How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

Getting your body back after having a baby is not as hard as you might think.

Research shows that starting a regular exercise program soon after giving birth is not only good for your overall health, but may also help reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

Every pregnancy and delivery are different, so check with your doctor before engaging in any workout program after giving birth. If you experience any heavy bleeding, excessive soreness, headaches, or other unusual symptoms during or right after exercising, stop immediately and call your doctor for advice.

Here are some moves that will help you get your body ready for regular exercise.

1. Walking

Why It’s Good For You: It may not sound like much of a workout, but walking is one of the simplest ways to ease into a fitness routine after giving birth.

How It’s Done: Start with an easy stroll. Eventually you’ll work your way up to a pumped-up power walk. But a gentle walk can still do wonders for you and your body, especially in the beginning. Bringing baby along in a front pack will add extra weight that can increase the benefits.

For a variation, try walking backward or walking in a zigzag pattern to help keep your muscles guessing. You should not include baby in this activity until you’ve mastered it and are certain of your balance.

2. Deep Belly Breathing With Abdominal Contraction

Why It’s Good for You: This exercise is so easy you can do it an hour after giving birth. It helps relax muscles, and it starts the process of strengthening and toning your abs and belly.

How It’s Done: Sit upright and breathe deeply, drawing air from the diaphragm upward. Contract and hold your abs tight while inhaling and relax while exhaling. Gradually increase the amount of time you can contract and hold your abs.

3. Head Lifts, Shoulder Lifts, and Curl-Ups

Why They’re Good For You: These three movements help strengthen back muscles. They also tone the tummy and abs and burn calories.

How They’re Done:

  • Head lifts: Lie on your back with your arms along your sides. Keeping your lower back flush to the floor, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Relax your belly as you inhale. As you exhale, slowly lift your head and neck off the floor. Inhale as you lower your head back down.
  • Shoulder lifts: When you can do 10 head lifts with ease, try this move. Get in the same position you did for head lifts. Inhale and relax your belly. As you exhale, raise your head and your shoulders off the floor, reaching your arms and hands toward your knees.
    If this strains your neck, fold both hands behind your head, but don’t pull on your neck. Inhale as you lower your head and shoulders back down.
  • Curl-ups: When you can do 10 shoulder lifts, move on to this. Start in the same position on the floor. Lift your torso until it’s about halfway between your knees and the floor behind you. Reach toward your knees and hold for 2 to 5 seconds. Then, slowly lower yourself down.

Don’t forget to breathe. Exhale when you exert. Inhale when you relax.

4. Kneeling Pelvic Tilt

Why It’s Good for You: This aaahhinspiring exercise helps tone your tummy. Strengthening your abs can also relieve back pain.

How It’s Done: Start on all fours, toes touching the floor behind you, arms straight down from your shoulder line, palms touching the floor. Your back should be relaxed and straight, not curved or arched. As you inhale, pull your buttocks forward, tilting your pelvis and rotating your pubic bone upward. Hold for a count of three, and release.

5. Kegels

Why They’re Good for You: This classic exercise will help you tone bladder muscles and help reduce risks of incontinence associated with childbirth. The more kegels you do, and the longer you hold them, the better control you will have over those leaks caused by sneezing, laughing, or picking up your baby.

How They’re Done: Your goal is to contract and hold the muscles that control the flow of urine. To get which muscles they are, start by doing the exercise while you use the bathroom. As you urinate, manipulate your muscles until the stream temporarily stops. Then release and let the urine flow. Remember what that feels like, and when you’re not urinating, contract, hold, and release those same muscles. Try to do this 10 times per session, three times a day.

6. Bonus Workouts for Baby and Mom

It can be hard to find time away from your baby in the early months, so try these exercises that you can do with your infant. Take caution when completing them. You may want to practice first using a doll or a rolled-up blanket or towel that’s the same size as your baby. Do the moves full-out only when you’re certain there’s no danger of dropping your baby. Make sure you’re fit enough, and have a good enough sense of balance, to assure your and your baby’s safety.

  • The baby glider: Holding your baby close to your chest, do a forward lunge with your left leg (take a big step forward and bend your knee). Don’t let your toes go past your knee. Then return to starting position and lunge with the opposite leg. This will help strengthen your legs, back muscles, and core. Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
  • The baby bouncer: This move is similar to the baby glider, but instead of forward lunges, do side lunges — stepping to the side instead of to the front — and do a squat. Reach back with your behind as if you’re sitting in a chair, keeping your knees over your ankles. Repeat 8-10 times to each side.
  • Rock-a-baby squats and curls: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Holding your baby tight and close to your chest, squat down, allowing your baby’s feet to touch the floor. As you rise up, bring the baby closer to your chest. Repeat 15 times. Note: You should do this exercise only when your baby is at least 10 to 12 weeks old.

