Even though celebrity moms seem to slim back down to enviable proportions after they give birth, they also have a full-time staff of personal trainers, healthy chefs, nannies and fashion/beauty consultants who facilitate a fast slimdown. Does that mean you can't have the fab physique you had before you got pregnant? Absolutely not. But patience is a virtue, as Dr. Danine Fruge explains. "It is important to realize that it takes six months to a year for a woman's body to go back to its pre-pregnancy bone structure – your rib cage and hips expand during pregnancy," the fit doc says. "There is no reason you can't go back to your original jeans size, but give it time."
If you had a C-section or a particularly difficult birthing experience, you may have to wait a few weeks before jumping right into a fitness program. "After a C-section the typical time that doctors tell mothers to wait before exercising is six weeks, but depending on the mother and the extent of her delivery experience, it can be just a few days," Dr. Fruge says. "Some women are cleared by their doctors to begin specialized OB-core exercises the day after delivery and some are told six weeks before clearing." Even if it seems like forever before you can work out again, exercise as soon as you safely can, so it can become part of your daily routine.
Though crunches are a classic abdominal exercise, they are actually one of the worst exercises new moms can do for their midsection. "Women should avoid crunches or anything that causes valsalva – where you are crunching forward and straining muscles," warns Dr. Fruge. "This movement actually leads to pooching or pushing out the stomach, for an undesirable result." What's a new mom to do?
The best exercises for women to tighten their tummies are done in the supine position — flat on your back. If your doctor clears you, you can begin this exercise from your hospital bed.
Start position: Lie flat on your back, right knee bent and left leg straight.
Movement: Drag your left heel towards your buttock and gently contract your core as you do it (belly button to spine). It is critical that as you drag your heel, you push your back muscles into the bed or floor (a Pilates concept). You should envision flattening out the curve of your back — this act of contracting slowly and in controlled manner is very effective.
Perform: Going back and forth between legs, hold the position at least 3 seconds for each slide.
If the heel slide is too advanced or not possible due to soreness, start out by simply squeezing your stomach and flattening your stomach into the spine. Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds at a time, then relax.
Even though you aren't eating for two, don't starve yourself in hopes of fast weight loss or flat abs. "Don't be afraid to eat," says Dr. Fruge. "You may not be pregnant anymore but if you are breastfeeding you will be burning a lot of calories, and you will be up in the middle of the night needing energy." More important than restricting calories, she recommends re-establishing healthy lifestyle habits.
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