You ballooned during pregnancy. Now what?
Many women easily lose much of the weight they gained, 10 or so pounds at birth, then roughly a pound a week at first, slowing down over six months. Don’t worry if it takes you up to a year to get down to your pre-pregnancy weight, especially if you became pregnant at a desirable weight. Your life will be dramatically different, and you’ll need to figure out ways to fit in exercise and preparing healthy food.
Breastfeeding seems to help, too, though it isn’t required. You may have more trouble, if you experience postpartum depression, or gained too much during pregnancy.
On average, women keep 2.5 to 5 pounds of their pregnancy weight gain, and some keep 10 or more of the extra pounds as long as a year later. The hardest weight to lose is any extra fat you put on in the first trimester.
Also, if you plan on having another baby, it’s best not to go into the next pregnancy overweight or obese, which creates a risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension for both you and the baby. You may be at risk of preeclampsia as well, studies suggest.
Not surprisingly, your best strategy for shedding pregnancy weight gain is to avoid gaining too much of it, especially in the first trimester. Aim to put on only one to 4.5 lbs. in that period, according to the Institute of Medicine. You’re definitely not “eating for two.” Any more first trimester gain is mostly fat, and most likely to stick after birth — for as long as seven years, a large 2015 study found.
The institute recommends that women with a normal body mass index at conception should aim to gain 25 to 35 pounds when they become pregnant with one child. If you were overweight, stick to 15 to 25 pounds. For obese women, the target is 11 to 20 pounds. However, some obese women might even benefit from losing weight while pregnant, some evidence suggests.
The newborn plus the placenta, larger breasts, and a needed increase in blood and fluid and fat all add weight.
Gaining too much weight is riskier for the baby. It can increase your chances of needing a C-section, which is safe but is still surgery. If your baby is born plumper, she may be at more risk of childhood obesity, some research suggests.
After birth, the strategy for losing weight isn’t any different than it would be at other times. In one review of weight-loss programs after pregnancy, researchers concluded that the most successful combined diet and exercise, rather than just one or the other. Getting one-on-one support also helps. Try any healthy diet that has worked for you in the past. Overweight and obese women may get results simply by picking up an exercise program and cutting out junk food.
Exercise may help you to maintain weight loss, although it isn’t a diet strategy on its own. Most women can safely start walking soon after giving birth, even if they had a C-section, but check with your doctors about more vigorous activity. Look for a new mom’s group, and you may feel less overwhelmed as well. You might walk for 45 minutes a day, five days a week.
The more you breastfeed, the easier it may be to lose weight, as long as you don’t overeat. Breastfeeding burns calories, and other factors may be at work as well. If you feed your baby entirely with breast milk, you’ll burn about 500 extra calories a day; increase your calories only by 330, the recommended amount, and the gap will help you lose weight.
August 02, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN