If your tummy still looks pregnant, many months or even years after you’ve had your babies, this could be due to diastasis recti (abdominal separation). A diastasis may cause your stomach to ‘dome’ or bulge, especially during certain movements like getting up from lying on your back. But other factors could also be causing it.
This can be more confusing if the rest of your body is relatively lean or slim. Or if you’ve been working out and the rest of your body seems to be responding and changing, but not your abs. Sometimes it gets worse throughout the day. Or you’re simply fed up being asked when the baby’s due.
Reasons your tummy still looks pregnant
1. Diastasis Recti
TL;DR? Diastasis recti can leave your abs and core unsupported with a ‘gap’ at the front of your tummy. As a result your stomach and the organs of your abdominal cavity can protrude or bulge, giving the appearance of a pregnant belly.
You can find out more about diastasis recti, or abdominal separation here. What causes it, how to recognise or test for it, and how to exercise to minimise it.
It’s important to know that DR is a sign, a symptom, of a core that need a little help to be strong and functional. Binding or wrapping your abs won’t fix it, so be sure to address the cause and not just squish your poor tummy!
It’s caused by pressure (see ‘Alignment’ below) and can be remedied with adjustments to your posture as well as the right exercises.
2. Nutrition, food and bloating
If your belly seems to get bigger throughout the day, or if you feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating: there could be excess sugar in your diet, and/or you could have developed an intolerance to certain foods.
All of these will cause swelling and bloating, as undigested food in your intestine is literally ‘pushing’ your stomach outwards. If you have a diastasis, the lack of support at the front of your abs will make this bulge more.
Cut out processed foods, including sugar, and try cutting out wheat and dairy as well for a few weeks. None of these foods are necessary for a healthy diet so you won’t come to any harm by removing them for a while! And try to monitor when it feels worse.
Drink plenty of water and herbal teas to encourage digestion and eat fibre in the form of whole fruits and vegetables, high quality protein with every meal and limited carbs, such as wholegrain rice, quinoa, rye, oats and spelt (Note: the last 3 grains on this list contain gluten… you may be intolerant to all gluten-containing foods, so if the problems persist, you may need to go totally gluten-free).
But sugar is the place to start… it may well be all you need to cut out, to see a dramatic difference and to make you feel a whole lot more comfortable.
Your tummy may still look pregnant due to your Alignment. This means the way you hold and cary your body when you walk, stand and sit.
Go here for more on diastasis recti and alignment, and what you can do about it.
The posture of pregnancy and mothering can place excessive pressure on the muscles at the front of your abdomen. The downward pressure on your pelvic floor, is also increased. If alignment is ‘off’, this causes undue pressure and can contribute to diastasis, pelvic floor problems or even prolapse.
4. The right exercises for a tummy that still looks pregnant
It is said that how our muscles look when we exercise, is how we’re exercising our muscles to look.
When you perform ab workouts, or any workout, does your tummy seems to push or strain, or you feel any kind of pressure or bearing down in your pelvis? If so it is possible you are training your muscles in a way that increases, not decreases the pressure pushing outwards.
More on safe exercises for diastasis recti, or a tummy that bulges or strains here
5. When to see a Doctor
A bloated, painful and swollen abdomen CAN be a sign of something very serious like ovarian cancer – this is not intended to scare you, but simply to say that there’s no harm in getting checked out if you’re really concerned. The above are much more likely causes.