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Adriana Martin, fitness coach, certified personal trainer; author, The Pregnancy Weight Book, 2011; founder, FitMomLife.

Recently had a baby, but still look pregnant? Try out these effective exercises to lose fat that has accumulated in your belly.

Ladies, it’s not that hard to reduce belly fat. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

If you’re someone who has already delivered a child, but still looks pregnant — we understand your concern. It’s important to know that even though every pregnancy and delivery is different, most women gain weight in the post-delivery stage. But just the way it took nine months for your belly to expand to keep your baby safe, in the same way, it is going to take some time for your body to recover from pregnancy. But for that, you need to move your body!

However, you need to understand that it might not happen as quickly as you would expect it to happen. But regular exercises can help, ladies! Yes, certain exercises can help you to reduce belly fat.

Here are some exercises that will help your body lose all that belly fat:

1. V-ups

The V-up exercise is a full body move that works your core, leg, back, and shoulders. V-ups are known to be the ultimate belly fat cutter and what makes them more effective is the fact that they offer benefits of two moves– crunches and leg raises. If you’re looking forward to burning that belly fat after your pregnancy, this is going to be your go-to exercise.

Say goodbye to belly fat and hello to v-ups.

2. Plank

When it comes to exercise for a flat belly, plank tops the list. It is one of the best calorie- burning exercises, as it engages multiple muscles at once, thereby benefiting the core strength of your body. This, in turn, burns fat around your abdominal area. You can incorporate certain plank variations to involve more and more muscle groups to burn an increased number of calories. Here are three variations you can do:

  • Standard plank
  • Straight arm plank
  • Side plank
3. Bicycle crunches

One of the biggest advantages of doing bicycle crunches is that it helps to build and tone the upper abdominal muscles. This can give you a flat tummy when done correctly. It might sound like it’s really tough to perform sometimes, but it isn’t. So ladies, give this exercise a try!

4. Flutter kicks

Flutter kicks can surely tackle all that extra flab around your tummy. Yes, it is the ultimate lower abs fat cutter, but remember that speed and leg extension matters a lot, when it comes to flutter kicks. So, keep in mind both these things, while performing this exercise.

Take the help of flutter kicks to tone up your belly! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Mountain climbers

Now, if you think mountain climbers are easy to perform, let’s break it to you— this exercise will make your abs toned and how! In fact, this exercise perfectly combines core and cardio exercises that target your abs, shoulders, arms, chest as well as your belly. Thus, mountain climbers can help you lose all that stubborn belly fat that stays after pregnancy.

6. Burpees

If you’re tired of trying everything possible to lose belly fat after pregnancy, it’s time to go for burpees. This move targets every single muscle of your body and it isn’t just a great cardio exercise to lose belly fat, but also helps in muscle strengthening and toning. Simply put, it can turn your body into a fat-burning machine!

Burpees is the baap of all weight loss exercises. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Squats

With squats, you can burn fat and build muscles, if you perform regularly. Squats can help to lose fat all over, including the belly and thighs.

Remember ladies, if you experience any kind of discomfort in exercising or experiencing heavy bleeding, do consult your doctor immediately.

alt=”Aayushi Gupta” width=”” height=”” /> Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent–Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.

Our simple postpartum exercises are designed to help you get back in shape after having your baby. In part 2 of our series, you can learn how to tone your belly, butt, and legs in this easy-to-follow video. Learn more about “stopping the wind and the water” using kegel exercises. No equipment required!

To really get the most out of our postpartum fitness series, watch the short introductory video.

So your first exercise is going to really work your legs and your bottom. It’s a lunging action – it’s a static lunge, so you’re going to hold your position right here, so the back heel is off the ground. You’re going to tuck your tail underneath you and make sure that your back knee, your bottom, and your shoulder are in one straight line.

This is a really good exercise to lift, lower, and carry your baby down towards the floor. So when you think about that, if you’re going to lower your baby to the floor, you want to keep your back upright – that’s really important.

So imagine you’re holding your baby. Tuck your tail underneath you, lift up through your core muscles, and then lower straight down. Then push through your front heel to lift back up. You’ll notice as you’re doing this, your front knee shouldn’t be going over your toes. You should be able to wiggle your toes.

We’re going to do four more on this side. As you’re doing this, make sure again that you’re using your core, your back posture, everything is in line, your chin is in. Straight down, and straight back up.

Now you can rest here and change legs, or you can do another one with me. Just remember, the more you do, the harder it is. Change legs, step back, tuck the tail underneath, squeeze your bottom, lift up nice and tall. Remember that vertical line.

And here’s the thing: If you really want to work into that bottom, you’ve got to feel it. So as you push through your front heel, squeeze up into your bottom.

