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How to lose weight after pregnancy

Struggling with post-pregnancy weight? This article offers practical and realistic tips to help you gradually return to your pre-baby weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

Beth Tripp
Beth Tripp
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How to lose weight after pregnancy

Incorporating daily exercises and a balanced diet is a great way to help you lose the weight you’ve gained while being pregnant. However, always remember that it's totally okay if it takes between 6 to 12 months to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Your body has been through an incredible journey so try to be compassionate towards it.

In this blog, we will share 5 simple tips to support you on your journey back to your pre-pregnancy weight and get you feeling like yourself again.

What is baby weight?

Baby weight is often used to refer to the extra weight a woman may gain during pregnancy. However, despite what the name suggests, it’s not just the baby that causes this extra weight gain.

Instead, there are a combination of factors such as:

  • The placenta
  • Amniotic fluid
  • Breastfeeding
  • Fat stores

And we will dive into all of these in this section. 

Growing a baby

Firstly, we have the growing baby itself which is the biggest contributor to weight gain.

On average, a newborn baby weighs anywhere between 5 pounds 8 ounces and 8 pounds 13 ounces, so this gradually contributes to the mother’s weight gain throughout the pregnancy as the baby grows and develops in the womb.

This weight gain is most prevalent in the last trimester due to the baby's increased growth in this time, and other weight gain contributors like the placenta, and amniotic fluid [2].

The placenta and amniotic fluids

The placenta is the organ that nourishes the baby with oxygen and nutrients during pregnancy, and as such also adds to the weight. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb, providing a cosy environment and supports the baby's development throughout the pregnancy. The volume of amniotic fluid increases gradually throughout the pregnancy, which adds to overall weight gain.

Breastfeeding and fat stores

As well as gaining weight to support the baby in the womb, pregnant women also gain weight to prepare their body for after the baby’s birth. Breast tissue starts to grow during pregnancy in preparation for breastfeeding, which also adds further to weight gain. Additionally, a woman's body naturally stores extra fat during pregnancy, in order for mother and baby to keep energised throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding [4].

So as you can see baby weight is a necessary and natural part of pregnancy, and definitely should not be something you are trying to avoid during pregnancy, as extreme low or high levels of weight gain in pregnancy can lead to health complications [4].

When can I start exercising after birth?

We mentioned at the start that regular exercise can support you to lose weight gained in pregnancy. But when is it safe to start exercising after birth? 

The answer to this question varies depending on several factors, including:

  • The type of delivery
  • Overall health
  • How you are able to juggle exercise whilst being a new mum.

Your type of delivery

The type of birth you had impacts when you can start exercising. If you had a safe and healthy vaginal delivery, you might be able to start light exercises, such as walking, as soon as you feel up to it. 

However, if you had a C-section or if there were birth complications, your body will need more time to recover, and you should wait until your healthcare professional gives you the go-ahead to start exercising [5]. 

Your overall health

Your overall health also plays a big role in determining when you can safely start exercising after birth. 

If you were physically active during pregnancy and had a healthy pregnancy, you might be able to start exercising sooner. Whereas, if you had pregnancy or delivery complications, or have other health issues, you might need to wait a bit longer. 

Listening to your body and not pushing yourself too hard is essential at this time, as you need time to heal and recover. It's crucial to consult your healthcare professional before starting any exercise routine after birth. They can provide you with guidance based on your specific circumstances. 

Even if you exercised regularly before pregnancy, don't rush into intensive workouts. Your body has changed, and it's essential to gradually ease into your workout routine, and be patient with yourself during this process.

Your life as a new mum

Not only is there the health and safety side, but you probably have a newborn baby to look after. For some, this comes with sleepless nights, a huge adjustment to your routine, and just having someone that constantly depends on you. So, you might be safe to exercise, but unsure how. 

We will go into this more later, but for now just remember everyone will have different levels of support around them, so try not to compare yourself to what other new mums are doing.

Just focus on what you can do right now.

Top 5 tips on how to lose weight after pregnancy

There are so many weight loss tips out there, so it can be confusing to know where to start with weight loss in general, let alone after pregnancy. 

Most advice will talk about calorie deficits and cutting carbohydrates, and whilst this might lead to a short-term weight loss, it is likely to lead to weight regain when you inevitably return to your usual eating habits. 

Moreover, you are already going to be in need of sufficient calorie intake whilst supporting your body to recover from childbirth, to give nutrients to your infant if you are breastfeeding, and not to mention be able to function as a new parent.

So what can you do? 

Lucky for you we have some advice to help you, so these are our 5 top tips for weight loss after pregnancy.

