Postpartum Weight Loss - What You Need To Know

Last updated on : October 06 2020

women touching pregnant stomach with heart shaped hands

How To Lose Weight After Pregnancy

In a recent interview for The Insider, fitness blogger Emily Skye opened up about her struggle to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy.

She confessed to comparing herself to other mothers who seemed to have less trouble getting back into the postnatal swing of things. And she admitted to having difficulties with coming to terms with how pregnancy has changed her body forever.

It's an interview that most new mothers would undoubtedly appreciate.

It's also interesting to note the shifting panorama of the average mummy in 2018 and onwards. Studies reveal that the only group with a rising conception rate is mummies in their 40s and over.

The older we are when we give birth, the slower, the recovery period tends to be. And the more cautious we should be of avoiding any weight loss routines that may do us more harm than good.

Postpartum Weight Loss And Workouts Within The First Six To Eight Weeks

Mum and baby

Our bodies need time to recover after childbirth before we start putting it through an exercise and weight loss regime. 

As a result, it's common for doctors to clear women for normal pre-pregnancy activities, including exercise, at the six-week or eight-week postpartum checkup. If you want to intensify your workouts before this checkup, talk to your doctor first.

However, while we wait for our bodies to regain their strength, we can eat a diet that encourages healthy weight loss and do some simple and safe exercises. 

Try these steps to see if they work for you.  

1. Don't Crash Diet

You might want to crash diet. However, crash diets require that you heavily restrict your calorie intake. Avoid these diets because your body needs nutrition post-pregnancy to heal and recover properly.

A crash diet will also deprive you of the energy you need to look after the baby and feed her properly. 

2. Watch Calories

Instead of crash dieting, try monitoring your calorie intake to meet a calorie reduction of about 500 calories a day.  

Assuming you have a healthy post-pregnancy weight, decreasing your calorie intake by about 500 calories per day should provide you with a weight loss of about 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) per week.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this amount of weight loss is considered safe for breastfeeding women.

3. Eat Clean

Eat whole foods high in fiber and protein and avoid added sugar, refined carbs, and highly processed foods.

If you watch your calories, this combination of foods is likely to lead to weight loss, provide the nutrition you and your baby need, and the energy to get through your day.

It is very similar to clean eating, and so you can follow the clean-eating practices in this article.

4. Breastfeed If You Can

Research shows that breastfeeding can support your postpartum weight loss over the long term. If you are able, try to breastfeed for at least the first six months or longer.

The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the CDC recommends breastfeeding because it has many benefits for both you and your baby.

In addition to helping you lose weight, breastfeeding provides all of the baby's nutritional needs and decreases disease risk in both the baby and mother through improved immune responses.

5. Take Every Opportunity To Sleep

Rest is incredibly important for new mummies, and it can help get the body back into shape postpartum.

In particular, getting enough sleep has been linked to successful weight loss, mainly because it stops us from craving unhealthy, high-calorie foods as we fight to stay awake.

As such, put sleep into the daily routine as part of the "get back into shape post-pregnancy" goal.

Babies don't sleep for long periods and will disrupt nighttime sleep patterns for some months. So new mums should take as many opportunities as possible to sleep when their babies are sleeping. Even during the day, if they want to get back to their pre-pregnancy figure as quickly as possible.

6. Try These Simple Exercises

If you had normal childbirth without complications, it's generally safe to walk, do some simple exercises like Kegels or yoga, and gently swim. However, always consult your doctor before doing any activity after pregnancy, and immediately stop if you feel pain. 

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — after pregnancy.

However, remember to start slowly, warm-up and cool down, drink plenty of fluids, and wear a supportive bra. 

a. Walk Often

Walking is low-impact and something you can do every day. Taking your new baby for a gentle walk can do wonders for your mind, aid in weight loss, and allow your baby to sleep. Try to add it to your daily routine.  

b. Do Kegels

Use Kegel exercises to tone your pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegel exercises help reduce urinary and anal incontinence and have various benefits for your vagina.

Contract your pelvic floor muscles, as if you're attempting to stop urinating midstream. Hold for up to 10 seconds and release, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

Avoid Kegel exercises when urinating.

c. Try Some Simple Yoga Poses

Your pelvic muscles can tighten and become painful after childbirth, and your entire body exhausted from the stress of the experience.

Yoga can help relax and gently stretch your muscles to relieve pain, release tension, calm nerves, and calibrate and rebuild pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.

There are several poses you can try, from happy baby to rabbits pose

d. Swim Gently

If little of the above inspires you, you might also want to try taking your baby swimming.

A heated pool, as close to home as possible, that's open more or less all day long to accommodate changes in your baby's timetable, provides the perfect context for easing back into a regular exercise routine.

It doesn't matter that you don't get a great deal of opportunity to swim in the beginning, as you'll be spending all your time keeping your baby afloat. What's important is that you start to help your muscles relax and strengthen again in the water.

What's more, swimming is a great bonding activity for you and your baby. It ticks all the boxes. 

How Long Before I Can Resume My Pre-Pregnancy Exercise Routine?

Mum and baby swimming

As we noted above, unless otherwise cleared with your doctor you need to wait until after your postnatal check at six to eight weeks before taking up exercise - other than Kegels and walking. 

New mums adopting a fitness regime post-pregnancy need to be cautious and ensure their body is ready first - introducing new exercises only when the body shows signs of being prepared.

Even if you're one of those mummies who have always enjoyed exercise, you will need to take extra care when returning to a full-on fitness program after childbirth - particularly one using a full range of fitness equipment.

The following are the primary reasons why.  

1. Weakness In The ligaments

As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, her body begins to release a hormone known as relaxin. This hormone helps to relax the body's ligaments, making it easier for the pelvis to expand during childbirth.

