Chrissy Teigen is extraordinary in so many ways, but when it comes to her second pregnancy, she’s in the same boat as many expectant moms of more than one. On Tuesday’s Tonight Show, she teased host Jimmy Fallon by asking him to guess how far along she is with baby No. 2.
“Because everybody keeps touching my belly and saying, ‘Any day now,’” she said. After much hesitation, Fallon correctly guessed 5 months.
“I just had to say it, because everyone thinks that I am due tomorrow,” Teigen said. “I’m like, ‘Nope, just second baby.’”
After carrying their first babies to term, it’s pretty common that mothers “pop” earlier, and that their bumps look bigger overall.
“The abdominal muscles really take a beating with pregnancy,” Sherry A. Ross, MD, a women’s health expert and author of she-ology, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. This doesn’t just affect the size of a woman’s belly but also the placement of her uterus, she explained. “As opposed to lifting it up in your belly, it leans much more forward. That can happen as early as 12 weeks, and you can look like you’re 16 to 20 weeks when you’re really not.”
There are other factors at play as well, including the fact that some women haven’t had time after their previous pregnancy to get back in shape, so they are starting their new pregnancy at a higher weight.
Even the most fit women experience something called diastasis recti during pregnancy, which is when the tissue that holds the abdominal muscles together at the midline separates. You can tell whether you’ve had this during your pregnancy if when lying on your back or using your abs, you can see your belly change to a dome or cone-like shape. After pregnancy, the easiest way to test for diastasis recti is to see if you can fit two or more fingers between your outer ab muscles. The condition makes your core weaker and your belly more distended, and it can even lead to bowel discomfort.
“Just like with any other recurring injury, once you’ve had it, you can always more easily get it again,” pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert Sara Haley tells Yahoo LIfestyle.
What can women do to feel more comfortable in their second (and subsequent) pregnancies? For one, Haley recommends shaping up as much as possible before getting pregnant again. This isn’t just for the sake of appearance.
“If you aren’t strong during your pregnancy, you’re putting yourself at risk for injury because your body isn’t able to do the things you need to do safely,” she says. Because of relaxin, the hormone that makes joints more flexible to prepare for labor, some pregnant women find their balance off, and this time around, they have to deal with that while taking care of another child. “We need strong legs to squat down and pick up our toddlers. We need strong backs for the same reason.”
During pregnancy, Ross says women should prioritize exercises that make them feel good. “We look to more exercises that help with your muscle tone, posture, and mood,” she suggests. However, Ross cautions against doing any exercises on the back after 16 weeks: “The uterus compresses the vessels going to the heart, and it causes dizziness, nausea.”
Haley acknowledges how hard it is for mothers to find time to leave the house for exercise, which is why at-home video workouts (like the ones on her website) can come in handy. And while expecting mothers can’t do their regular crunches and planks, she suggests trying to do planks while leaning on a chair or the wall.
“One of the things that are going to make a woman feel more comfortable is stretching,” Haley adds. If that relaxin is making you feel even bendier than normal, however, try not to stretch past what you’d be able to do when not pregnant.
Unfortunately, while trying to juggle motherhood and a healthy pregnancy, women will still face those unsolicited comments about the size of their bumps, their due dates, and whether they’re sure they’re not expecting twins.
“Your first thought is, ‘Are you effing kidding me?’” Ross jokes. “But what I always tell my patients is you really need to tell them, ‘When you say that to me, it really hurts my feelings.’ … I don’t think people mean it with any malicious intent, but it’s certainly one of the most hurtful things someone can do is ask you when you’re due and you’re only 20 weeks.”
You could also go Teigen’s route and mess with people.
“One of my favorite things is getting really offended when people say, like down the red carpet at the Grammys, ‘So, congratulations!’” she told Fallon. “And I’m like, ‘Why?’”
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