Have you noticed that your butt is flatter after pregnancy? You’re not imagining it. And you’re not alone.
Many new parents report having a flat butt (–> “mom butt” or “pancake butt”) after giving birth.
Wondering what happened? And more importantly, what you can do about it? I’ve got you covered.
In this post I’m going to explain 3 factors that contribute to your flattening-butt and then I’ll walk you through a couple of exercises you can use to rebuild your glutes.
Why Is Your Butt Flat?
The change in your butt’s appearance results from a loss of butt fat, changes to your posture and changes to your gluteal muscles.
1) Your body burns butt fat to make nutrient-dense breastmilk.
Your butt fat (or if you want to be fancy: gluteofemoral fat) is especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids essential to infant brain development. Yes, richer than your body’s other fat deposits.
These fat supplies are tapped during pregnancy and lactation. During lactation, in particular, gluteofemoral fat is preferentially mined to extract these brain-building fatty acids.
Your body is quite literally burning your butt fat to make nutritious breast milk.
Please do not take this to mean that lactating is a tool to lose weight. There is no consistent association between lactation and postpartum weight loss.
2) It’s an optical illusion: Your posture makes your butt look flat.
Postural changes acquired during pregnancy and postpartum make your butt LOOK flatter.
During pregnancy, people develop a postural adaptation to their growing belly and their shifting center of gravity. For many, it means tucking the butt under and/or shifting the hips forward (sway posture).
Similarly, many people thrust their hips forward as they carry around their baby.
These postures change the appearance of the butt. They make the butt look flatter without directly impacting tissue mass.
3) The glute muscles get smaller and weaker.
During pregnancy and postpartum, the glute muscles get smaller and weaker. There are two reasons why this might happen.
- The demands of pregnancy and postpartum lead to changes in the way you stand and move. When the pelvis is tucked under, the gluteal muscles (butt muscles) don’t engage as efficiently as they otherwise would. If the butt muscles don’t engage as well, the muscles become weaker and smaller over time
- Use it or lose it. Many people sit more during the late stages of pregnancy and the early months of postpartum. Lots of sitting invariably means a lot less walking. And walking is a major glute-building and glute-maintaining force in
It’s About More Than Just Appearances
Diminishing glute muscles isn’t just an aesthetic issue.
The glutes work hand-in-hand with the pelvic floor and core muscles. If the glutes are constantly clenched or not firing appropriately, the pelvic floor is likely not operating in tip-top shape either.
Strengthening your glutes can help to support and protect your pelvic floor muscles.
Action Items: Transform your FLAT BUTT into a STRONG BUTT.
So now we have (at least partially) solved the mystery of your vanishing tusch,what can you do?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to directly impact your gluteofemoral fat stores. But you CAN address your body alignment and regularly incorporate glute-targetted exercises into your workouts.
☑️ Address your alignment:
The long-term solution for addressing alignment is strengthening weak muscles (like your glutes!!) and adding length to tight muscles to regain optimal balance.
It’s something best addressed with a qualified trainer or physical therapist.
But in the meantime, you can bring awareness to your posture and make some simple changes.
If you are prone to a sway posture (pelvis tucked, hips forward), learn to get your hips back over your heels and relax your butt muscles.
In this post, I offer my favorite hack for identifying and correcting a sway posture.
If you have a posterior pelvic tilt (tucked pelvis), imagine you have a string tied to your tailbone and gentle tug the string to the ceiling. Create a gentle lift.
Check-in a few times a day. Small changes over time yield results. Don’t get hyper-vigilant. That just yields anxiety:)
Less sitting, more walking. Walking is the single most important thing you can do to get some movement into your pelvis, restore balance to your pelvic floor and start building back your glute function.
☑️ Work your booty!
Long-term change requires making changes to the muscles. The most efficient way to make changes to your glute muscles (i.e. build muscle strength and muscle mass) is by performing focused glute exercises.
If you are freshly postpartum or just starting an exercise routine after a long hiatus, I recommend begin with glute bridges, clamshells and heel slides and slowly progress to the exercises listed here. You can consider this early postpartum workout as a great starting point.
When you’re ready, here are 4 intermediate glute exercises chosen with the postpartum person in mind.
These movements use your body weight or resistance bands, but feel free to add additional load as noted.
1) Hip Thrust
Setup: You can perform this exercise on a workout bench or on the edge of your couch. Choose a surface that allows you to achieve a 90 degree bend in your knees when your hips are extended at the top of the movement.
Performance tips: Exhale and engage your glutes as you lift your hips. Inhale to lower back to the starting position. Do not hyperextend (over-arch) your back at the top of th movement.
Setup: Loop a medium-tension mini-band around your feet and step your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart.
Performance tips: Maintain tension outwards against the band as you rock from foot to foot. The breathing pattern in this exercise is less prescribed; the important thing is to make sure you breathe and find a rhythm that feels supportive.
Progress it: Use a stiffer band or slow down the movement.
3) Wall-supported single-leg deadlift
Setup: Stand roughly a foot from a wall, and kick one foot back and rest it flat on the wall behind you. Your knees should be next to each other and your elevated shin should be parallel to the floor. Adjust your distance from the wall if neccesary.
Performance tips: Inhale to hinge at your hips and send your butt straight back towards the wall. exhale to stand. Maintain a vertical shin throughout the exercise.
Progress it: Add dumbbells in one or both hands.
4) Elevated clamshell
Setup: The setup for this position looks like a side plank on the knees.
Performance tips: Exhale to open clam, inhale to close. Take care not to let you hips rotate forward or backward.
Progress it: Add a miniband or an isometric hold. To add an isometric hold, perform 10 reps and on the last rep, hold the open clam for a count of 10.
All of these exercises are only effective if you’re using the right muscles.
Exercises 1 and 3 primarily target your glute max, the biggest glute muscle. It’s probably the one you have the most awareness of.
Exercises 2 and 4 primarily target your glute medius. You’ll feel this muscle where you’d find the outer edge of your back pocket.
If you aren’t feeling the right muscles contract, experiment with your setup and your breathing and be very intentional as you perform the exercise.
Rebuilding your glutes after pregnancy can take some time, but with patience, the right exercise selection and a little work it’s absolutely possible. Progress at your own pace and remember that every body’s timeline is different. Remember to focus on using the correct muscles and breathing correctly to get the most out of these exercises.
👋🏼 Don’t be a stranger
I hope you found these tips helpful! Try them out and please let me know how they worked for you in the comments below.
Your butt will thank you!
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Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.