I gave birth - why do I still look pregnant?

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In time, muscles will contract and regain their original shape and size. (Getty Images)
In time, muscles will contract and regain their original shape and size. (Getty Images)

It's comforting to see your toes again after giving birth. Your mountain size tummy has gone, but it comes as a shock when you stand up, and there's an abundance of flab wobbling around your belly.

How long will it take to lose my tummy?

The biggest culprit of the after-preggie belly is the womb and stretched abdominal muscles. It took nine long months for this whole stretching process to happen, and therefore it won't shrink back overnight.

Getting your womb back to its original size may take around six weeks, but getting your figure back is going to take a bit longer. How much longer and how successful this will be will also depend on your shape, size and how much exercise you did before you got pregnant.

The good news is that simply by the way your muscles have been structured, nature will help you to get back into shape. In time, muscles will contract and regain their original shape and size. Breastfeeding also releases hormones (mainly oxytocin) to help you do this.

Read: Can a sexologist help revive our marriage after we had a baby?

What's going on inside my body after the birth?

Think of your abdominal muscles as a mesh of layers running in four directions, up and down and from side to side of your trunk and pelvis. Not only do these layers stretch during pregnancy, they help to push the baby out during birth. Immediately after the birth each muscle fibre is long and skinny.

When it has regained its shape, each muscle fibre will be short and fat again. Everybody is different. While some women can parade in their bikini after only a few months, others may still be struggling to wear their costumes two summers later.

What can I do to help?

Getting back into shape in the early days after birth will depend on whether you had a c-section or not. Women who had natural birth have an advantage but that does not mean to say that c-section moms should despair.

They can follow the same guidelines that natural birth moms do – just a few weeks later or when they feel sufficiently recovered.

Also read: Shifts in libido: what happens to your sex life when there's a baby on the way

1. Breastfeed. This not only burns lots of kilojoules, it can also assist in getting the muscles to contract.

2. Lie on your tummy as often as possible.

3. Do tummy exercises while you are lying in the bath. Put your hands on your tummy and feel the muscles contract. Pull your belly button towards your spine.

4. Pull your vaginal muscles up (Kegel exercises) whenever you can.

5. You can return to gentle gym after your six-week postnatal check-up.

6. Wear girdle-panties but only when you go out or need to show off to your friends.

7. Eat healthily – having a baby is no excuse to eat chocolate cake for breakfast.

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