It’s top of the list of ‘physical issues’ for most postnatal ladies. I fully understand, been there myself. Many first-time mums aren’t well prepared for the reality of the normal, healthy early postnatal abdomen’s appearance. How may air-brushed images of celebrity new mums are we faced with, leading us to presume a postnatal 6-pack is to be expected? (Don’t get me started!).
Let’s look at the REAL, deep biology of it. All the tissues in the wall of the abdomen contains elastin. It’s a super-stretchy protein used to make your muscles, skin, blood vessels, tendons and the rest. Another stretchy protein, collagen, runs down the length of your tummy. Anything elastic is designed to lengthen when stretched and then shorten when the stretching force is removed. The abdominal wall is no different, it is designed to recover, but understanding and doing what helps as well as knowing and avoiding what slows or prevents it is vital. Mums normally tend not to ‘ping’ back in a few weeks. So many things from lifting technique, nutrition, even how we breathe have a huge effect on allowing and supporting the elastic tissues to re-strengthen.
It’s a biggie too. The pelvis naturally tilts forwards during pregnancy. Muscles at the rear of the pelvis weaken, those at the front tighten. This is made worse by the fact that we’re talking the largest, most powerful muscles of the body here and they don’t recover normal service without intervention. We need to release what’s tight then strengthen what’s weak. A forward tilting pelvis makes the abdomen protrude, always.
Taking steps to realign the pelvis is a significant part of the picture.
A stretching and weakening in the midline of the abdominal wall often causes a slight protrusion of the lower abdomen. This is due to less overall tension in all the abdominal tissues including reduced muscle strength. For more on diastasis follow the link at the end of this post.
Pelvic floor strength
Virtually all postnatal women will suffer some pelvic floor weakening. The pelvic floor is part of the deep core system. It works together with other core muscles including the deepest abdominal – the one on which you need to focus your attention for a ‘flatter tummy’. It will never be able to strengthen correctly if the pelvic floor is ignored. I have a ‘thing’ about the importance of pelvic floor strength awareness. When you’ve got a spare 15 mins have a look at my ebook on the subject; bit.ly/2WQsjWZ
This is huge. I’m not talking fat loss here. Fat is a relatively minor player in most ladies concerned about their ‘mummy tummy’ compared with the factors I’ve discussed above. Any excess weight can certainly be addressed…. later. For now concentrate on healing nutrition, a balanced, healthy diet to provide your body with all the building blocks it needs for repair and strengthening is key.
The thing is, it’s all connected. You can’t look at any part of your body and try to ‘deal with it’ in isolation. Your body is one unified global system, everything impacts on everything else. Going for the burn with traditional ab/core exercises will likely do much more harm than good. The postnatal abdominal area is fragile. It needs to be treated with care and an understanding of what’s going on at a deep level. Doing this will ensure you get the results you want safely, effectively and faster.