Life brings changes, whether that means pregnancy, weight loss, weight gain, or any of the other surprises along the way. After some of these changes, you may notice that your body doesn’t look or feel the way it used to.

It can be jarring to peek in the mirror one day and notice that you have what appears to be an excessive amount of fat, tissue, and skin hanging down like an apron from your abdomen.

Initially, you might feel a strong urge to order some baggy sweat pants and sweatshirts to hide it, but you might also worry that it’ll never go away or wonder whether it’s a sign of a more serious health complication.

Especially if you’ve just had a baby, you may wonder whether this is a normal postpartum event. Whatever questions come to your mind about apron bellies, we have the info to start helping you answer them below.

Also known as a pannus stomach or mother’s apron, apron belly occurs when the belly and fat surrounding the internal organs expands due to weight gain or pregnancy, resulting in additional fat deposits in the omentum (an apron-like flap under your abdominal muscles and in front of your intestines.)

The size of an apron belly can vary, ranging from hanging to the top of the pubic area to the upper thighs or even a person’s knees. Two potential causes of apron belly are giving birth and gaining weight.

That said, apron belly does not only occur in women or people who have overweight. Men, those who have lost weight, and others may also develop an apron belly.

An apron belly can increase the risk of certain cancers, including ovarian cancer. It has also been associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. As such, it can be beneficial to address your apron belly. Of course, it may also cause you emotional or physical discomfort, which can also be addressed.

Often, the pain and discomfort of an apron belly come in the form of the emotions it may make you feel. For many people, their apron belly can be a source of shame or stress. It’s important to realize that you are not alone!

Many people of all shapes and sizes may develop an apron belly. While it’s important to care for underlying causes that affect your overall health, try to let go of any guilt or shame you feel about your belly.

If your apron belly is causing you physical discomfort, there are many things that you can try to help feel your best:

  • Apply anti-chafing creams. The skin on the underside of an apron belly can rub or chafe. Using an anti-chafing cream can help prevent skin irritation and the discomfort that can follow.
  • Use support bands or clothing. Using a support band or clothing designed to support the abdominal area can help conceal an apron belly. It can also help prevent additional skin sagging and alleviate back problems from carrying extra weight in the front of the body.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. Maintaining good hygiene helps prevent rashes and other skin issues. Given that the skin under an apron belly is particularly apt to rub and trap moisture and heat, it can be especially susceptible to rashes and irritations.

Finding the right treatments to alleviate discomfort and build your confidence is an important step. While you may want to look for ways to reduce or remove your apron belly, you should also take steps to feel comfortable and awesome right now.

If you’d like to reduce or remove your apron belly, you have several options.

Keep in mind that your overall health is the priority, and any exercise or eating plans should focus on your general wellness. It’s impossible to spot treat an apron belly. The only ways to reduce one are through overall weight reduction and surgical/non-surgical options.

Losing weight by exercising and eating healthy

Sometimes overall weight loss will reduce fat deposits. Trying this approach has the added benefit of supporting your overall health.

If you’re planning to attack your apron belly with diet and exercise, you may be hearing that the answer is to focus on stomach crunches and sit-ups. However, while these might help strengthen the abdominal muscles underneath, they won’t make your apron belly disappear.

That’s because there are two layers of fat in the stomach region (unlike the arms and legs which have one type). While having body fat stored near your vital organs is a great survival tool, it means the abdominal muscles are the hardest ones to tone for many people!

When you perform a sit-up, you’re working specific abdominal muscles. While the muscles themselves may develop, they’ll still be surrounded by a layer of fat.

Instead of focusing on stomach crunches, the best type of exercise plan to reduce an apron belly is a varied one involving exercises in which you move in all kinds of ways.

Eating healthy foods that are low in calories while getting in lots of varied movement is a great way to improve the appearance of your apron belly and overall health.

Surgical and nonsurgical treatments

It’s important to be prepared that once you’ve lost weight and fat, you might still have some extra skin left behind. Exercise and diet can’t remove this. While some individuals will have a lot of excess skin, others won’t.

There are surgical and non-surgical options available to help with this, but they’re often costly.

Laser/CoolSculpting procedures

Nonsurgical procedures involving lasers can certainly be appealing if you’re looking for a little help getting rid of some belly fat.

They can also be used to remove fat in other trouble areas at the same time and don’t need to only focus on the abdominal area. However, note that these procedures are not appropriate if you’re breastfeeding or have obesity or certain medical conditions.

Panniculectomy

This surgical procedure removes the pannus.

Unlike a tummy tuck, a panniculectomy does not tighten the abdominal muscles by removing extra skin and fat, which can result in a flatter abdominal area. However, a panniculectomy can be combined with a tummy tuck or other abdominal procedure if desired.

A panniculectomy may be covered by your health insurance if you meet certain criteria, as it’s not generally considered a cosmetic surgery. Given that a panniculectomy involves surgery, you must meet certain health standards before it can be performed.

If you’ve looked down and noticed that there seems to be an extra flap of skin hanging out like an apron from your abdomen, you may be embarrassed, scared, or even frustrated. You’re certainly not alone though!

If your apron belly has become uncomfortable (chafing, leaving a rash, etc.), there are ways to ease the discomfort. There may also be options to diminish your apron belly with exercise and diet, laser procedures, and/or surgery.

If you have an apron belly, it may be beneficial to consult your healthcare provider to ensure there are no potential underlying health issues. They’ll also be able to give you specific advice about what next steps might make the most sense for you.