How to Lose Weight After Pregnancy and How Long it Takes

Here are some tips on how to meet your weight loss expectations. Doctors recommend that women gain between 5 and 18 kg during pregnancy, depending on their pre-pregnancy BMI. However, a 2017 review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that most pregnant women gain more than they should.

In the study, researchers reported that about half, 47%, of the more than 1.3 million women included in the review gained more than recommended, and about a quarter gained less. And getting rid of those pesky pounds during pregnancy can be difficult. But be patient.

In general, new mothers can expect to lose weight during pregnancy “within a year of giving birth,” says Craig Salcido, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mission Hospital. Here are some tips on how to meet weight loss expectations and return to your normal weight after pregnancy.

First steps to losing weight after pregnancy

The first steps begin even before you get pregnant. “The amount of weight a woman gains during pregnancy depends on the following factors: her pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), the number of previous pregnancies, her physical activity level, and her eating habits,” says Craig Salcido, MD, an obstetrician. An internist at Mission Hospital.

But according to the Institute of Medicine, having a healthy pre-pregnancy BMI and following weight gain guidelines can make it easier to lose weight after childbirth.

What to expect after childbirth

“Women tend to lose weight immediately after childbirth due to the loss of the placenta and amniotic fluid,” says Salcido. And this is likely to continue in the initial postpartum phase: “Expect to lose an average of 3 to 6 pounds during the first two weeks after delivery as your body flushes out the excess fluid.

But after that, you’ll likely retain some residual post-pregnancy weight. Now, you may be tempted to start counting calories and try to lose all the weight quickly. But if you are breastfeeding, this will be difficult because breastfeeding moms need an additional 500 calories a day.

However, it is safe to start a diet and exercise while breastfeeding,” says Salcido. You just need to give your body enough time to recover first. You will need four to six weeks: Four weeks: If you had a natural birth, you can talk to your doctor about returning to a moderate exercise regimen four weeks after delivery.

Six weeks: If you had a cesarean section, Salcido advises waiting six weeks before starting calorie counting and exercise to lose weight. “A weight loss of about 0.5 kg per week is safe and probably won’t affect your milk supply if you’re breastfeeding,” he says. So, you can get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after 20 weeks or 5 months.

How to lose weight after pregnancy

Breastfeeding can help with weight loss. In one 2015 study published in Preventive Medicine, American moms who exclusively breastfed for at least three months lost more weight and were more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight one year after giving birth compared to moms who did not exclusively breastfeed or not at all.

While this is encouraging, other studies have shown conflicting results. Overall, it seems that the longer you breastfeed, the more effective it is at helping you lose weight. As for which diet works best, Salcido says: “the safest and easiest way to lose weight during pregnancy is to eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones to speed up your metabolism.”

He recommends always starting your day with breakfast, choosing healthy snacks like nuts, and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. In addition, as expected, it is wise to stick to fruits and vegetables. “Remember to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – they help provide your body with essential nutrients and also break down fat,” he says.

But if you find yourself experiencing cravings similar to those you had during pregnancy, you’re not alone. “Some women may continue to experience cravings after giving birth due to changes in hormone levels,” says Salcido. Cravings can include anything from sugar to caffeine to protein. Salcido says that a good rule of thumb for postpartum cravings is to treat them the same way you would if you were pregnant: everything in moderation. Moreover, “these cravings usually disappear within six months of giving birth,” he says.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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