When Halle Berry announced that she was expecting her second child at the age of 46, the first thing I thought of was what a doctor told my mother when she was pregnant with my younger sister at 38—“Your body will never forgive you.” However, all my mother thought was, “If Madonna can do it, so can I.” While I have no doubt that Berry will bounce back quickly (and probably in record time), I can’t help but wonder exactly why it’s harder for older women to get their pre-pregnancy body back.
“The main thing for older patients is that the elasticity of the tissues is not as good,” says New York plastic surgeon Tracy M. Pfeifer, MD. “So the skin on the breasts and abdomen that has stretched may not snap back asynchronous as it would in a younger patient.” This makes sense considering the loss of skin elasticity is what causes wrinkles and sagging skin. But elasticity isn’t the only culprit. “Another effect of later pregnancies is that our metabolisms are a bit slower and muscle mass a bit less so dropping the baby weight is much tougher to accomplish,” says Las Vegas plastic surgeon Mary Herte, MD.
Most doctors agree that “having good genes” is the best way to bounce back. But don’t lose hope, there are several ways you can give your post-baby body a fighting chance.
Apart from genetics, the next best thing is to be in the best shape you can be before your pregnancy. “The more energetic, fit and vital a woman is before pregnancy, the faster she will recover and regain all that she can of her pre-pregnancy body,” says Dr. Herte. “Achieving your best fitness level and developing healthy eating habits that support a normal weight level will give an older pregnant woman a great starting point. It also makes it much easier and safer to continue safe exercise during pregnancy and to maintain the muscle mass and metabolism that will make losing baby weight much easier.”
After you have the okay from your doctor to start working out again after giving birth, the key is to be consistent with your workouts. Workouts that will help your body bounce back quicker include core strength, cardiovascular training and overall full body strength training. “Core strength is super important because a lot of the hardware in the body has shifted down below and the new mom needs to find her center of gravity,” says Equinox trainer Mark M. DiMuzio. When it comes to cardiovascular conditioning, be careful. “Due to the increase in blood volume, the mothers ability to regain her cardiovascular base can be difficult. Be sure to take your time reconditioning your body,” adds DiMuzio.
Don’t have a gym membership or a set of weights? “Having a baby is progressive weight training,” says DiMuzio. “As the baby grows, you will adapt to his or her new weight. That does not mean you are free and clear from injury, however. The shoulders, wrists, hips and back all need to be conditioned for new and upcoming challenges. Placing a small child into a crib or car seat places a huge load and stress on the body.”
As for your skin, try to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun because it breaks down elasticity. Additionally, practicing good skin care on your body and face can boost your elasticity. Since excessive weight gain can make stretch marks and sagging worse, it’s a good idea to work with your doctor to set up weight gain “milestones” throughout your pregnancy.
However, even with proper exercise and healthy eating habits, it’s still pretty tough to get your body back to where you want it to be. That’s where surgical post-pregnancy procedures like a breast lift, tummy tuck and full mommy makeover come in handy.
What’s your post-pregnancy experience? Would you have a mommy makeover?
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