We’re going to do three more on this side. On your last one, we’re going to use it to actually lower all the way down to the floor. Are you ready? So here we go. Careful, lower down, if you need to hold on to something you can.

Come down, and you’re onto your knees and onto your foot, and we’re going to do a little stretch for the front of the thigh. So just lift up through here and feel some length in the front here. That’s going to really release some tension out of this muscle that you’ve just been working.

Change sides, do it on the other side. So again, lift your pelvis through and come forward, so your front knee’s around 90 degrees and your back leg’s a little bit longer.

Then we’re going to go and work those all-important inner core muscles, working your tummy. So this is great for flattening your tummy.

So you have your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips, and you want to get your back into the right position – this is really important. So you want to have your tailbone slightly lifted, and I call this “happy dog wagging its tail position.” But you don’t want to go into a “saggy-backed old pony,” so you just have that little lift in your tailbone.

Now, to do this exercise, you curl your toes underneath you, and just lift your tail up a little bit, lifting your knees off the floor. Then you’re going to go back down again. This is what’s going to really work the tummy: As you lift up, pull up, “stop the wind, stop the water,” pull your tummy in, and then release and come back down.

We come up, and then you go back down. Make sure you breathe – don’t hold your breath. So you come up, and then come back down.

What you can do if you want a harder version is you can stay up. Keep your knees off the floor and hold it – it’s much harder. You’ve just got to make sure you can still feel that pelvic floor and your tummy muscles working as you do that.

Now we’re going to go into our upper-body exercise. So uncurl your toes, release them. Tuck your elbows in again – imagine you’re holding a pencil underneath each armpit.

This time you’re going to lower your nose towards the floor and then lift back up. For an easier version, you can just go a little way down. As you get stronger, you can go a little bit lower towards the floor, and this is what makes the exercise harder. Make sure your chin stays in, lowering the nose to the floor. One more, and then lift back up.

Now we’re going to just stretch out the arms, and your back a little bit as well, and your chest, by just taking the fingers between the shoulder blades, then gently pulling on that elbow. If you lift your ribcage up, you get a nice stretch into your back as well as on the back of the arm. And just hold that there, and then change sides, and you’ve done it. Well done!

In the joys and obstacles that you can face post-pregnancy, one of the most common that women worry about is eliminating their post-pregnancy tummy. While you will lose a considerable amount of weight within a few weeks of delivery, bouncing back to your regular self will take time. Luckily, there are several lifestyle changes you can make along the way to help flatten, firm, and tone-up your whole body.

Before we jump into our 10 tips for doing this, let’s take a look at the 4 main causes behind post-pregnancy tummies.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

The 4 Main Causes of Jelly Belly or Post-Pregnancy Tummies

Before we jump into how to eliminate your post-pregnancy tummy, it is important to understand the causes behind the “jelly belly” as this will provide some clarity on why your body doesn’t bounce back immediately post-pregnancy.

    You Have Extra Fat For Nourishment

While every woman varies in how much weight gain they put on during pregnancy, fat accumulation is a normal characteristic of pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. This is because you are eating for two and being pregnant makes exercise difficult. Pregnancy hormones will cause you to hold onto nutrients and calories in the form of extra fat, so that they can be used to nourish the baby when it comes time to breastfeed.

As your baby develops, your uterus needs to expand to make more room for your little one. During conception, your uterus weighs about 2.5 ounces, but over the course of your pregnancy, the need to expand will cause it to weigh in at about 2-pounds [ 1 ]. At this point, your uterus can hold 500 times the amount it could before conception.

After birth, the uterus undergoes a process called involution where it shrinks back to its original size. However, this process can be 6-8 weeks and begins at about 72-hours after delivery.

Another common reason for retaining a post-pregnancy tummy is from separated abdominal muscles. This is a common condition where there is a partial or complete separation of the “six-pack” muscles that run down the midline of your stomach. It happens in about 66% [ 2 ] of women during their third trimester, as the uterus needs to stretch to make room for your growing baby. While you may not experience symptoms, this condition can persist after birth in about 30-6% of women [ 3 ].

So, now that we know why you have that “mommy pooch,” let’s break down how you can eliminate your post-pregnancy tummy and get back to feeling more like yourself.

4 Lifestyle Actions to Flatten Your Post-Pregnancy Tummy

  1. Consider Breastfeeding Your Baby

One of the ways to lose weight quickly and slim down back to your original size (or as close to it as possible) is through breastfeeding. The fat accumulation you experienced during pregnancy is used after birth to fuel your milk production and feed your baby. Even if you eat an additional 300+ calories a day, you may still lose weight over the course of the next 6-9-months [ 4 ].

