One of the many things that you'll probably wonder about after pregnancy (besides what it’s like becoming a mom, of course) is getting your body “back.” Mood fluctuations, indigestion, changing skin and hair, and weight gain are just a few of the effects of carrying a baby for nine months. So how long does it take for a woman’s body to go back to normal after pregnancy?
There are a lot of factors at play, including:
- Skin elasticity
- Weight gain
- Whether you’re breastfeeding
- Your activity level
- Eating habits
- How many babies you carried (such as twins)
- Your delivery (vaginal or C-section)
- Whether this is your first pregnancy or a subsequent one
In fact, the same person could have a completely different experience recovering from different pregnancies. However, here are some general expectations you can have during the postpartum period.
Weeks 0–6: Initial Recovery
While you might see a woman walk out of the delivery room looking like she was never pregnant in the first place, this is rarely the case in real life. Even the Duchess of Cambridge had a swollen belly during the early postpartum stage.
That’s because your body needs time to recover. It takes about 6 weeks for the uterus to shrink down to normal (about the size of a pear). What’s more, your body is retaining a lot of extra fluid that needs to be flushed out during this period. Finally, the abdominal muscles are stretched to the max and will take time to return to their correct place.
One way to support your body’s natural healing processes is with a compression garment. Cultures around the world have practiced belly binding on postpartum women for centuries. A garment like the First Stage Marena Suit stimulates heat in your core and helps flush out fluid, while supporting the abdomen while you heal.
(Disclaimer: this is not medical advice, so talk to you doctor before proceeding with wearing a compression garment after pregnancy.)
In general, now is not the time to worry too much about your body shape. Instead, focus on your health and bonding with your newborn.
Weeks 6–12: Adjusting to More Activity
If all is going smoothly with your recovery, you should receive the go-ahead from your healthcare provider to resume normal physical activity about 6 weeks after delivery. You can gradually start exercising again during this period.
How much you have recovered from birth at this point will still vary widely from person to person—again, depending on some of the factors listed above. But, as you start exercising, you can start working on some of your fitness goals. If your abdomen has fully healed, work on a combination of cardio and strength training exercises.
If you’re wearing a compression garment, now is also a good time to increase your compression level. The Second Stage Marena Support Girdle is a medical grade garment designed to give firm but comfortable support and will keep your tummy in place as you work on strengthening your muscles and losing the baby weight.
Note that your diet is also an important factor in the equation. You need to be consuming a lot of nutritious food with a good balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats so that your body can continue its healing and strengthening process. Don’t be surprised if you still have a sizeable appetite, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Just make sure that you’re filling up on the right foods, not a lot of sugar and refined carbs.
It’s difficult at the stage to eat well, since you’ll likely be sleep-deprived and busy caring for a newborn. Ask for help with meals from your partner, friends or family, and talk to a nutritionist about what types of meals are best for you.
Months 3–6: Your New Normal
While 3 months is generally the stage when a lot of people consider the postpartum period over, you are still going through a lot of adjustments. Your core is still probably not at its full strength, and you may still have some baby weight.
Pregnancy hormones are also still in your system, up until about 6 months postpartum. Progesterone and estrogen are produced in excess amounts during pregnancy to help your muscles and ligaments stretch to accommodate for your changing body. They remain in your body to help you adjust back to your “normal” size.
You’ll benefit at this stage from starting a waist training regimen, which will provide slimming and support for you midsection and back. You can start by wearing a workout band when you exercise (which will also help intensity your workouts).
We also recommend eventually wearing a waist trainer for 8–12 hours a day. You can start out with just an hour or two at a time. Your body will need time to adjust, as a high compression garment will feel very firm. Add an hour or two a day, and you should be comfortable wearing a waist trainer all day after a few weeks.
An ideal garment to start waist training in the postpartum period is the Best Waist Trainer by Hourglass Angel HA102. It features three rows of hooks, so you can adjust it as you size down.
Month 6 and Beyond
Remember, it took 9 months for your body to grow a baby, so be patient to regain its shape after you’ve given birth. Be consistent with your diet, exercise and waist training, and you’ll be proud of the body you have.
A mother’s body is beautiful, no matter how much you weigh or what size you wear. However, some women are frustrated if they aren’t as tight and toned a few months after giving birth. We think that waist training is a great way boost your confidence, keep your goals in sight and maximize your exercise routine. But if you’re unhappy with your body a year or more after pregnancy, talk to a medical professional about your options.