Most women who have had their first child are very disappointed at the (lack of) speed with which their stomach returns to ‘normal’. In a normal situation, the stomach starts to flatten after a couple of weeks, and becomes practically normal in a few months or more. Without certain interventions, however, most women’s tummies will never return completely to their pre-pregnancy appearance.
The interventions that I am mentioning specifically relate to reconditioning of the rectus abdominis muscle so that it rejoins. Most people are not aware that the main muscle in the center of the stomach, the rectus abdominis, actually splits in half during pregnancy, right down the middle.
If the rectus abdominis did not split in half, it would become stretched and distended, thus rendering it non-functional after the baby was born. Instead, our intelligent bodies preserve the form of the rectus abdominis by splitting down the middle, and retaining half on either lateral side of the distending belly.
When this process is not understood, however, there can be later problems . For example, if a woman begins to do stomach crunches soon after the pregnancy has ended, and before the muscle has fused back together on its own, then the rectus abdominis may remain perpetually disconnected.
This means that the stomach will never achieve the look, or have the same strength, that it had before pregnancy, since the muscle responsible for the center of the stomach’s shape will remain unjoined at its center line. A gap running up the middle of a woman’s belly would be the result, which would potentially remain until the woman becomes pregnant again, has a second baby, and lets her body heal properly. At that time, there would be another opportunity for that same muscle to either rejoin or remain with a gap once again.
In addition to the rectus abdominis muscle being split, there are several other issues to be noted when considering the desire for your flat stomach to return. First, the uterus was greatly enlarged, and after pregnancy it’s moved out of place. Especially with the rigors of labor, it is highly unlikely that it is in its ideal place within your pelvic cavity.
If its proper place is not restored, then we find yet another reason why the original tummy that the woman had before pregnancy cannot be regained. Immediately after the birth of the baby, in order to expel the placenta, a physician will apply hard and uncomfortable pressure to a woman’s stomach. This is to prevent hemorrhage which can occur if the placenta is not expelled. However, this is where most physicians will end their care with regard to the stomach. Their main concern is not whether the woman’s figure is restored, but simply to prevent her from bleeding internally, which can sometimes be fatal.
This is where post-natal massage therapy can help. In the first post-natal massage session, (which must be performed within two weeks of the birth of the baby in order to have this effect) the massage therapist will perform a special technique to restore the fundus, (or top of the uterus) to its rightful place.
After birth, it is sitting low in the pelvis, in the wrong place, and is often not in its normal shape. Through techniques of massage, the fundus can be restored to its natural pre-pregnancy position, thus not impeding the stomach from returning to its normal shape.
There are also several techniques that the Cerntified Prenatal massage therapist will emoploy to assist the rectus abdominis muscle with returning to its normal place and shape. Techniques such as friction and Swedish Massage will be employed to help reduce the stretch marks that almost certainly occur after pregnancy without intervention, and which often become permanent.
There are, in fact, many pre- and post-birth and continuing treatments which women can use to prevent stretch marks from forming on their belly. Some are more effective than others, but one has merely to visit the pregnancy section of any health food store, Whole Foods Market, or online stores featuring natural products to find them.
Some are called pregnancy belly balm, pregnancy salve, or stretch mark reducer, and all have similar effects. They maintain healthy tissue in the area of the stomach, and can help to create a great reduction in the appearance and severity of stretch marks. In addition, having a number of pre-natal massages can also help to recondition the skin of the stomach so that stretch marks are less likely or less severe.
As stated, some are more effective than others, and a discussion of these products is beyond the scope of this article. However, if stretch marks do occur, massage therapy can help to reduce their appearance and recondition the skin to appear and feel much healthier than it was just after the pregnancy.
All in all, it is to the benefit of any post-partum woman to explore the options related to post-natal massage. Most of the benefits discussed above, with the exception of re-positioning the fundus, require more than one treatment to truly see effects. Sometimes the massage therapy treatments need to be continued for a month or more at regular intervals to see strong benefits, but if restoring your tummy to its pre-pregnancy look and feel is important to you, you may find that it is worthwhile to spend the time to have an experienced Certified post-natal massage therapist assist you with this.
And while this article reports only on the tummy-restoring-benefit aspect of post-natal massage therapy, there are a myriad of other beneficial effects that this type of massage has on the new mother as well. Prior blogs, located here, as well as our post-natal massage therapy page, located here, are excellent resources for information on some of the other benefits of post-natal massage therapy.
©Copyright 2014 H Miller, NJMassage.info