Weight loss after pregnancy

Let’s get the first thing out of the way.

There is no bouncing back.

During your pregnancy your body changed. It created another human being. Things moved around, stretched and grew to make that happen. Instead of focusing on getting your old body back; let’s start with creating a healthy, happy, and possibly slightly different shaped you. 

The first few kilograms 

After delivery of the baby, the uterus shrinks down to the level of the belly button during the first few weeks. On an average women lose around 3 to 3.5 kg from the baby + 500 gram to 1 kg of placenta + almost 1 kg of blood and amniotic fluid. This explains the weight loss of almost 5.5 kg almost immediately after giving birth (Ace, 2019). 

After that initial weight loss, you can expect to lose another 1.5 to 2 kg of water weight in the first week. The amount varies depending on how much water you retained during pregnancy. After that, the rest of the weight loss is based mainly on diet and exercise. But please keep in mind, before you start doing any exercise, take first some time to recover. It took 9 months for your body to change and create your beautiful baby; and it will take approximately 6 – 12 months for some to reach their pre-pregnancy weight. 

Big physical and mental changes

Your transitioning out of the pregnancy state (hormones going wild), while simultaneously healing from childbirth (bleeding, stitches, aches, and other pains), and also dealing with the physical changes of being a new mom (possibly breastfeeding and no sleep). This sounds like a lot of fun, right?! Trust me, all you do is looking at your beautiful baby and all the other things become ‘almost’ nothing.

While going through these processes, exercise can be extremely helpful for you in this first few weeks to relax. But for these first six weeks it should be viewed more as a tool than as exercise per se. For some, getting outdoors for a walk with their baby will provide the stress relief they need. For others, adding exercise into an already cram-packed new routine will only create more stress.

The current guidelines regarding exercise are: “If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start exercising again soon after the baby is born. Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth—or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a cesarean delivery or other complications, ask your health care provider when it is safe to begin exercising again. You should wait to exercise until you are no longer experiencing any bleeding, pain, or have any type of infection.”  

Making that first start 

If you keep up the healthy eating habits you began during pregnancy, you will be close to your normal weight within a few months of giving birth. Getting some exercise in whenever you can will help you get fitter in a quicker time frame. But it is important to know that you might not be able to get into exercise like you used to. You have to adjust to your new mom body (you might have heavier breasts, some additional weight and sometimes aching joints). Exercise is the best way to begin to relieve aches and pains and to start managing weight loss. But you might need to take it a notch down. 

Sarah B. Krieger, MPH, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says there is some truth to the saying “nine months on, nine months off.” But if you gained more than the recommended weight, it could take a bit longer. “The bottom line is that each woman loses postpartum weight at her own pace,” Krieger says.

The ideal combination

Keeping to a balanced diet and exercise at the same time should have the greatest impact in weight loss for postpartum women, according Dr S Lim, APHCRI Centre of Research Excellence Australia. But it might be difficult to stay motivated, because of all the barriers at that moment.

Dr Lim observed that most women found it difficult to stay engaged to a certain program (one of the reasons is lack of time, child care, and sleep deprived) and this could lead to no change. Also the barriers can change overtime, because your baby gets older, your maternity leave ends and other social cues. 

That is why any interventions are best to keep dynamic and flexible. So you do not stress yourself about that one missed workout. One way to keep yourself motivated is to self monitor through any health application or first start with exercising at home. This could be a solution if you do not have someone to babysit. 

During any new exercise regime or weight loss goals, the biggest chance of achieving is when you have a good support network. Also here the ideal way would be to have a supporting network of your partner and/or other family members. This way you might be able to join an exercise group, while they watch over your baby. Dr O’ Toole found that joining a structured exercise program with other mothers had the most success at losing body fat and keeping it off 1 year postpartum in comparison with those who go at it alone (O’Toole, 2003).

The bottom line

Just remember that it took 9 months to gain weight, and slimming down will likely be as challenging as it was before pregnancy. Your body may have created new curves in certain areas, such as your breasts or hips. Also, changes in fat deposits and lost muscle tone will play a role in altering your body shape. To help speed up your weight loss program, try incorporating strength training exercises to regain muscle. At the same time you might notice that in the long run, strength training, will help you make daily life activities get easier such as lifting your baby from the crib or carrying groceries up the stairs. Above all; do not stress yourself too much. You just created your beautiful baby and your body went to a lot of changes to do so.

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