Why do I still look pregnant?
Does your tummy still look pregnant, even though you had your baby months ago? Is your post pregnancy belly not squidgy, or jelly-belly like, but rather hard and protruding, as if you were 5 months pregnant again?
This could be due to a condition known as diastasis recti. But other factors could also be causing it…
This can be more confusing when the rest of your body is relatively lean or slim, but the mummy tummy hasn’t gone away. It doesn’t *feel* like excess fat, because it’s firm and sticks out, literally like when you were pregnant.
Sometimes it gets worse throughout the day, getting bigger at the end of the day or after a big meal.
Bottom line, you’re fed up with being asked when the next one’s due, and can’t understand why the rest of your body has pretty much ‘gone back’, but the belly issues remain.
OK, well there are a few factors which could be contributing:
Firstly, and this applies especially 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.
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 healthy diet so you won’t come to any harm by removing them for a while! And try to monitor when it feels worse. Very often women complain of bloating which varies throughout the day – if this is the case for you, then your muscles are not to blame, this is a food and/or digestive issue
Clean up your diet as much as you can, drink plenty of water and herbal teas to encourage digestion and eat plenty of 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.
Second possible cause is your posture, or more correctly, your alignment. The posture of pregnancy and mothering doesn’t do the profile of our tummies any favours! Imagine your pelvis is a bowl of water, which you have to keep upright to stop the water spilling… If you are over-arching your back OR tucking your tailbone underneath you, then your pelvis is not optimally aligned, and the outward pressure on the rectus muscle (the one that splits with a diastasis) as well as the downward pressure on your pelvic floor, is increased. It also further weakens your transverse muscle, the important one to strengthen to get a flat tummy.
INCORRECT CORE EXERCISES
Thirdly, you may be ‘exercising your core’, but it is possible to go through the motions of these exercises without engaging the transverse muscle correctly. The key is what your lower abdomen looks like as you do them. Does it bulge out at all? If so, you are unknowingly increasing intra-abdominal pressure + training the muscles to push outward still further. You may be ‘bearing down’ or pushing (yes, this relates to your pelvic floor muscles too!) when you want to be achieving the opposite. When you engage your transverse muscles correctly, the lower abdomen should hollow inwards as the muscle contracts.
Check out the easiest way to help you eliminate ‘mummy tummy’, Diastasis Recti and pelvic floor weakness – while building your body confidence.
And the fourth factor is of course, diastasis recti… plenty more on diastasis recti here.
A bloated, painful and swollen abdomen CAN be a sign of something very serious like ovarian cancer – this is not to scare you, but simply to say that there’s no harm in getting checked out if you’re really concerned. Remember this is much less likely, and the above are much more likely causes.