Saggy belly skin after pregnancy is one of many skin changes new mothers must face. Unlike melasma, which tends to fade shortly after birth, loose skin may require extra time and effort to tighten.
Understandably this can be frustrating for new moms, as we’d all prefer to just ease back into our skinny jeans, wouldn’t we? But don’t forget that your body has just produced a new life — a most remarkable feat!
Yet a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes may be all you need to restore your lovely body back to normal, while also firming up excess loose skin.
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, allowing your baby to gestate comfortably.1ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Pregnancy-Induced Dynamical and Structural Changes of Reproductive Tract Collagen
After you give birth, your uterus and cervix will contract back to their pre-pregnancy size, while the skin that had stretched over your belly will remain loose.
Loss of elasticity caused by rapid skin changes may make it difficult for the skin to quickly return to its former shape.
Maternal age, weight, level of weight gain, and genetics are all factors that 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 experience significant sagging.
How long does it take for skin to tighten after pregnancy?
Although giving birth will relieve a new mother of around 13 pounds of weight between baby, amniotic fluid, and blood, etc., even fitter women won’t immediately bounce back after their child is born.2mayoclinic.org Labor and delivery, postpartum care Print
That said, there are several factors that can influence the time required to tighten loose skin after pregnancy.
- 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 to 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.
- Age: There’s a reason crow’s feet and smile lines don’t crop up till you’re older, and this is due to healthy levels of collagen and elastin production. These two proteins influence the texture and appearance of skin, and, as they naturally decline with age, your skin’s bounce-back time is relative to maternal age.
- How well you care for your skin during 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 after the baby arrives. 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 help with post-pregnancy skin tightening. 3cdc.gov Weight Gain During Pregnancy
10 ways to tighten tummy after baby’s arrival
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 special attention to maintain its optimum health.
First, avoid excessive weight gain, which can cause stretch marks and loss of elasticity.
Then exfoliate your belly skin with a gentle loofah to encourage healthy cell rejuvenation, while using a pregnancy-safe emollient cream to prevent stretch marks.
2. Don’t rush your postpartum weight loss
Crash diets are tempting but can be harmful.
Rapid weight loss can worsen your loose-skin issues, as losing both weight and muscle (not ideal for achieving a toned look), can also have a negative effect on future weight loss attempts.
Better to go for the gradual approach, choosing a healthy, balanced diet with collagen-packed foods, combined with a medically-approved exercise regimen.
3. Use products intended to firm skin
Creams, oils, and serums designed to tighten and firm skin are often recommended for women in postpartum, and for those who’ve lost a great deal of weight.
Our honest opinion?
These creams show modest, long-term improvements, but are most effective when paired with diet and exercise. They’re also more effective for moms who have only a small amount of loose skin to firm up.
New moms looking for a more immediate, temporary, firming solution might consider a spa wrap (see #10 for more).
4. Choose a diet that promotes collagen production
As with your other organs, the health of your skin is heavily influenced by what you eat.
Your skin is at its best when you follow a diet of, primarily, fruits and vegetables, with healthy fats and lean proteins as supplements.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for healthy skin, 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. Just be sure to follow your doctor’s advice as to when it’s safe to start.
If you’re already a cardio nut who finds a good run relaxing, consider adding some strength training to your regimen.
While weight loss and skin firming are helpful, building muscle to fill that empty space is also effective in tightening up — think low weights at high reps.
6. Always stay hydrated
Before, during, and after pregnancy, your hydration level plays 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, whenever possible, 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 storage. If you’re already on normal weight, you may even lose a few more pounds while keeping your supply going.
8. Consider taking a supplement
If you want to be certain you’re taking in enough collagen to make a difference in your skin health, consider a supplement.
While protein is present in meat, fish, and even some legumes and veggies, you can, perhaps, choose to supplement in the form of an over-the-counter capsule, especially if you’re vegetarian.
Collagen is a protein that 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’s where the recovery journey really 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 looking for, 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 wellbeing right now.
While loose belly skin after pregnancy can be stressful for new mothers, it’s also a completely 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 skincare during pregnancy can help prevent significant sagging.
Though elective surgery for excess skin removal is an option, many women find success through diet, exercise, and over-the-counter vitamin supplements