However, at the same time, other ligaments in the body are also affected by the relaxin.

The hips, feet, shoulders, and ankles all begin to loosen up, placing the mother at risk of joint pain, dislocation, and problems with hypermobility, lower limbs, and spinal alignment for many years.

Exercising on loose ligaments can be incredibly dangerous, which is another reason why new mummies need to take care when returning to intensive physical regimes too early.

2. Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles

Without a robust set of pelvic floor muscles, we can't control our urination.

It's more common than most people might imagine for new mums to lose control of their bladder when coughing or sneezing.

While it's essential to dedicate time to practicing specific pelvic floor muscle exercises, known as Kegel exercises, new mums with weak pelvic floors should stay clear of any heavy lifting for a couple of months, at least.

In general, this means staying clear of exercise regimes that incorporate the use of weights.

3. Diastasis Recti And Your Abdominals

Finally, about two-thirds of pregnant women get diastasis recti or muscle separation in the stomach. It is caused by internal abdominal pressure during pregnancy.

New mums who throw themselves back into challenging fitness regimes straight after childbirth run the risk of damaging their core abdominal muscles. And of never being able to get rid of their mummy tummy.

Crunches, planks, and other types of abdominal exercises that put a lot of strain on the tummy area are not the best choice of activity for a new mum wanting to regain her pre-pregnancy figure.

Finding out whether you have diastasis recti needs just a simple test with your fingers on your tummy. Lay flat on your back, relaxed, and feel your abdominals for any inconsistency and separation

Suppose you happen to be one of the many mums who develop diastasis recti after giving birth. In that case, you can perform a range of simple exercises to get your abdominal muscles back into the correct position. 

All are simple enough to do in the comfort of your own home. However, if you need to do some damage control, it's essential to perform each exercise correctly.

Postpartum Weight Loss And Workouts After The First Six To Eight Weeks

dressed up hot mama

After six to eight weeks, your doctor should clear you for regular exercise routines at your postnatal checkup. So at this point, you can adopt the same exercises any other woman would adopt to get healthy and fit.

Except that you'll have the following additional considerations because you are now a sexy mother.  

1. Exercises To Improve Your Breasts' Pectoral Muscles 

It's not just the tummy that new mums want to get back into shape. Pregnancy can take its toll on our feet, legs, buttocks, and breasts.

The strain that pregnancy can have on our breasts is particularly notable.

During pregnancy and throughout the months following childbirth, the female body experiences a range of hormonal changes.

These changes are relatively extreme, and as such, they take their toll on the female form.

In particular, lots of women find that their breasts are noticeably saggy after having children. These changes do nothing to keep our spirits up when dealing with newborns' demands, like sleep deprivation and acute tiredness.

Breasts start to sag after childbirth because the surrounding tissue expands so much, stretching the skin out of shape. This stretching also causes the loss of a significant amount of elasticity.

Therefore, an active fitness regime for women post-pregnancy includes exercises strengthening and tone the breasts' pectoral muscles.

Firm pectoral muscles give the appearance of a well-structured, well-lifted presentation and can help new mums improve their breasts' saggy nature.

Incidentally, regular breast massages using warm oil in an upward direction, and a supportive bra, are two of the most natural and effective ways of dealing with this problem.

2. Adapting Your Exercises Into A Busy Routine

Another challenge for all new mummies is finding the time (and energy) to commit to a regular exercise program while taking care of the baby.

It can be even more challenging to find the time to exercise when there's more than one child to look after. Or if we have to work or happen to be a single parent trying to manage everything on our own.

The key to getting back in shape and taking care of the little one at the same time is to let go of how you used to exercise.

You might find it hard to get started if you want to work out as you did before giving birth. A morning trip to the gym as soon as you wake up, combined with a couple of aerobics classes every week, is not a comfortable routine with your new responsibilities. 

Instead, try your fitness program from a new perspective. Run with your pushchair through the park, lay your baby on the carpet next to you as you work through a series of morning stretch positions at home. And reduce your workout time so that baby doesn't have to be patient for too long.

Indeed, when babies are as little as two months old, new mums might only manage to exercise for five to ten minutes at a time.

Another idea is to buy a fitness machine that you can use at home. When the baby is sleeping, or when he or she is having a rare, quiet moment, you can switch on your exercise machine and start getting a little closer to your pre-pregnancy body shape.

If you find it hard to motivate yourself at home alone, you could try organizing a group of new mums who want to get back into shape together.

Trying to be on time for a fitness class in the first few months of your baby's life might prove to be close to impossible. But getting together with other mummies one afternoon and fitting in a little bit of exercise around taking care of the children is a lot more plausible.

3. Being Realistic In Your Weight Loss Goals

Losing weight after pregnancy takes time, and so be realistic in your expectations. It could take as long as one to two years to lose enough weight to notice or get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. 

In one 2015 study, 75 percent of women were heavier one year after giving birth than before pregnancy. Of these women, 47 percent were at least 10 pounds heavier at the 1-year mark, and 25 percent had kept on 20 more pounds.

Of course, you should achieve any healthy weight loss level with a good eating plan and exercise.

Summary

Understanding the changes to your body and your lifestyle after the baby has arrived is essential. You need to take care, and, in particular, time for you to regain your strength and pre-baby body. 

Use caution, and be aware of your limitations so as not to cause damage or long-term consequences. Your full and fit figure is within your grasp, take your time, listen to your body, and watch out for the usual workout mistakes that can hurt your fitness goals

And a final reminder, make sure you consult your doctor before attempting any exercises or diet changes during this crucial postpartum period of your life. 

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