The ‘Mummy Tummy’: Setting the Record Straight About a Woman’s Postbaby Belly and Body

Photo: Us Weekly
Photo: Us Weekly

All eyes were on the Duchess of Cambridge for the most publicized birth of the year — the arrival of the royal baby boy! Less than 24 hours after the unmedicated natural childbirth, Kate Middleton left the hospital with Prince George in her arms, wearing a modest print dress with no overcoat or other cover to mask her postpartum belly. In fact, once the baby was in his father’s arms, she paused to pose for the paparazzi and even seemed to affectionately cradle her postbaby bump to accent it for the photos. I was thrilled, even proud, to see her unashamed display.

Questions and public criticism soon followed, though, disrupting the bliss… Why did she still look pregnant? Was she really that fat? How long would it be before she would lose the weight?

How could the world be so cruel… and so stupid? I know Kate Middleton is no newcomer to the spotlight, but I was saddened for her, and for all mothers who are held to a ridiculous standard at a vulnerable time. Initially infuriated, I set out to post rebuttals and retorts to every example I could find of such blatant ignorance on the internet (and there were plenty). Then I calmed down and realized that in most cases it was probably just that, ignorance — a lack of knowledge about the physiological process of postpartum recovery.

A few facts to set the record straight:

  • The uterus expands rather miraculously from the size of your fist to the size of your baby (plus the placenta and amniotic sac) in just 9 months. In doing so, it moves from its snug little home deep in the pelvis upward to inhabit the entire abdomen, to the point of pushing on the ribs and diaphragm.
  • The skin over the uterus (your belly), expands to accommodate that rapidly expanding uterus. It stretches out in order to not split open.
  • The abdominal muscles stretch and may even separate to accommodate the growing uterus, causing muscle weakness and loss of muscle tone.
  • The uterus is not a balloon that deflates immediately after birth, it is a contractile organ and must contract back to its original size and position. This takes time.
  • At 48 hours postpartum, the uterus is still about the size it was at 18 weeks gestation. By one week postpartum, it’s the size it was at 12 weeks pregnant. It usually returns to it’s original size and position by 6 weeks postpartum by means of often-painful contractions that are strongest in the first two weeks.
  • The skin often takes even longer to resume it’s original form, as does abdominal muscle tone. Muscle tone is restored more quickly by doing core-focused exercises as soon as your doctor approves. Try a beginner-level core class (like this one from BabyWeight.TV) to help get your tummy toned faster.

Most importantly, remember that the mother’s body has performed an amazing feat! It may never be exactly the same as it was before, which is beautiful, because life will never be the same as was before baby came either.

Were you shocked by your body after baby?

Plus, more from The Bump:

What Your Body Will (Really!) Look Like After Baby

Will My Body Be the Same After Pregnancy?

How to Love Your Postbaby Body