1. Breastfeed, if you can, it helps you lose the initial weight

The choice of whether to breastfeed is a personal one, and there can be medical reasons that mean that it's not an option for you.  But if it is, breastfeeding can actually be a way to lose a bit of that baby weight.

Breastfeeding can help you burn extra calories and lose pregnancy weight as mothers who have breastfed at least three months have been found to lose an average of 3.2lbs more weight loss than non-breastfeeding mums at 12 months postpartum 3. 

However, as mentioned before you need to be able to have the right amount of calories and also a balanced diet to ensure you're consuming enough nutrients to keep both you and your baby healthy.

2. Set realistic, SMART goals

Time and time again, people set themselves goals around being healthier that are too unrealistic for them. This leads to healthy behaviour stopping before you have even really got started.

The best goals are always SMART goals: this means they are:

- Specific
- Measurable
- Achievable
- Realistic
- Timed.

For example, you might set yourself a goal to go for a 20 minute walk everyday.

Remember, what might have been a realistic goal for you once before may now be different as a mother. Where you may once have been able to go to the gym at least three times a week before, may only be possible on one day in the week when someone can look after the baby.

So make sure you factor in your current lifestyle when creating these goals.

3. Eat healthy snacks

As a new mum, sleep deprivation is a common occurrence, and when paired with limited time to cook, you may find yourself snacking more frequently.

It's crucial, therefore, to ensure your snack options are healthy and energy-boosting. Consider fruits, nuts, oats, Weetabix, low-sugar yoghurts, and hummus with vegetables like carrots and celery for dipping. Our Embla app offers many more suggestions for healthy snacking that are delicious.

Despite the temptation to reach for high-carb, sugary snacks when you're low on sleep, it's best to avoid these.

This is because despite what you may think, sugary high carb foods actually break down faster in your system than complex carbohydrates like oats, quinoa, and vegetables, which are absorbed more slowly, therefore giving you more energy to tackle having a newborn baby.

4. Stop highly processed foods

Foods such as cakes, crips, pastries, and bread are all examples of highly processed foods.

These foods often contain unhealthy levels of added sugar, salt and fat, which can lead to weight gain, impact metabolism, and increase risk of heart disease and diabetes, so reducing these are key.

A great tip for spotting these high processed foods is to start reading food labels to identify added sugars and high sodium content.

Sometimes an easy to read traffic light system can be found, so opt for foods with green ratings, over orange and red rated food, which contain higher percentages of fats, sugar and salts. Also, opting for more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, such as chicken; and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Also, home cooking allows you to control what goes into your meals making you likely to avoid the processed foods.

Remember, balance is key.

It's perfectly fine to enjoy processed foods in moderation, but the bulk of your diet should come from whole, unprocessed foods for optimal health.

5. Slowly get back to exercising  

We’ve already mentioned making realistic goals, but realistic goal-setting really is key when getting back into exercising – especially if you have a lot going on.

Start with gentle exercise such as walking or yoga, and as your body recovers and your health professional approves, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.

Think of activities that will fit in well with your life. For example, you could go to a baby exercise class, or maybe it’s running with the pushchair. Remember you already will be doing a bit of weight lifting, especially as your baby grows, so if you are getting in daily movement you are doing great.

As you get more comfortable, you can work your way up to trying to do more intense activity and we advise you to focus on strength-based exercises, and after giving birth you may be advised on some pelvic floor exercises to have a go at.

Remember, it's important to lose weight at a gradual and steady pace.

Rapid weight loss can be harmful to your health, and you need to be at your healthiest to look after your little one.

References

  1. Endres, L.K., Straub, H., McKinney, C., Plunkett, B., Minkovitz, C.S., Schetter, C.D., Ramey, S., Wang, C., Hobel, C., Raju, T. and Shalowitz, M.U. (2015). Postpartum weight retention risk factors and relationship to obesity at 1 year. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 125(1), pp.144-152.
  2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. (2009). Pregnancy and birth: Weight gain in pregnancy. Cologne, Germany: InformedHealth.org. [Updated 2018 Mar 22].
  3. Jarlenski, M. P., Bennett, W. L., Bleich, S. N., Barry, C. L., & Stuart, E. A. (2014). Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among US women. Preventive medicine, 69, 146-150.
  4. National Health Service. (n.d.). Pregnancy: Weight gain. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/weight-gain/
  5. National Health Service. (n.d.). Keeping fit and healthy with a baby. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/keeping-fit-and-healthy-with-a-baby/
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Beth Tripp
Beth Tripp
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