After a c-section, you’ll notice a new, little pooch at the bottom of your tummy that didn’t use to be there. Many moms refer to this as hanging belly, apron belly, or hanging pouch, and it absolutely killed my confidence after my first c-section, which ended up being my first of three.
If you want to get rid of the hanging belly after a c-section, the short answer is to see a plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck or to see a pelvic floor therapist who can help repair diastasis recti, which is the separation of your ab muscles.
But the answer really is more complex than that. Here’s what you need to know about getting rid of the hanging belly after a c-section (or vaginal birth, for that matter).
Note: Thank you to the moms who volunteered to share photos of their tummies for this article. They will remain anonymous, and I am deeply appreciative of their vulnerability and willingness to share!
First, the hanging belly is completely normal
After my first c-section, my body was absolutely wrecked, not just from the surgery, but because I’d gained around 60 pounds.
I felt like my body was not my own, and as the months went by after the birth, I got even more discouraged as this pocket of fat and skin at the base of my stomach seemed to droop and hang.
I felt so unsexy, but almost worst, I felt like I was abnormal.
Like many women, the image in my head of a postpartum mom is heavily influenced by what I’ve seen on social media. But the reality is most moms have a hanging belly after a c-section or vaginal birth, and for many of us, it just doesn’t go away.
Hanging belly from vaginal birth vs c-section
While it may seem like your apron belly is unique to your birth experience, the truth is you can have a hanging belly or pooch from a vaginal birth or c-section.
The hanging belly is not necessarily a result of the c-section incision, though the cut can exaggerate it. In reality, the hanging belly is a result of your stomach stretching and growing over 9-10 months to accommodate that growing baby!
When you give birth, your stomach quickly shrinks back down, but most of the time, the skin is still stretched. That skin, and any extra fat in the tummy area, hangs as a result of gravity.
Your ab muscles can also stretch and separate, particularly during the third trimester, which also causes the look of a pooch (more on that later).
Dealing with the hanging belly can be annoying
People can say things like, “learn to love your body” or “the pooch really isn’t that bad.”
But honestly? Dealing with this protruding area of skin and fat that just doesn’t seem to leave is difficult to live with.
It’s a constant battle of tweaking your clothes to best hide it, and don’t get me started on swimsuits. Even sitting down can be uncomfortable as you struggle to tuck the pooch into your jeans without busting the buttons. And for many, clothing no longer seems to fit well as it feels like there are love handles all around that just want to hang over your pants.
Plus, even after losing some weight, the pooch is firmly parked and has no interest in leaving.
Beyond the nuisance of getting clothes to fit right, it can wreck your self-esteem and confidence. Having this hanging flab of skin and fat feels totally unsexy, which can have a negative impact on your sex life and marriage.
For many moms, it’s more than just a small part of our body that we don’t like.
Tummy tucks & mommy makeovers
The most common way to address a hanging belly after a c-section (or vaginal birth) is plastic surgery.
In many cases, they will recommend a tummy tuck or a mommy makeover to flatten your stomach and completely erase the hanging belly.
A tummy tuck is a procedure in which your abdominal muscles are tightened and excess skin and fat is removed.
A plastic surgeon can absolutely remove a hanging belly through a tummy tuck procedure, and this is actually pretty common, especially for women who have gone through pregnancies. It costs between $4,000-$16,000, and insurance does not cover it as this is a cosmetic procedure.
A mommy makeover is somewhat of a catch-all phrase that references multiple procedures to give you your pre-baby body back. There are no set procedures when it comes to a mommy makeover, but it typically includes some kind of work to the breasts and tummy.
That could be through a breast augmentation, breast lift, tummy tuck, or liposuction. The hanging belly isn’t the only thing that comes after childbirth; after breastfeeding, you can lose fullness in the breasts, they can sag, and some women experience lots of excess skin.
A mommy makeover can cost between $10,000-$20,000+. Obviously, the cost varies wildly depending on what procedures you need and which plastic surgeon you see. Consultations are typically free.
Exercise & diet
Some women, who have genes straight from heaven, are able to almost completely get rid of the mom pooch through diet and exercise.
However, I spoke to many moms that live a healthy lifestyle postpartum, and the consensus is you cannot fully erase a hanging belly through diet and exercise alone.
While you can shrink the size of your hanging belly through a clean diet and exercise, there’s nothing you can do about excess skin outside of surgery.
Many women report losing so much weight after having kids that they’re actually thinner than they were before having kids. But the hanging belly? It’s still there.
Diastasis recti and the hanging belly
Between 50-60% of all pregnant women are affected by diastasis recti, which is the separation of your ab muscles. The condition is more common in women who have had a c-section.
A telltale sign of diastasis recti is the pooch – that bulge that produces at the base of your tummy, right below your belly button.
A few other symptoms include softness around your button belly (kind of feels like jelly), lower back pain, difficulty lifting heavy objects, leaking urine when you cough or sneeze, pain during sex, and just feeling weak in your abdominals. If doing a crunch feels freaking impossible (and painful), you likely have diastasis recti.
Pelvic floor therapy
You can see a pelvic floor therapist for help with diastasis recti, and they will generally help you with pelvic floor physical therapy after an assessment.
Engaging and strengthening your deep core will help bring your ab muscles back together, which can ultimately help lessen or get rid of the hanging belly.
The Nancy Anderson program
Many women love the Nancy Anderson program, which includes pelvic floor and deep core exercises. It’s a full program with some pretty incredible before-and-after pictures.
Please note that this is not an affiliate link and I am not affiliated with the Nancy Anderson program in any way. This is merely a popular option for a multitude of women with core weaknesses after pregnancy.
Many women have been able to get rid of their lower belly pooch (or drastically improve it) by repairing their ab muscles.
You can also find great pelvic floor exercises on YouTube, like this one from Jessica Valant Pilates.
Some resources tell you to rest, go on walks, drink lots of water, or see a personal trainer to get rid of the hanging belly after birth. I call bologna on that.
The hanging belly is only going to be completely addressed through dedicated pelvic floor therapy, plastic surgery, or a combination of the two.
Please share your personal experiences with the mom pooch in the comment section below!
Rebekah is a writer and mother of three children. She is also the woman behind Two Mama Bears, a blog for parents with babies and toddlers.