Having a baby can be an exciting time of life. For some mothers, this time may also involve a surgery known as a Caesarean section, or C-section surgery to assist in the birth of the child. A C-section may be done in cases of stalled labor, a multiple birth, or pregnancy complications, for example (1).
After a C-section surgery, you will need to recover just like you would with any surgery. Therefore, if you want to lose weight and that c-section pooch after having your child, you will have to be sure not to let this impede your recovery.
C-section surgery involves delivery of a baby by a surgical incision in the abdomen and uterus of the mother. Sometimes after this surgery, the mother may face risks such as infection, heavy bleeding, blood clots, or surgical injury (1). After surgery, you will need to recover in the hospital for several days.
This recovery will involve staff watching over your blood pressure, breathing, pulse, surgical incisions, and managing your pain. Once you return home, you will have limits on activity for several weeks until your doctor feels it’s safe (3). You may wonder then how to get rid of your hanging belly after C-section if you can’t exercise right away. Read below for 8 things you can do today to reduce weight after C-section.
Eight Ways to Lose Weight After C-Section
Losing weight after C section surgery is not going to happen overnight. It’s a journey that you will have to take to give your body time to recover from a major life event. Here are 8 ways to help you get started on this journey.
1. Try not to gain too much weight during pregnancy.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, women should gain between 11 and 40 pounds during pregnancy (4). The lower end of the range is for those who are overweight or obese at the start of their pregnancy and the higher end is for those who are underweight at that time.
Some weight gain during pregnancy is necessary to supply your growing child with needed nutrients. However, in the first trimester you don’t need to add any extra calories to the diet than needed for weight maintenance (5). Then after that, you only need to consume 300 calories more each day than you would need to maintain your weight. It may help to visit a registered dietitian to help you eat as healthy as possible during your pregnancy.
If you can prevent too much weight gain during your pregnancy, without sacrificing the health of you and your baby, you will have less to lose after pregnancy. Ask your doctor what a safe and healthy amount of weight is for you to gain during pregnancy.
2. Work out after C-section
Staying active will be a vital part of losing weight after C-section surgery. However, because you just had a major surgery, you will have to start slow.
You may be wondering “When can I exercise after C section?”
Experts suggest it will take you about 6 to 8 weeks to fully heal and return to your normal activities after surgery (6). This means no boot camp or hardcore spin classes the first few months. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good workout during this time though.
Use the following tips to choose a safe and effective exercise routine you can use after delivery to lose weight (7).
- Choose an activity you can enjoy with your baby. Walking or jogging while pushing your child’s stroller can help you stay fit while spending quality time with your new baby. There are special strollers for such an activity that allow for optimal tread for walking over rougher terrain while keeping your child safe and comfortable during the activity. Walking or jogging is a great exercise that you can do after your c-section to reduce your tummy fat.
- Make your activity part of your daily schedule. Just like nap time and feedings, fresh air outside with your child and getting some exercise should also be a part of your schedule. When you take time to stay active, you will feel better and be able to impart that positivity onto your child.
- Stick with resistance training. In the first six to eight weeks after C section, you will be told to avoid any weightlifting heavier than your baby. This is to allow time for your surgical incisions to heal properly. Therefore, stick with resistance band training or light hand weights to tone your muscles until you are cleared by your doctor to do more to tone your post C-section belly.
It’s important to avoid any abdominal exercises in the first six weeks unless given the okay by your doctor. Also, if you start to have any severe pain, bleeding, faintness, nausea, muscle weakness, or shortness of breath, be sure to stop activity and call your doctor right away. When you’re ready and cleared to start more vigorous exercise, it could be helpful to talk with a personal trainer to help you produce a post C-section workout plan.
3. Ask for help from others so you can sleep
Motherhood is no easy task and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help when you need it. Ask a friend, family member, or other loved one you trust to help you care for your baby occasionally so you can rest. This extra sleep can improve your chances of weight loss after C section. This is because research shows that four hours of sleep each night compared to ten hours each night increases hunger (8).
Not to mention that lack of sleep can cause fatigue and make you less interested in engaging in exercise. Also, research shows that sleep deprivation can decrease levels of leptin, that works to decrease appetite, while it increases ghrelin, which works to increase appetite (9, 10).
4. Eat a healthy diet
Nutrition is important at every stage of life, but is vital after a C-section surgery if you want to ensure the health of you and your baby. For most women after giving birth, you may need to replenish nutrients like vitamin B6, folate, and calcium (11). You can find such nutrients in foods like:
- Chickpeas, tuna, chicken breast, turkey meat, banana, and certain fortified cereals that contain a good source of vitamin B6 (12)
- Beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, fortified breakfast cereals, Brussels sprouts, and avocado that contain a good source of folate (13)
- Dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese as well as tofu, sardines, and fortified orange juice that contain a good source of calcium (14)
These nutrients, as well as zinc and magnesium, will also be important postpartum while breastfeeding (11). You can take a multivitamin that includes these nutrients, but it helps to get such nutrients from whole foods so you can reap the other benefits such foods can provide. As mentioned before, a registered dietitian can help you plan your meals to ensure intake of such nutrients while eating healthy-sized portions to help you lose weight.
Basic rules to follow when starting a diet after pregnancy include:
- Consume plenty of nutrient-rich plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Choose a variety of lean protein foods like chicken, turkey, seafood, fish, tofu, and other soy-based protein sources.
- Limit your intake of sugary drinks and salty snacks.
- Focus on consuming mostly whole foods and flash frozen produce without added sauces or preservatives.
- Control portion sizes by filling most of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and the other half of your plate with whole grains and protein.
