain as a permanent reminder of your pregnancy.
If your belly skin hasn't tightened after two years -- the amount of time the Alice! Health Promotion Program at Columbia University recommends waiting to see if the skin has permanently stretched -- plastic surgery may be the only option for tightening it. Plastic surgeon Patrick Hudson suggests having a lipectomy procedure done to get rid of excess skin below your belly button as well as reduce stretch marks and minimize a C-section scar. A woman who has just a small amount of excess skin may be eligible for a mini-lipectomy, a less invasive procedure that can be performed under local anesthesia.