Reshaping the “mummy tummy” after childbirth
Besides the sleepless nights and endless diaper changes, “mummy tummy” is a common post-natal downer for many new mothers. The good news is yes, it is possible to shed it — and it’s easier than you think, says Sylvia Ho, our principal physiotherapist who sub-specialises in women’s health and spinal treatment.
Congratulations on being a mother! New or seasoned, many mothers are plagued with the same problem: the dreaded “mummy tummy”, and how difficult it is to shed it after delivery.
Add to that the other physical post-natal symptoms, such weak mobility and lower back pain, which many women face during this time.
But what if we told you that these symptoms are connected to one another,and that there is an easy yet effective solution to treat them together?
What causes “mummy tummy”?
Contrary to popular belief, a woman’s enlarged belly developed during pregnancy is not necessarily a result of fat build-up from eating for two or bloating from water retention, but the expansion of the Transverse Abdominal muscle.
The transverse abdominal muscle is just that: the muscle in the abdominal area that is shaped (and moves) in a lateral or horizontal direction. Much like a corset, this muscle wraps the waist from the back and around the sides towards the front.
As a woman’s pregnancy advances, the transverse abdominal muscle expands or stretches outwards, in tandem with the growth of the foetus, and is later engaged to assist in delivery.
Understanding the Transverse Abdominal Muscle
The transverse abdominal muscle, an essential component of the core commonly emphasised by fitness instructors, is connected to pelvic floor muscles. Together, they provide the body with much-needed stability.
An expanded transverse abdominal muscle corresponds with a weak pelvic floor, which results in lower back pains frequently experienced by new mothers.
Therefore, the key is to tone up the transverse abdominal muscle, an endurance muscle that can be reshaped with the correct exercises. Working the transverse abdominal muscle means giving you a stronger pelvic floor, and that equates to improved stability — plus, a trimmer waistline.
Engaging the Transverse Abdominal Muscle
It’s common for many women seeking to shed “mummy tummy” to dive into ab exercises. Unfortunately, these only target the rectus abdominus (the front abdominal muscles).
According to Sylvia, there are specific exercises that target the transverse abdominal muscle that are simple, yet get the job done. With the right guidance, these exercises can be added to anyone’s daily routine.
A good physiotherapist will first guide you in identifying the muscles that you need to engage, and then, how precisely to engage them. Once you do, you’ll realise that the exercises are quite different from regular ab-shaping routines as they muscles themselves are unique from one another.
Compared to other abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominal muscle moves laterally, so transverse abdominal muscle-specific exercises have been developed to aid the horizontal contraction of this muscle, resulting in a trimmer waist.
Goodbye “mummy tummy”, Hello waistline
Transverse abdominal muscle-targeted exercises, which a new mother can start as early as four weeks after delivery, start out simple, but Sylvia gradually “ups the endurance” by throwing in additional coordination movements to increase conditioning levels, depending on individual progress and capability.
There is no fixed period for optimum results to appear as it would depend on factors, such as commitment level, frequency, and individual reception. However, women have reported a trimmer waistline and a stronger back after six weeks of regular training, Sylvia says.
Additionally, these exercises don’t just apply to new mums — anyone can do them, especially those with lower back pain. As the transverse abdominal muscle is a significant component of core, engaging it through the correct exercises will significantly reduce pain and strengthen your pelvic floor — a solid, protected foundation on which everything rests.
Who would’ve thought a trimmer waistline would give us more benefits than we knew?