Breastfeeding is not just healthy for your baby, but also for you in your weight loss after C-section surgery. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is a beneficial way to provide your baby with protection against a variety of conditions including (15):
- Infections of the respiratory, ear, or urinary tract
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- Childhood overweight or obesity
Experts recommend that infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months for the most health benefit (16). Talk with your healthcare provider for more information to find out what regimen would work best for you and your baby.
Mothers who are breastfeeding will need to consume about 450 to 500 more calories per day than needed to maintain weight (17). After some normal rapid weight loss postpartum, the average rate of weight loss through breastfeeding is about 1 to 2 pounds per month up to about 4.5 pounds per month (11). Those women who are breastfeeding should consume at least 1800 calories daily to ensure your baby is receiving adequate nutrient intake.
6. Set realistic weight loss goals
Experts report that most women lose about 13 pounds right after pregnancy from the weight of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid (18). You’ll also naturally lose weight from retained fluid being shed. It’s the fat stored that you will want to lose after C-section surgery. Experts recommend that a healthy weight loss during this time is around 1 pound per week.
It’s not recommended to start any fad diets to try and lose such weight, since this will not provide most people long-term success. Not to mention that such diets often deprive your body of vital nutrients you will need to support long-term health. It’s especially important to ensure a balanced diet when breastfeeding your infant.
Instead of focusing entirely on the scale when you want a flat tummy after delivery, it can help to focus on changing your behaviors one at a time. You will have a busy schedule taking care of your little one and focusing on too many goals at once can lead to burn out and perhaps giving up on leading a healthy lifestyle. Examples of weekly goals you can set to help you lose your belly after C section include:
- Try one new vegetable every week. Cook this vegetable in different ways to find out which way you enjoy most. Before you know it, your vegetable palate will be diverse, and your diet will be growing healthier each week.
- Replace sugary drink intake with water. Try replacing a portion of your sugary drink intake, if any, with water and low to no-calorie drinks. If you’re wondering hot to get rid of your C section belly as fast as possible, this is a go-to behavior to make.
- Walk 30 minutes every day. You may be wondering how to get a flat stomach after a C section without being able to do strength training and abdomen exercises right away. But small steps like making exercise part of your daily routine can help you meet this goal over time.
- Take 10 minutes each day to meditate and relax. This may seem like an impossibility when you have a new baby, but this is something you can both benefit from and enjoy. One important strategy on how to reduce your tummy after C section naturally is to stay relaxed and avoid putting your body in a state of inflammation. This is because stress can cause inflammation that can lead to overweight states (19).
7. Take time to enjoy your meals
This can be a difficult thing to imagine since you are likely grabbing a quick bite whenever the baby doesn’t need your attention. However, slowing down your eating is a very important strategy when it comes to how to lose belly fat after C section (20). This is because by chewing more per bite and slowing down your eating, it’s likely you will get fuller faster and will in turn avoid overeating at meals.
Try to chew at least 20 to 25 times per bite. It can also be helpful to do the following to help you get slim after caesarean section.
- Use a small spoon or other utensil to eat instead of normal flatware to help you learn to take smaller bites.
- Turn on a timer during meals to help you take a break of at least 30 seconds between bites to prevent yourself from eating too fast.
- Eat on a smaller plate to help you control your portions.
8. Don’t skip meals, but instead plan and prep when you can.
When you’re caught up in the daily grind of taking care of baby and the house, you may forget to eat. However, especially if you’re breastfeeding, you shouldn’t skip meals since your body can lose out on nutrients it and your baby needs.
If you really want to know how to reduce your belly fat after C section, then eat 5 to 6 small meals each day. This is not because more frequent meals is necessarily more effective for weight loss because research says it’s the content of meals not quantity that counts (21). However, more frequent small meals may be easier to maintain rather than taking time after taking care of your little one all day to cook three larger meals.
You can prep and plan such small meals while baby is sleeping or while a loved one is helping you take care of baby. Here are some tips on how you can prep small, healthy meals to help you lose weight after caesarean section.
- Buy easy to prep veggies for a fiber-rich snack. Baby carrots are ready to eat, while cucumbers just need to be washed and sliced. Also, bell peppers just need to be rinsed and sliced into strips for easy dipping into your favorite hummus or Greek yogurt-based salad dressing.
- Blend up a pitcher of smoothies. Frozen strawberries, blueberries, or peaches can be blended with Greek yogurt, protein powder, and/or unsweetened almond milk and honey for a healthy small meal that you can carry with you where you go.
- Create trail mix blends. Visit the bulk food section of your natural foods store to get unsalted and low-sugar dried fruit and nuts. A few tablespoons of each dried fruit and nuts can provide nutrients like fiber, protein, and potassium (22). Not to mention that nuts can help you stay satiated after eating and in turn aid weight loss.
- Prep easy high-protein salads you can enjoy for days. Tuna fish, diced and grilled chicken, or diced, hard-boiled egg combined with mashed avocado can provide delicious salad options high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. If you follow a meatless lifestyle, combine high-protein and fiber beans and quinoa with your favorite vinaigrette or dressing for a simple and nutritious small meal. Sealed in a storage container and placed in a refrigerator, such salads can be enjoyed for 3-5 days safely (23).
Bottom Line on How to Reduce Your Belly After C-Section
The key to losing belly fat after C section is to keep in mind that your body worked hard to create a new life. It also went through a major surgery with the scars to prove it. Therefore, you must give your body time to heal and recover before putting in through the wringer to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
Be patient with yourself and take your post-pregnancy weight loss journey one day at a time. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from professionals and loved ones if you need it. The important thing is that you and your baby maintain the best health possible during this important time in your and your baby’s lives.