The recovery process after birth can be an uncomfortable and painful one due to uterus involution and weakened abdominal muscles. One way to boost recovery is by wearing a postpartum girdle which is a compression garment designed to support your core during exercise, train your waist, and reduce inflammation by promoting blood circulation.

Incorporate Low-Impact Exercises Into Your Routine to Get Back in Shape

Postnatal fitness is critical in strengthening your abdominal wall and reducing belly fat after a pregnancy. While you don’t need to pop back into the gym immediately (and it’s not recommended that you do so), it is a good idea to incorporate low-impact physical exercises into your daily routine.

Here are some options to help you get back into shape.

These are incredibly important post-delivery as they tone up your pelvic muscles which provide support for your uterus, bladder, rectum, and small intestine. To perform a kegel, lay down on your back and bend your knees with your feet touching the floor. Place your arms at your sides on the floor and contract your pelvic floor as if you were trying to hold your urine in. Hold for a few seconds and then release.

Stroller walking is both a safe and effective way to give your body an amazing workout without going overboard. You can use the stroller for support, pace yourself as slowly as you need, and engage your cardiovascular system which will give you a full body workout. Even going at a leisurely pace to start with is a great way to move your body while enjoying a change of scenery. Plus, the vitamin D is good for boosting your body’s immune response.

Both yoga and pilates are a great option for women who are looking to strengthen their whole body, improve mobility, and increase core stability.

Both yoga and pilates allow you to take the time to really stretch out your muscles, tune in with what feels good, and modify the exercises as needed.

    Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

In this pose, you lie on your stomach, arms at your sides, and your knees bent so that your feet are aimed towards your head. You then lift your head (inhale) and bend backward, lifting your legs as high as possible, so that you can touch them with your hands. You maintain the pose and breathe through it and then come back to the original position while exhaling.

With this pose, you lay on your back and raise your legs towards your head, keeping them straight (inhale as you do so). You then lift your arms and reach for your toes, to make a 45-degree angle. Maintain the posture, breathe through it, and exhale as you lower your legs.

How Can I Tackle My Loose Skin?

When it comes to loose skin, those with milder cases may be able to tackle it with hydration, vitamins & minerals, and lotions or oils that support your skin’s structure.

    Hydrate With Water

In the first few weeks of recovery, you’re going to be losing a lot of fluids. As your hormones level out and your body begins to get rid of the water weight it no longer needs, you’re going to find yourself thirstier than ever. As a new mom, you’re going to need to drink water to support your milk production, to flush out toxins, and replenish the body’s hydration levels. This, in turn, will help boost the health of your skin by giving it the moisture it needs to heal and improve its elasticity.

When it comes to eliminating your post-pregnancy tummy, try to have patience and kindness towards yourself. Your body has just undergone a tremendous feat, one that will take anywhere from 9-12-months to bounce back from.

The key takeaway here is to eat healthy, support your body with the right exercise and nutrition, and then listen to how it responds to you.

They can be related to pregnancy or birth, or the things you do while caring for young children, such as lifting and bending.

For some problems, you can do a lot to help yourself. For example, if you have a leaky bladder (incontinence) or a heavy feeling between your vagina and anus, you may need to strengthen the muscles around your bladder by doing pelvic floor exercises.

Also, if you have back pain, you may need to learn how to look after your back and do some exercises to strengthen it.

If a physical problem is bothering you, ask a GP or health visitor for help at any time. They can advise you and the GP can refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Your postnatal check

Your postnatal check at around 6 to 8 weeks after the birth of your baby is a good time to talk to the GP about any physical or mental health problems you’ve had since the birth.

Separated stomach muscles

It’s common for the 2 muscles that run down the middle of your stomach to separate during pregnancy. This is called diastasis recti, or divarication.

The amount of separation can vary. It happens because your growing womb (uterus) pushes the muscles apart, making them longer and weaker.

The separation between your stomach muscles will usually go back to normal by the time your baby is 8 weeks old.

After you have had your baby, you can check the size of the separation with this simple technique:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your shoulders off the floor slightly and look down at your tummy.
  3. Using the tips of your fingers, feel between the edges of the muscles, above and below your belly button. See how many fingers you can fit into the gap between your muscles.

Do this regularly to check that the gap is gradually getting smaller.

If the gap is still obvious 8 weeks after the birth, contact the GP as you may be at risk of back problems. The GP can refer you to a physiotherapist, who will give you some specific exercises to do.

Regular pelvic floor and deep stomach muscle exercises can help to reduce the size of the separation between your stomach muscles. It’s also important to stand up tall and be aware of your posture.

Pelvic floor muscle exercises

Pelvic floor muscle exercises strengthen the muscles around your bladder, vagina and bottom. This can help to stop incontinence, improve prolapse and make sex better too.

