A concern for some parents after having a baby is the condition, appearance, and strength of their mid-section, aka the core or abs. Of course, pregnancy is responsible for stretching out and displacing skin, muscle, connective tissue, and organs over the course of 9-10 months and while the body will naturally take care of a good deal of the "snapping back," you will likely be left with a core that weak and imbalanced.
It's important to note that in order to get a more toned tummy after pregnancy, you need to work on strengthening and getting into balance your entire core, which is more than just the abdominal muscles. The "core" includes your diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, and other mid-section stabilizing muscles.
If you're eager to get your abs and mid-section back in shape, take a look at these key tips for getting started and staying safe.
Take it slowly, but not too slowly. Talk to your doctor about when you should resume normal physical activity, including exercise. Depending on your physical situation, mode of birth, and any complications, the when and how much of postpartum exercise will be different. ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommend resuming exercise gradually, when the parent feels up to it, including beginning within days after birth. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises can be done immediately postpartum.
While some jump back into exercise too quickly or too intensely, others wait too long or put it off entirely. Apart from physical recovery benefits, exercise helps boost mood and overall wellness. Remaining sedentary for too long after birth can create further weakness and imbalance in your body and especially your core. Get started simply with short, frequent walks in your neighborhood (weather permitting). If it's too cold or icy where you live, find a simple standing or floor routine, like this one that you can incorporate into your day.
Avoid crunches. No, no, no - no crunches. First off, crunches only work a small area of your mid-section. Second, they are not advised in postpartum until/unless you've been evaluated by a physical therapist to determine if you have diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles), and the extent of the repair needed for your abdominals as well as your pelvic floor. Further, crunches can wreak havoc on your lower back and posture during a time where your body is already overcompensating for weakness and pain in those areas.
Seek evaluation. Your postpartum OB/GYN appointment is important, of course. Unfortunately, your obstetrician does not evaluate the health of your core. For that, you will need to seek evaluation from a physical therapist or postpartum health and fitness expert. An expert in the area of postpartum physical health will be able to diagnose diastasis recti, as well as identify imbalances, and determine the strength of your pelvic floor. It's critical to know
Aim for strength and balance throughout your whole core. Postpartum core workouts should be done to achieve more than just a flatter tummy. The strength and balance of your core affects the entire rest of your body. When you seek a solution or exercise routine, be sure that it targets all areas of your core to increase balance and strength. When you do that, your "flatter tummy" goal will fall right into place.