Does your belly still look pregnant after having a baby? What can you do about it?
If you’re like most women, pregnancy affects you in many ways, some great – a child, and some not so great – baby fat or the belly pooch. The belly pooch is a bulge of the lower belly that can happen after pregnancy or with normal aging and weakness of the core. Sometimes it is just related to accumulation of a layer of fat, but usually it’s associated with abdominal wall muscle weakness, and in more severe cases, a separation of the abdominal wall muscles – diastasis recti. Most women will notice this change after pregnancy.
In a study of 300 women who have given birth, approximately 45% of these mothers had a mild case of diastasis at 6 months postpartum. Diastasis is the separation of parts of the body that are normally joined together, such as separation of certain abdominal muscles that occurs during pregnancy.
Why does this happen?
“Hormones and the stretching of the belly are to blame.”, says Dr. Ken Oleszek, MD of La Fontaine Aesthetics in Denver, Colorado. “The hormones of pregnancy allow the connective tissue of the belly to loosen and stretch out to accommodate the growing fetus.” Additionally, during the third trimester the pressure from the growing baby will further stretch and thin the abdominal muscles. After delivery, it takes a time for the body to improve muscle tone and elasticity and this may show as the lower belly bulge, the pooch, the paunch or diastasis.
Can I prevent this?
If you can begin exercises to strengthen your core before pregnancy and even in the first trimester, it’s likely to help. But gentle core strengthening during later pregnancy is largely ineffective.
What can be done?
The mainstay of treating the abdominal wall weakness is cardiovascular training and isometric strength training focusing on the core abdominal muscles. Doing traditional crunches can sometimes make the condition worse. For more severe cases of muscle separation or Diastasis Recti, surgical repair is done by stitching the abdominal wall muscles back together.
Recently, a new treatment has been developed that will jump start your abdominal wall strengthening. The EMSCULPT was initially developed to improve abdominal muscle tone and size with the clinical studies showing a 17% increase in muscle mass and, surprisingly, a 15% decrease in fat after a series of 4 treatments.
manufacturer of EMSCULPT reports that each 30 minute session is like doing 20,000 isometric crunches. Dr. Ken Oleszek states, “patients describe the EMSCULPT treatment as intense but not painful. Most patients notice improved strength and appearance of the abdomen after the 2nd treatment.”
EMSCULPT is rapidly becoming a popular treatment in medical spas throughout the US.
Ken Oleszek, MD
Non-invasive Body Contouring Center
at La Fontaine Aesthetics, Denver, Colorado