You can do these exercises lying down, sitting or standing. With practice, they can be done anywhere and at any time:

  1. Squeeze and draw in your bottom as if you’re holding in wind.
  2. Squeeze around your vagina and bladder (urethra) as if you’re stopping the flow of urine or squeezing during intercourse.
  3. Long squeezes – hold for as long as you can, but no longer than 10 seconds, then relax.
  4. Short squeezes – quickly squeeze the muscles and then let them go immediately. Do this until your muscles get tired.

Aim to build up to 10 repeats of each exercise, at least 3 times a day.

It’s important to keep breathing normally while you do these exercises. Make sure you don’t pull in your stomach when you squeeze.

Sitting on the toilet can be a good reminder to do your exercises. Just make sure you do them after you’ve finished.

Visit the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists website for more tips to strengthen your pelvic floor.

Stomach exercise

This exercise can help you tone your stomach muscles:

  1. Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Let your tummy relax and breathe in gently.
  3. As you breathe out, gently draw in the lower part of your stomach like a corset, narrowing your waistline.
  4. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles at the same time.
  5. Hold for a count of 10, breathing normally, then gently release.

Repeat up to 10 times.

Ways to ease back pain

These practical tips may help to relieve an aching back:

  • while feeding your baby, sit with your back well supported and straight. Put a small pillow or cushion behind your waist to support your lower back. Make sure your feet can reach the floor
  • kneel or squat (do not bend your back) to do tasks that are near the floor, such as picking up toys or bathing your baby
  • change a nappy on a raised surface. You could kneel on the floor next to a sofa or bed. Never leave your baby unattended on a raised surface, in case they fall off
  • keep your back straight and bend your knees when lifting
  • Keep your back straight when you push your pram or buggy. Or, carry your baby in a well-fitting sling

More on your wellbeing after birth:

More in Support and services

Page last reviewed: 22 October 2019
Next review due: 22 October 2022

Regular exercise after childbirth offers a range of health benefits. For example, exercise helps you return to your pre-pregnancy shape and gives you increased energy to cope with the demands of new motherhood.

Consult with your doctor or midwife before starting any postnatal exercise program.

You may need more time than you think to heal from childbirth. This is especially true if you had a caesarean delivery. However, you can begin exercises to tone your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles as soon as you feel ready.

If you had an episiotomy (a cut in the perineum to widen the opening during delivery) or tore your perineum during birth, pelvic floor exercises can help to speed your recovery. See your doctor, midwife or physiotherapist for more information.

Gentle tummy exercise

Pregnancy splits your abdominal muscles down the middle. It is important to make sure your muscles have healed before you do any vigorous abdominal exercises, such as abdominal crunches.

In the meantime, you can tone your tummy by performing an exercise that strengthens the deepest muscle layer (transversus abdominus). You can perform this exercise lying down, sitting, standing, or on your hands and knees.

Be guided by your doctor, midwife, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, but general guidelines include:

  • Keep your lower back flat.
  • Breathe out and draw your belly button back towards your spine. Your lower back shouldn’t flex or move.
  • Hold this position and breathe lightly. Count to 10.
  • Relax and repeat up to 10 times per set.
  • Do 10 sets, as many times per day as you can.
  • You may like to perform your pelvic floor exercises at the same time (see below).

Tummy exercise – stage two

Once the gap in your abdominal muscles has closed, you can progress to more demanding exercises. General guidelines include:

  • Lie on your back, with bent knees and both feet on the floor. Put your hands on your thighs.
  • Breathe out, contract your abdominal muscles and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Slide your hands towards your knees. Only aim to get your shoulder blades off the floor.
  • Keep your head and shoulders stable. Hold the position, then slowly ease your shoulders and head back to the floor.
  • Repeat up to 10 times for one set.
  • Perform around three sets per session.
  • You may like to perform your pelvic floor exercises at the same time (see below).

Exercise for the lower abdominal muscles

The lower abdominal muscles are located below your belly button. To work these muscles gently, guidelines include:

  • Make sure your abdominal muscles have healed. Until the gap is closed, only perform the ‘gentle tummy exercise’ option.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles.
  • Slowly slide your feet away from you, aiming to straighten both legs. The idea is to straighten the legs without arching your lower back.
  • If your back starts to arch, stop and slide your feet back towards your bottom.
  • Aim for 10 repetitions per set.
  • Perform around three sets per session.
  • As your lower abdominal muscles get stronger, you’ll be able to slide your feet further and further away.

Pelvic floor exercises

The pelvic floor muscles are tightly slung between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone, and support the bowel, bladder, uterus (womb) and vagina. Childbirth can weaken these muscles and cause problems, such as incontinence, later in life.

