Saggy belly skin after pregnancy is one of many skin changes new mothers may face. Unlike changes like melasma, which tend to fade shortly after birth, loose skin may require extra time and effort to tighten.
Understandably, this can be frustrating to new moms — we all just want to get back into our skinny jeans, don’t we? — but, take a moment to remember that your body just created life, a remarkable feat.
In fact, some simple diet and lifestyle changes may be all that’s needed to get your amazing body right back on track and firm up loose skin after pregnancy.
Let’s read on.
In this article:
The causes of loose skin after pregnancy
As your skin stretches and increases to accommodate the size of your growing baby, your reproductive tract is making use of extra collagen and elastin to allow your baby to gestate comfortably.1ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Pregnancy-Induced Dynamical and Structural Changes of Reproductive Tract Collagen
After you give birth to your child, your uterus and cervix will contract back to their pre-pregnancy size, but the skin that stretched over your belly is likely to remain loose. Loss of elasticity caused by rapid skin changes may make it difficult for this skin to quickly tighten to its former shape.
Maternal age, weight, level of weight gain, and genetics are factors which seem to influence this outcome. Younger mothers, those who are slim, who do not gain much weight during pregnancy, and whose biological family members tend to bounce back quickly after pregnancy are less likely to have significant sagging.
How long does it take for skin to tighten after pregnancy?
Although giving birth frees new mothers of about 13 pounds of weight between baby, amniotic fluid, and blood, even the fittest women don’t immediately bounce back after their child is born.2mayoclinic.org Labor and delivery, postpartum care Print
That said, there are several factors which can influence how much time will be needed for tightening loose skin after pregnancy.
- Your weight before and during pregnancy: If you were fit before pregnancy and your weight gain fell within the recommended window of 25 to 35 lbs, it’s likely that your skin will begin showing signs of returning to normal about 3-4 months postpartum. However, if you were overweight pre-pregnancy or gained more weight than was recommended, the amount of elasticity loss may be more stubborn.
- Your age: There’s a reason crow’s feet and smile lines wait to crop up til older age, and that reason is healthy levels of collagen and elastin production. These two proteins influence the texture and appearance of skin, and as they naturally decline with age, skin’s bounce-back time is relative to maternal age.
- How well you care for your skin during your pregnancy: Because pregnancy is a period of rapid skin growth, it’s important to take good care of your belly skin in order to preserve its elasticity post-pregnancy. Stretch marks, which occur in the skin’s center layer (dermis) when connective tissue is stretched beyond its elastic capacity , make it difficult for elasticity to be regained. Regularly exfoliating skin to encourage rejuvenation, moisturizing with an emollient stretch mark cream, and avoiding weight gain can all impact post-pregnancy skin tightening. 3cdc.gov Weight Gain During Pregnancy
10 doable ways to tighten tummy after baby
1. Care for your skin during pregnancy
It’s easier to prevent loss of elasticity than it is to treat it. The rapid changes happening to your body mean your skin is growing at an unusual pace, and will need a bit of special attention to maintain optimum health.
First, avoid excessive weight gain, which can cause stretch marks and loss of elasticity. Second, exfoliate your belly skin with a gentle loofah to encourage healthy cell rejuvenation, and use a pregnancy-safe emollient cream to prevent stretch marks.
2. Don’t rush your postpartum weight loss
Crash diets are tempting, but dangerous.
The rapid weight loss they can cause may worsen your loose skin issues. You’ll also be losing both weight and muscle, which isn’t ideal for achieving a toned look and can negatively affect future weight loss attempts.
It’s far better to go for a gradual approach, choosing a healthy, balanced diet with collagen-packed foods combined with a doctor-approved exercise regimen.
3. Use products intended to firm skin
Creams, oils, and serums designed to tighten and firm skin are often go-tos for postpartum women and those who’ve lost a great deal of weight.
Our honest opinion?
These creams show modest long-term improvements, but they’re most effective when paired with diet and exercise. They’re also the most effective for moms who have only a little bit of loose skin to firm up.
New moms looking for a more immediate, though temporary, firming effect should consider a spa wrap (see #10 for more).
4. Choose a diet that promotes collagen production
Like all your other organs, the health of your skin is heavily influenced by what you consume.
Your skin is at its best when you’re consuming a diet made up primarily of fruits and vegetables, with healthy fats and lean proteins as supplements. Vitamins and minerals are very important to skin health, especially vitamin A, which keeps the skin supple and moist, vitamin C, which facilitates collagen production, and vitamin D, which contributes to skin elasticity.
5. Start working out — or diversify your routine
If you’re not already working out, postpartum is a great time to get started. Beginner workout videos and a few dumbbells can turn naptime into gym time, but be sure to follow your doctor’s guidance as to when it’s safe to start.
If you’re already a cardio fiend who finds a good run relaxing, consider adding some strength training to your regimen. While weight loss and skin firming can help, building muscle to fill that empty space is also effective at tightening up — think low weights at high reps.
6. Always stay hydrated
Before, during, and after pregnancy, your hydration levels play a huge role in your skin’s appearance. Drinking plenty of water boosts skin elasticity, decreases the water you retain in your stomach area, and encourages your body to burn calories.
To encourage and maintain skin elasticity, drink at least 64 oz of water a day, or eight 8 oz cups. If you have trouble remembering, consider buying a large, brightly colored, reusable water bottle with marked measurements to keep your hydration on track.
7. Breastfeed, if possible
Many new moms find that, when it’s possible to do so, breastfeeding is one of the best postpartum weight loss “plans”. As your body produces milk, it’s using up some of the calories you consume, which helps to slim you down and tighten your skin.
In response to this, your body directs more calories to milk production than it does to milk stores. If you’re already a normal weight, you may lose even more pounds in order to keep your supply going.
8. Consider taking a supplement
If you want to be absolutely certain that you’re taking in enough collagen to make a difference in your skin health, consider a supplement. While the protein is present in meat, fish, and even some legumes and veggies, you may choose to supplement in the form of an over-the-counter capsule, especially if you’re a vegetarian.
Collagen is a protein which naturally occurs in your body, so taking a supplement won’t affect milk supply or healthy breastfeeding. If desired, consult your doctor for dosage advice.
9. Focus on psychological health (yes, really)
Can you think your way thin? In a word, no.
But — can you stress yourself heavy, and more importantly, unhealthy?
Try to step back and take a deep breath, even when that loose skin is upsetting to you. Need a good reason?
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself psychologically. Access your support system, accept help, engage in self care, be gentle with yourself, and focus on the things that really matter.
We assure you, that is where the recovery journey truly begins.
10. Skin wraps for a short-term fix
A spa wrap made of kelp, clay, or algae might not be the long term fix you’re seeking, but if a special occasion or big date with your partner is on the horizon, the short term tighten-up of a spa wrap can be a big help. Don’t overlook the stress relief and self-care benefits, which are important to your overall well-being right now.
While loose belly skin after pregnancy can be stressful for new mothers, it’s also a very normal part of pregnancy and birth. Maternal age, genetics, and pre-pregnancy weight are factors out of your control which may affect how this condition presents, but diet and proper skin care during pregnancy may be helpful in preventing significant sagging.
Though elective surgery for excess skin removal is an option, many women find success through diet, exercise, and over-the-coun