Skin and abdominal wall changes after childbirth

When will my skin and tummy muscles get back to normal?

Immediately after having a baby the abdominal wall feels loose and the skin feels dry. Pigmentation changes persist and occasionally are even worse for a while. Some women will experience stretch marks.

What can be done?

Abdominal wall skin dryness
  • While it will gradually get less, dryness of your abdomen skin can persist while  you are breast feeding The liberal use of a good quality moisturiser and drinking adequate amounts of water can also help.
Pigmentation 
  • Pigmentation changes can persist particularly while breastfeeding, though they should subsequently settle over time.
Stretch marks
  • Stretch marks are due to tearing in the deeper layers of the skin. They can happen at any stage of pregnancy but are more likely in advanced pregnancy. Sometimes they are only apparent right at the end of or even just after the pregnancy. They will happen or not happen irrespective of whether or not you have used moistursers or more expensive skin products in your pregnancy (none work). There have to do with elasticity of your skin (you don’t control this) and often there is a genetic component. Ask your mum whether or not she has stretch marks. They are more likely with overstretching, such as with twins. Stretch marks won’t ever go away but they will be less obvious over time. It is likely they will not get worse in a subsequent pregnancy.
Abdominal wall looseness
  • How quickly and to what extent the tone of your abdominal wall skin is restored varies.abdomen
  • Some women at the six week postnatal visit are back to a prepregnancy look and you can’t tell they had a baby. Asking: “what did you do?” The usual answer is: “nothing”. So as with stretch marks it has a lot to do with your skin elasticity, your genetic make-up, how large your abdomen was in pregnancy, weight gain in pregnancy, how large you are and the amount of adipose tissue in your abdominal wall (people who are not obese do better).
  • I encourage you to ‘tone up’ your abdominal wall muscles by getting active and fit and getting an appropriate abdominal wall strengthening exercise program as soon as possible after you have had a baby. This is irrespective of whether you had a Caesarean section  delivery. You don’t have to wait longer if you had a Caesarean section.
  • Sometimes the abdominal wall overstretching is considerable. In these cases  a cosmetic surgeon can help. Such an appointment should be deferred until your family is complete to avid undoing the good result with another pregnancy.
Posted by Dr Gary Sykes on -

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