To exercise them, you must first direct your attention to these muscles. To help you identify these muscles, they are the ones that you tighten to stop urinating (weeing). These exercises can be performed lying down, sitting or standing.

Try to relax your abdominal muscles. Don’t bear down or hold your breath. Gradually squeeze and increase the tension until you have contracted the muscles as hard as you can. Release gently and slowly. Then perform the exercises, which include:

  • Squeeze slowly and hold for between five and 10 seconds. Release slowly. Repeat 10 times.
  • Perform quick, short and hard squeezes. Repeat 10 times.
  • Squeeze, then clear your throat or cough lightly. Repeat three times.
  • Aim for five or six sets each day.

Types of postnatal exercise

Keep in mind that your ligaments and joints will be loose for at least three months following the birth, so avoid any high-impact exercises or sports that require rapid direction changes. Vigorous stretching should be avoided too. Recommended postnatal exercise includes:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Aqua-aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Low-impact aerobic workouts
  • Light weight training
  • Cycling.

See your doctor for further recommendations and cautions.

General suggestions for aerobic exercise

Be guided by your doctor or midwife, but general suggestions include:

  • Give yourself sufficient time to heal, particularly if you have had a caesarean birth.
  • Consult with your doctor or midwife before starting any postnatal exercise program – you may be advised to wait or adapt your exercises.
  • If you are having trouble with the techniques required in the above exercises, please consult a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or other appropriately qualified and certified fitness professional.
  • Aim for slow, gradual weight loss of around half a kilogram per week.
  • Wear a supportive bra.
  • Avoid any activities that place stress on the unstable pelvic floor and hip joints until strength and stability has improved. Be careful about activities that require sudden changes in direction (for example, high-impact aerobics, running and contact sports). This varies depending on the type of pregnancy and delivery you may have had.
  • Initially, exercise for only five to 10 minutes at a time. Increase the length of your workouts gradually.
  • Ideally, your exercise sessions should eventually last between 30 and 50 minutes.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard – if you feel breathless, slow down.
  • If you experience pain, slow down or stop.

Remember that it may take you months to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and weight, so don’t be discouraged by slow progress.

Warning signs to slow down

Don’t overexert yourself. Your body gives out warning signs if you are exercising too hard, and these signs may include:

Your tummy muscles come under a lot of strain in pregnancy.

After you give birth, your hormones rebalance. But this can take months, especially when you are breastfeeding.

Your uterus (womb) can take up to 6 weeks to go back to its regular size after you have a baby. You might have extra fat around your tummy, back and thighs.

Breast feeding helps to reduce this extra body fat. But it can take time to strengthen your tummy muscles. Be patient with your body.

Avoid crunches and sit-ups early on

Crunches, sit ups and similar exercises are not helpful too early after having a baby. You could do lasting damage to your body. Work on your posture first.

Try not to hold your breath when bending, lifting and exercising. This is a bad habit some people get when their tummy muscles are weak.

Breath holding is a way of supporting your tummy to make up for your muscles being weak. But it puts a lot of downward pressure on your bladder, uterus and bum.

DRAM – weakness in tummy muscles

Pregnancy causes a weakness in the midline of your tummy muscles. This is because they stretch to let your baby grow.

This stretched area is called a diastasis rectus abdomius, or DRAM.

Watch a video explaining DRAM

DRAM (diastasis of the rectus abdomens muscle after pregnancy)

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DRAM happens in this rectus abdominus muscle. This muscle has 2 halves that are connected by a piece of connective tissue. This tissue stretches as your baby grows. This can cause a very weak area down the middle of your tummy.

Check your tummy muscles for DRAM before doing any:

  • tummy exercise like crunches, sit ups, planks
  • twisting your trunk, for example, lifting older children in and out of the car

You'll find it harder to do these if there is no resistance between each side of your 6 pack muscle.

How to check for a weakness in your tummy muscles (DRAM)

The best time to check for a DRAM is from the week after giving birth. But if you have had a caesarean wait until 5 weeks after giving birth. This is because your scar needs time to heal.

  1. Lie on a towel or mat.
  2. Place your fingers, widthways, above your belly button.
  3. Perform a sit up – put one hand behind your head for support. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor into a crunch position. As you do this, feel for any gap in the mid line of your tummy. Now check the gap just below the belly button.

If you can feel a hollow space big enough for 2 or more fingers, then the gap is too big. This means that you have less support around your tummy.

Check weekly and track the progress you are having if you also do:

  • postnatal floor exercises
  • pelvic floor exercises
  • avoid pulling into a sit up to get out of bed

At 6 to 8 weeks your abdominal muscles will naturally tighten. You will need to hold a good posture for this to happen. A poor posture makes it difficult for the DRAM to close.

