Getting Rid of the Post-Pregnancy Paunch

Getting Rid of the Post-Pregnancy Paunch – loosing weight

WHY is it that some women can have babies one day, then emerge a few brief weeks later baring svelte midriffs and sinfully slim shapes with no visible signs of motherhood whatsoever? Most women who suffer for years with an expanded waistline and unwanted pounds write off the fabulous physiques of their counterparts as a case of good genes, or a few snips from the plastic surgeon, or a small arsenal of handsomely paid private chefs and personal trainers. Others say that if they were blessed with more money or a faster metabolism, they wouldn’t be cursed with the post-pregnancy paunch, either.

But most doctors say it’s not a matter of money or luck, but hard work and proper nutrition that enable some women to wear shapely gowns and even bare midriffs after their pregnancies. “During pregnancy there’s always a loss of body image,” says Dr. John Hobbs, an obstetrician/gynecologist and assistant professor at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. “The first reaction mothers have after delivery is to try to get themselves back in perfect condition, right away. So they use aggressive measures to get the weight off, which can cause more danger than good.” Dr. Hobbs and other specialists maintain that women can get their old bodies back–even newer, better models–if they adopt a healthy, realistic attitude toward fitness.

“Women should not get discouraged if they don’t see immediate results,” says Dr. Caryl Mussenden, an obstetrician/gynecologist at both Columbia Hospital for Women in Washington, D.C., and Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Va. “It may take as long as six weeks before they notice a change, but as long as they’re consistent, exercise is doing a lot of things for their bodies, even hidden things, so it’s definitely a worthwhile pursuit, even beyond the time after pregnancy.”

For new mothers eager to resume their former fitness regimens, or make a fresh start with exercise, the good news, physicians say, is that most women can engage in light activities such as stretching or leisurely walking in as short a time as one to two weeks after delivery (three to four weeks for mothers who have undergone Caesarean sections).

Kegels (which feel similar to trying to stop your urine flow, then releasing) are good for strengthening pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder and rectum. Even upper-body toning with light dumbbells is acceptable to condition a mother’s arms and back for lifting and carrying her baby.

But that good news comes with a caveat. Physicians warn that it people exercise too soon and too vigorously after childbirth, the uterus can start bleeding or in the case of a Caesarean section, the incision made at the womb can open. In addition, doing too much, too soon can put undue strain on muscles and ligaments, as well as cause light-headedness and fainting spells. Women are advised to postpone strenuous activities such as aerobics, jumping, running, even brisk walking about four weeks following delivery. Abdominal exercises such as crunches likewise should be postponed for six weeks. It also doesn’t hurt to get the okay from a physician before exercising.

Once a new mother has made a full physical recovery, she can launch a full attack on her pesky paunch and other problem spots. Crunches and side bends are good starts for abdominal muscles, but fitness experts say you shouldn’t stop there.

“Most people think, `If I spot reduce, I can lose weight,'” says Donna Richardson, national fitness expert and author who has trained pregnant women and new mothers for 14 years. “It just doesn’t work like that. When you lose weight, you lose it all over your body, not just in one area.” Yet Richardson adds that you can “spot train” to tone up pudgy parts. “Do a total body workout, but spend a little more time on those exercises for that specific area of concern,” she says. “Say that area is your abs and you tone [all your muscles] two days a week, [then] spend four days working on your abs.”

To shed those extra layers of embarrassing rat around the midsection, as well as other places, mothers can perform the following exercises as little as three days a week to bounce back into shape. As with any exercise, warm up and cool down muscles by stretching to prevent soreness and injury.


Fitness experts say walking is an ideal exercise to get new mothers back on their feet. Walking can be done virtually anytime and anywhere, all you need is pair of comfortable shoes and maybe a water bottle to stay hydrated while you walk. To walk properly, maintain correct posture by walking tall with your stomach tight. Lift your chest, relax your shoulders and keep your head up. Step with your heel first, then roll to the ball of your foot and push off your toes for more power. Bend your arms and let them pump naturally. Work in some quality time with your child by strapping your baby to your back or pushing your infant in a carriage or stroller during your walk.

While you should strive to walk at least 15 minutes, Dr. Mussenden advises women who are still recovering from childbirth to take leisurely walks, about a square block a day, and gradually increase their pate and distance. “Your body will let you know what you can handle,” she says.

Strength Training

Fitness experts like Richardson recommend strength-training exercises for both the upper and lower body to condition women for the rigors of motherhood, such as constantly lifting and carrying an infant. For each exercise, try to do one set of eight to 12 reps. Keep your movements slow and controlled to avoid injury, and keep your stomach tight to prevent back strain. Exhale on the difficult part of the movement, inhale as you relax. Pause between sets.

1. Abdominal Crunch–Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Curl your head, neck and shoulders up and forward as you exhale. (Your shoulder blades should come only slightly oft the floor.) Contract your stomach as you lift, pause, then lower to starting position. For mothers still recovering from delivery, physicians suggest substituting side bends to trim the waistline. Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and stretch one arm over the head to the opposite side while leaning the body.

2. Modified Push-Up–Instead of starting in a straight-leg pushup position, keep your knees bent and on the floor. Your hands and arms should be spread slightly more than shoulder width apart. With your abs tight and your bead in line with the rest of your body, bend elbows and lower chest to the floor. Push up by straightening arms to starting position.

3. Lunges–Stand facing the back of a chair with your hands resting on the top of the chair and your legs spread hip-width apart. Take a large step back with your left leg until your right thigh is parallel with the floor and your right knee is over your ankle. Your left knee should be bent toward the floor. Return your left leg to starting position. Perform all reps, then switch legs.

Along with proper exercise goes proper nutrition. Mothers may find themselves tempted to try a fad diet to boost their weight loss, but experts warn against dieting, especially for breast-feeding mothers who could jeopardize their babies’ nutritional well-being. Experts say it’s better for mothers, for everyone, to eat well-balanced meals. Mothers can eliminate unnecessary calories by minimizing their rat intake and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat. Women who are breast-feeding also should increase the amount of protein and fluids–such as water and unsweetened juices–in their diets, as well as take vitamins for nutritional support.

“As a mom, you’re a role model for your kids,” Richardson asserts. “When you make fitness a part of your lifestyle, you’re setting an example for your children.”

COPYRIGHT 1999 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group