Loose skin is a normal experience after pregnancy. During pregnancy, the skin stretches to accommodate a growing bump. As a result, many women find that the skin around their stomach is loose after giving birth.
How quickly the skin returns to normal after delivery can depend on many factors, including the woman’s weight, age, and genetics.
Although loose skin is not harmful, some women dislike how it looks. In this article, we look at what these individuals can do to improve the appearance of loose skin after pregnancy.
A healthful lifestyle and diet may help minimize the risk of gaining excess weight too quickly during pregnancy. Avoiding weight gain beyond the recommended amount can help reduce the likelihood of loose skin after pregnancy.
According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to return to a moderate weight after delivery. The OWH note that exercise is safe during pregnancy, when women should aim to do at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic exercise every week.
Some exercises that strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles, such as Pilates and yoga, are also safe to do during pregnancy. A tailored class specific to pregnant women is the safest option.
Getting a good range of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy will help support a growing fetus and keep energy levels up. A healthful diet can help support gradual weight gain during pregnancy while preventing an excessive increase in weight.
However, loose skin is a normal part of the postnatal body, and it is not always possible to prevent it from occurring.
For those who find loose skin after pregnancy bothersome, there are ways to improve its appearance. We look at some of these methods below.
Exercise can help strengthen and tone abdominal muscles following pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend starting with simple postpartum exercises, gradually working up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week.
Anyone who had a cesarean delivery or experienced complications with their delivery should ask a doctor when it is safe to start exercising again. Otherwise, it is safe for women to start as soon as they feel ready.
Core strength exercises, such as Pilates, yoga, and barre, can help tighten and tone muscles in the stomach, which may help improve the appearance of loose skin. Cardio exercise, such as brisk walking, running, cycling, or aerobics, may help with toning muscle.
A balanced diet rich in vitamins, proteins, and fats will help build muscle and boost collagen, which is an essential protein for healthy, firm skin.
Drinking plenty of water may also improve the skin’s elasticity and appearance.
Skin-firming oils and creams
There is little evidence to support claims that firming oils or creams can help reduce loose skin after pregnancy. They may, however, temporarily improve the skin’s appearance by making it seem more plumped.
Studies have found that massaging the skin can help boost blood flow and stimulate fibroblasts. These cells play a role in the production of collagen and elastin, both of which help firm and tighten the skin. Therefore, simply rubbing oil or cream into the skin may have a positive effect on its appearance.
The body produces collagen naturally, though this process diminishes as the body ages. It may be helpful to take a collagen supplement to improve skin elasticity.
Although most studies focus on facial wrinkles, the results of oral collagen supplementation are promising. Collagen supplements appear to boost elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density, all of which may improve the appearance of loose skin.
Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures
According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, nonsurgical treatments, such as radiofrequency treatment or intense pulsed light treatment, can help tighten excess skin on the stomach by heating the dermal layers and boosting collagen production.
A person undergoing treatment may need several sessions, and the results tend to appear gradually over several months following treatment.
Laser skin tightening treatment also works by using heat to stimulate collagen and elastin. People can use it to tighten the skin anywhere on the body. A person may need between three and five treatments to see results, which typically appear gradually between 2 and 6 months after the treatment.
Nonsurgical procedures are convenient, as they tend to be short, and there is little to no recovery time. However, they may not be suitable for severe cases of loose skin.
Surgical cosmetic procedures
One method of reducing loose skin is to remove it surgically. This procedure is known as abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, the results are permanent as long as the person maintains a stable weight following surgery.
Different types of tummy tucks include:
- Standard, or full: Removes excess skin and fat from just above the pubic hairline up to the bellybutton. This procedure leaves a scar around the bellybutton and a long scar across the lower abdomen.
- Mini: Removes excess skin and fat below the belly button, leaving a slightly shorter horizontal scar above the pubic mound.
- Extended: Involves removing skin from the upper and lower abdomen and the sides of the body. This type leaves an anchor-shaped scar extending around the front and sides of the body and on either side of the bellybutton.
Surgeons recommend that women only undergo surgical procedures such as a tummy tuck once they have decided not to try for any more pregnancies.
Help with child care may be necessary after a procedure because of restrictions around lifting weights.
Loose skin may never regain its prepregnancy appearance without medical treatment. However, diet and exercise can help reduce the appearance of loose skin after pregnancy over time.
Improvement will depend on:
- a woman’s weight and age before pregnancy
- how much weight they gained during pregnancy
- exercise and nutrition during and after pregnancy
It is important to note that the uterus can take about 6 weeks to contract to its prepregnancy size, and it can take several months for the body to shed the extra weight that it gained during pregnancy.
Excess skin around the belly is normal after pregnancy. Many factors can influence the severity of loose skin, including age, weight, and dietary, lifestyle, and genetic factors.
Women can do little to prevent loose skin after pregnancy, but a healthful, balanced diet and moderate exercise during and after pregnancy may minimize it.
Manufacturers claim that various home remedies and supplements improve the appearance of loose skin, but there is little evidence to support these products.
Surgical procedures are the most effective treatment for women with moderate-to-severe loose skin, and the results can be permanent if they maintain a moderate, stable weight afterward.