Watch a video on how to check for DRAM

DRAM (diastasis of the rectus abdomens muscle after pregnancy)

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What you can do to close the DRAM

To help close the gap:

  • squeeze gently on your tummy muscle – this feels like sucking your lower tummy (below the belly button) in or pulling up a zip on jeans that are too tight
  • perform a repeat sit up – you’ll often find that the gap has narrowed a bit.

Holding a good posture helps. It helps your deep tummy muscles to support your body better. This can help reduce DRAM.

Watch a video on what you can do to close the DRAM

DRAM (diastasis of the rectus abdomens muscle after pregnancy)

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Abdominal exercises

Abdominal (tummy) exercises like sit ups and planks can make a DRAM worse. They can sometimes cause a hernia.

If you are doing these exercises, check for a DRAM before and afterwards. If it gets bigger, you need to choose an easier exercise to:

  • build up strength
  • feel more resistance in the space along the middle of your tummy

After 8 weeks if you feel a DRAM greater than 2 fingers, ask your GP for a physiotherapy referral.

Motherhood changes you inside and out. After having a baby, your clothing size, breast shape, hip width and even your shoe size might be different. These changes are evidence of the work your body has done. As you adjust to your new life with baby, it’s important to remember that your mind and emotions are also changing, so be sure to give yourself the support you need.

Ask for and Accept Help

Realizing you’re responsible for another human being can be scary. “New moms struggle with anxiety over a number of things, from fear of something happening to the baby to not making enough breastmilk,” says Shari Lawson, M.D., medical director of general obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “Disrupted sleep and being overtired can amplify these feelings. The best thing you can do is accept help from your partner, family and friends — even if they’re not doing things exactly the same way you do — and then rest and recharge while someone else is caring for your baby.”

Reasonable Expectations About Losing Baby Weight

Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Serena Williams all showed off their slim postpartum bodies just months after giving birth. If they can get their pre-baby figures back in a snap, why can’t you? While it’s normal to be frustrated with your postpartum body (especially compared to what you see in magazines), it’s also important to put it in perspective. “It’s unrealistic to compare yourself to celebrities who have personal trainers and personal chefs,” says Lawson. “Your body changes over time; it takes a while to get close to your prepregnancy shape and size.” What’s reasonable? Expect to naturally lose some weight before your first postpartum doctor’s visit (usually around six to eight weeks after giving birth). After that, if you stayed within your doctor’s recommendation for pregnancy weight gain, it’s still normal to have 10 to 15 more pounds to lose in the months ahead.

Breastfeeding to Burn Calories

Breastfeeding your baby has so many benefits: It protects infants from illness, offers them perfectly balanced nutrition and lowers your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. But you require energy (read: calories) to make breast milk. Nursing moms should eat an additional snack, such as a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt, to get an extra 300 calories a day. Even with this additional food, breastfeeding will help you lose the baby weight as long as you’re eating a healthy diet and not overdoing it.

A Postpregnancy Workout with Core Strengthening Exercises

In addition to moderate cardio, a postpartum workout should focus on building up the muscles of your torso (which took a beating when you were pregnant). Every new mom can benefit from core strengthening. “The rectus abdominal muscles are stretched during pregnancy in a way that makes it impossible to exercise them during that time,” says Lawson. Some women also experience a separation of the abdominal wall muscles, which is called rectus abdominis diastasis. Exercises that target this condition can bring the muscles back together again.

Prenatal Vitamins, Because Your Body Still Needs the Nutrients

Don’t shelve your prenatal vitamins just yet. Keep taking them, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You need to restore the nutrients you may have lost during pregnancy, and support your body while it’s producing breast milk, says Lawson. Your doctor may also recommend you take an iron supplement and vitamin C (to help with the absorption of iron).

Kegels to Strengthen Weakened Pelvic Floor Muscles

The changes in your body that you can see might be causing you some stress, but hidden changes can be anxiety-producing as well. After delivery, it’s relatively common to have some bladder leakage caused by prolonged pushing or a forceps- or vacuum-assisted childbirth. This is usually temporary. “Typically, you’ll see improvement over several weeks to months as you heal,” Lawson says. Performing Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles so you can regain bladder control more quickly. If leakage is really bothering you, ask your gynecologist if seeing a pelvic health therapist would be of benefit.

Retinol to Minimize Stretch Marks

Slathering on creams and oils to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy is always your best bet. But you still may develop deep purplish or pink lines. If you’re worried about permanent scarring, there’s good news: Retinoid creams derived from vitamin A can minimize the appearance of new stretch marks — any that are less than a few months old. This is something you need to move on quickly, though. Once the marks have faded to white, it’s too late for the retinoid cream to work.

