• Calcutta Medical Research Institute 7/2 Diamond Harbour Road Kolkata-700027, West Bengal

Is a flat belly impossible for a mother?

Is a flat belly impossible for a mother?

Yes, we all heard it several times. When you were in college, you were thin as a lamp post beside the Maa flyover, and everyone used to admire your figure and beauty. But age and motherhood put paid to that, right?

If you relate to this hypothesis, then this article is for you.

Somewhere between arrogant youth and humble old age, our Bharatiya nari undergoes a humbling physical change, which we have no other choice but to label a degeneration.

A slow and steady degradation of physical structure, energy levels, sex appeal and general photogenic-ness. We often call this ageing, but is it really that?

It is not a given that you become shapeless after giving birth to a baby. It is a consequence of a well to do, sedentary life that you have got addicted to. Yes, you may say that you fell ill, broke your leg, sprained your back, got a major abdominal surgery done, and that proved to be the nemesis of your physical and mental well being. Whatever. Bad things do happen in life, and tend to make it very hard to fight back. But it is a fact of nature and life, that if you don’t adapt, if you don’t change to the new reality, you will get crushed by life, and progressively get worse.

In the case of the shapeless belly of Your Majesty, the problem is in two levels:

  1. Your ab wall is weak
  2. You have belly fat

Prenatal exercises are not popular in India. In fact, exercise and physical activity themselves are not popular, with most educated urban women not having any inclination for cycling, running, dancing or swimming, leave alone lifting weights. This lack of exercise leads to weak abdominal muscles. Weak muscles are usually thin. When a baby grows inside the uterus of its mother, the belly wall stretches till it reaches its max at the time of delivery. If the mother is obese or diabetic, the baby may be bigger, leading to more belly size. Similarly, twin pregnancy causes bigger stretching of the belly muscles. The muscle tissues are also softer in pregnancy owing to the hormonal effects of this condition, leading to the vertically oriented six-pack muscles, the recti, get displaced from each other towards the size, leaving the front of the belly more soft and giving to the demands of the enlarging uterus. This condition is called diastasis recti. If the baby is delivered by C-section, then the ab wall is further traumatised by the operation, leading to more weakening of the muscles. This leads to a shapeless belly, protruding in front even from within the confines of a sari. In due course, a swelling may form in the belly button, something the doctor calls an umbilical hernia. Then the alarm bells ring, and frantic searches are made for a good surgeon to fix the problem.

Another reason for the surging middle order is fat accumulation, aka obesity. With motherhood, a few kilos are gained, and the post-delivery busy state taking care of the baby and the rest of the family leads to no time for oneself. What better and easer way of beating the post delivery blues to than by eating? Food intake is higher, whether you agree or not, when we talk of your weight problem. Weight loss in the middle aged woman is very hard. The body naturally needs very few calories to survive, and its hormonal status does not favour fat burning. With a social network come birthdays, anniversaries, more weddings and endless celebrations. Each such occasion is accompanied by epic calorie consumption and weight gain. Oh, and I should not forget vacations. Who wants to eat salads in Bangkok, Benaras or Budapest?

I don’t have easy solutions for either cause of a big belly.

But I do have good solutions, even great ones.

Diastasis recti and small umbilical hernias are nowadays repaired by a keyhole operation called SCOLA. It is a very safe laparoscopic operation which is almost scarless, with the operative scars hidden in the bikini line. It is a daycare operation for practical purposes, and the entire ab wall is reconstructed with stitches and strengthened by a mesh. There is very little pain involved, and no stitches, either.

For weight loss, various options exist. For mildly obese women, a gastric balloon might be a good option. While the procedure (done with an endoscope inserted through the mouth while the patient is under anesthesia) is non-surgical, the patient may have some unpleasant nausea and vomiting for a few days. Weight loss of around 15 kg is usual, and the balloon is removed after 6 to 12 months. One downside of the balloon is its cost (almost comparable to surgery) and another is that the patient may regain all the weight if she does not dial her diet down strongly.

For stronger weight loss, bariatric surgery is the best option.

If you weigh 100 kg, you may reach 60-65 kg easily in a year!

What more, you can keep this going, with some considered lifestyle changes.

Things you need to remember about bariatric surgery are:

  1. It is the strongest weight loss intervention in the world. Nothing else comes close.
  2. It is very safe.
  3. The procedure involves very little pain or discomfort, and you can expect discharge next morning of surgery.
  4. Young women can have scarless options.
  5. Associated diabetes and hypertension are often resolved completely.
  6. It is an investment in your future health and life, so be prepared not to be cheap about it. Cutting corners in surgery is not a great idea, generally.

If you think any of this is relevant to your life, maybe you should contact your doctor.

Pick up that phone then!

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