Social platforms constantly portray an image of what is considered to be ‘ideal body” and tout celebrities who appear to bounce back immediately after giving birth. It not only distorts but sets unrealistic expectations for an average woman without resources. It is very important to separate fact from fiction and set realistic goals.
How soon can you lose the weight gain? Well, there’s no magic number. Just like it took months to gain the weight, it can take anywhere from three months to a year and for some significantly longer.
From personal experience, what complicates the weight loss efforts postpartum is the insatiable appetite, which initially makes cutting on calories, not an option. After all, the body is healing and the first several weeks are all about establishing breastfeeding. It is very important to put priorities in order.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Post pregnancy women experience many hormonal changes that can both determine weight loss or weight gain. A common complication like postpartum inflammation of the thyroid gland, that may show itself soon after delivery, can cause massive weight struggles if severe. Also, complications during pregnancy can make a woman feel weak and interfere with her mobility.
Other factors that influence postpartum weight loss: Primiparity (first born), multiple gestation, genetics, lifestyle, postpartum depression, breastfeeding, energy intake and physical activity.
Excessive gestational (BMI) weight gain is the primary risk factor for retaining weight in the postpartum period. The more you gain, the longer it will take to lose. Many women start off pregnancy overweight and many gain more weight than is healthy during pregnancy. Research shows the risk of problems during pregnancy and delivery is lowest when weight gain is kept within a healthy range.
If a woman is obese during pregnancy, it also raises the chance her child will be obese later in life.
The latest weight gain guidelines by the Institute of Medicine are based on a women’s BMI before pregnancy. It recommends that thin women, with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or lower, gain between 28 and 40 pounds; normal weight women (BMI between 18.6 and 24.9), 25 to 35 pounds; overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9), 15-25 pounds; and obese women (BMI of 30 or higher), just 11 to 20 pounds.
For all but women with high or very high pre-pregnancy weights, the recommended weight loss after the first-month postpartum is a maximum of 4.5 lbs/month.1 So, don’t take the “eating for two” thing literally.
Also, many women regardless of their pre-pregnancy weight do not receive the adequate guidance related to diet and physical activity from their health care professionals. This maybe due to the sensitive nature of weight as an issue or they are ill-equipped. The guidance can motivate the women to make healthy lifestyle changes during pregnancy so they may be well prepared when baby is born.
While the weight-loss timeline varies for every woman, most women lose up to 12 pounds within a day after birth depending on factors like newborn’s birth weight, placenta, and amniotic fluid. Two weeks later you will still be losing lot of fluids as your body would be tuning to motherhood, and the hormones would be playing havoc. Breastfeeding moms typically tend to lose more weight after birth.
On an average, a breastfeeding mom burns an additional 500 calories a day – that’s like a high-intensity workout. But weight loss should not be promoted as a benefit of breastfeeding, because some studies suggest that lactation may actually impede weight loss.2
I’ve always had trouble losing fat while breastfeeding, and so the first thing I did was accept it for the time being – I didn’t want to endanger the baby’s milk supply to fit into my old clothes. It is fair to say that some have a tendency to lose weight quicker while some hold on to the fat whether or not breastfeeding.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), within a month, new moms lose as many as twenty pounds if they gained anywhere between 25-35 pounds while expecting.
Six weeks later uterus reduces in size and shrinks back into the pelvic cavity which makes the belly look flatter and smaller. Roughly 9 months later, if you keep up the healthy eating habits, you’ll be close to your normal weight. Getting some exercise when you can will also help you get fitter, faster.
After having a healthy diet and exercise plan for almost a year, if it seems like all your efforts have failed, it is probably time to seek additional help. You might need medical evaluation for conditions predisposing to weight problems (like thyroid) which is common after pregnancy.
As a side note, if you’re going to weigh yourself every now and then, I highly recommend taking body fat composition. This composition dictates why at given time a person can weigh 135 lbs and be a size 8 and weigh 135lbs- size 4 at another.
In the first case one can have a much higher body fat percentage and in the second be very lean with more muscle, which means more strength, better metabolism (muscle requires more calories for upkeep than fat).
Ultimately each woman loses postpartum weight at her own pace. It is very important to have a personalized diet and exercise plan, ones that are tailored around your food preferences and time constraints. Stay away from fad diets, crash dieting- they can deny your body of nutrients and delay healing after birth, and deprive your baby of critical calories and nutrients if you’re breastfeeding.
Eat healthy, exercise, sleep whenever you can and be realistic. A rational weight loss (1-2 pounds a week) can stay off but to expect to take all of your weight off in less time will just add more stress that you don’t need.
- Institute of Medicine. Nutrition during Pregnancy and Lactation.Washington, DC. 1992.
- Reece EA, Hobbins JC. Medicine of the Fetus and Mother. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999.