Resuming Your Sex Life

The elastic walls of the vagina stretch quite a bit during childbirth, but they do spring back into place. So you can resume sexual intercourse when you feel ready and have gotten the go-ahead from your doctor. If you’re breastfeeding, you may experience less lubrication because nursing causes your body to produce less estrogen. Having a vaginal lubricant available can help if you feel discomfort.

Acceptance of Your New Life

You helped create another human being and might still be providing sustenance for your baby. Recognizing the physical changes as a part of an amazing time in your life is an important part of respecting the new you. It’s also normal to go through some emotional ups and downs as you adjust to parenthood. The responsibilities that come with keeping a tiny person alive — frequent feedings, night wakings and dealing with poop-splosions — can be overwhelming. “It’s natural to feel tired, let down, frustrated or sad in the days following childbirth as your hormone levels fluctuate,” Lawson says. “Life after a new baby is not going to be the same. There is a steep learning curve in parenthood, but your new life will be filled with thrills and wonderful memories.”

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Fitness expert Leah Keller shares tips to tone your post-pregnancy belly.

Workout moves to help moms flatten the stomach post-pregnancy

— — New mothers are turning to an exercise method to help beat the so-called “mummy tummy,” the stubborn post-pregnancy stomach bulge that is often the result of a medical condition.

“What’s causing the bulge is the pressure from your internal abdominal cavity, so whenever you strain or do certain positions you would see bulging through,” Dr. Fahimeh Sasan, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told ABC News of the common postpartum phenomenon.

During pregnancy, the growing uterus stretches out of the abdomen, which can cause the vertical bands of muscle that meet in the middle to separate from each other. For many women, this stretching in their post-pregnancy belly is actually a medical condition called diastatis recti, commonly referred to as abdominal separation.

Sasan said one possible way to prevent abdominal separation is “being active prior to becoming pregnant . which we recommend for pregnancy anyway.”

“Doing some sort of exercise, particularly core-strengthening exercises, before getting pregnant could be a good way to prevent this,” Sasan added.

Fitness expert Leah Keller has developed her own technique, called the Dia Method, specifically to help new mothers afflicted with abdominal separation after giving birth.

Keller described diastatis recti as when “your six-pack muscles physically stretch sideways.”

Keller told ABC News that a simple way to tell if you have diastasis recti is to lie flat on your back with your knees bent, then put your fingers right above your belly button and press down gently. Next, lift your head up about an inch while keeping your shoulders on the ground. If you have diastasis recti, you will be able to feel a gap between the muscles in your abs that is wider than an inch.

To develop the Dia Method, Keller teamed up with a doctor at Weill Cornell Medical College and observed 63 women with abdominal separation doing her workout routine for ten minutes a day over the course of 12 weeks. Keller says all of the women showed significant improvement in combating the post-pregnancy belly bulge. Despite her results, many experts say more research needs to be done, but agree that these exercises can give women a head start on losing stubborn belly fat.

Here are Keller’s top exercises to help flatten the post-pregnancy mummy tummy:

If you’re having a tough time trying to get rid of your baby belly, you may suffer from diastasis recti, but these exercises can help.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

If you’re having a tough time trying to get rid of your baby belly, you may suffer from diastasis recti, but these exercises can help.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

Diastasis recti is a condition in which the stomach muscles that separated to make room for the baby don’t come back together after giving birth, and it can make it difficult to lose the baby weight. (For a quick test to see if you have diastasis, click here.)

But exercise can help. Fitness expert Erin Denton, a certified postnatal exercise specialist, says these three moves from her Postnatal Rescue workout DVD will start you on the path back to strong, flat abs (and they work well to tighten your tummy if you don’t have diastasis too!). Do 10 reps of each every day for a week, then 20 reps for three to four weeks. When keeping your abdominal wall pulled in while performing these moves begins to feel easy, you are ready to move on to more intense ab work. Just be sure to get your doctor’s OK first.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

Step A: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground and arms at your sides. Take a deep breath and pull your belly button in.

Step B: As you exhale, slowly tip your pelvis up so that your upper body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders, as shown. Hold for two beats; take another deep breath, then exhale and slowly roll back down.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

Step A: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground and arms at your sides, as shown. Take a deep breath and pull your stomach muscles in.

Step B: As you exhale, slowly lift your neck and head off the floor, extending your arms on either side of your legs, as shown. Be sure to keep your stomach muscles pulled in. Hold for two beats, then take another deep breath and slowly lower yourself as you exhale.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

Step A: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Lift your legs one at a time so that your calves are at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Place one hand on your belly and the other arm at your side, palm down, as shown.

Step B: Pull your stomach muscles in and with a slow, smooth movement, open your legs as far as you can without puffing your belly out; slowly close your legs.

How to tone up your stomach after pregnancy

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