Something that I hear a lot of moms fearing when it comes to pregnancy and postpartum recovery is developing a “mom pooch.” And to be honest, I don’t love this term, but it’s commonly thrown around, so let’s talk about what it actually is, why it happens, and why many people struggle with it!
If we are meeting for the first time - Hi! Welcome to Vibrant Mama Wellness! My name is Megan, and I am a pre and postnatal personal trainer. I am certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with a specialization in pre+postnatal fitness through Pronatal fitness. I am a mom to a toddler, and pregnant with my second baby!
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. This blog post is based on my own research and experience - please consult a medical professional before starting or making any changes to your exercise program).
A “mom pooch” is typically referring to a belly that still looks about 5-6 months pregnant after childbirth. Many women complain that no matter what they do, this lower belly area doesn’t improve (and sometimes even gets worse).
So why does this happen?
In the majority of cases, “mom pooch” is referring to Diastasis Recti, which is a condition where the abdominal muscles separate. It’s important to note that 100% of people WILL develop Diastasis Recti during pregnancy. This is normal! But it becomes problematic when it doesn’t heal postpartum, and there is a loss of muscle coordination and function postpartum.
A true Diastasis Recti is a 2-finger gap or wider after 8 weeks post-birth. For the vast majority of people, exercise can heal this condition and your core can be functional again! (I teach you how to do this in my 12-Week Postpartum Program!)
However, if you’ve been working out postpartum and NOT seeing an improvement, there could be a few reasons…
You jumped into traditional abdominal exercises too soon.
Many people are psyched to get to that 6-week postpartum appointment because this is typically when your provider will clear you for exercise. BUT - just because you are cleared to resume exercise does not mean you should be jumping back into the workouts you were doing pre-pregnancy. Remember that your body just went through a ton of changes in the last 10 months plus you gave birth! You need to follow a slow and strategic plan to get back into working out so that your body continues to heal. Doing too much too soon stresses the tissues and muscles, and often leads to injury. And in this case, it may have further weakened your abdominal muscles.
Your posture and alignment need improvement.
How you carry yourself impacts your core functioning. Especially postpartum, many people find themselves in a hunched over, shoulders rounding position. This impacts how you breathe and how your core functions! It also weakens the abdominal wall (which is already in a weakened state postpartum).
You aren’t properly engaging the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis.
Our core canister (which contains the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis - aka the deepest ab muscles) is disrupted during pregnancy. So once the baby is born and we have all this space back in the abdominal cavity, your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis need to learn how to work together again! This takes slow and intentional work. If you skip this, you're likely going to have problems down the road.
If you are breastfeeding, you still have a lot of hormones coursing through your body. The hormone relaxin impacts muscles and connective tissues and can contribute to a weakened abdominal wall. Many people often experience thyroid imbalances postpartum which can impact overall healing (so that's always worth getting checked out!)
Chronic constipation and poor nutrition.
Poor nutrition impacts the body's ability to heal and can cause constipation and gastric discomfort. If you're experiencing constipation, this can put a strain on the pelvic floor and abdominal wall, which can contribute to the weakening of these muscle groups!
So here's the moral of the story - not all exercise is created equally and your body has A LOT of healing to do postpartum.
If you do find that you've been doing any of these above things and you're not seeing improvement in your "mom pooch", it's not that there is something wrong with your body, it's that you need to tweak your strategy. And I'm here to help!
Inside my 12-Week Vibrantly You™ Postpartum Program we work on restoring that mind-body connection to your core and pelvic floor and work on strengthening from the inside out. Every single exercise serves a purpose to heal your postpartum body and have you feeling stronger than even your pre-pregnancy self! And we also tackle the nutrition side of things too. Certified Pre/Postnatal Nutritionist, Caitlin Cipriano, teaches you how to balance your meals so that you can work on correcting hormonal imbalances, nourish your body so that it can focus on healing, and improve your gut health to decrease annoying symptoms like constipation! Everything is connected, and when you take a well-rounded, holistic approach, you will see results!
Check out the program HERE!
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Disclaimer: This blog does not serve as medical advice. Please consult your medical provider before starting a new fitness routine. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.