How To Lose Weight After Pregnancy: 7 Tips For Safe Weight Loss

Like many new moms, you probably can’t wait to pack away your maternity clothes and fit back into your old favorite of jeans. If you’re looking for ways to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, there are seven strategies you can follow.

Postpartum weight loss is achievable, but it takes time to do it in a safe, healthy way.

Have you considered clinical trials for Weight management?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Weight management, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Why do you put on weight during pregnancy?

Pregnancy can result in a lot of changes to your day-to-day habits and routines, including your diet and exercise. Fluctuating hormone levels also affect your energy and mood.

The female body changes during pregnancy to provide the best growing environment for your unborn baby, including nutrition, oxygen, etc.¹

Changes start to occur early on in your pregnancy and become more noticeable as you get further into your pregnancy.

Women tend to gain more weight in their third trimester of pregnancy than in their first trimester. This is due to the growing baby's weight, as well as an increase in fat storage in preparation for the high-energy tasks of labor and breastfeeding that come with being a mother.

Other factors include breast enlargement, growth of the womb, and water retention.  A lot of the weight gain you will experience is extra fluid retained by your body. This is required to support the:

  • Placenta

  • Baby's circulation

  • Amniotic fluid

“Normal” weight gain in pregnancy varies. Previous medical guidelines used to be very stringent, recommending that women gain no more than a few kilograms. However, there's no longer any standard recommendation as it varies depending on your personal situation.

The recommendations today are based on your weight before getting pregnant. For a single-baby pregnancy, this could range from anywhere between 5-18kg.

Allowable weight gain is generally higher for mothers who were underweight prior to their pregnancy and lower for mothers who were considered overweight prior to their pregnancy.

Excessive weight gain can be associated with worse outcomes for the pregnancy, baby, hormonal health, and can lead to issues such as gestational diabetes in the mother post-pregnancy.

Conversely, inadequate weight gain is also associated with poor pregnancy outcomes, so it is important to monitor your weight during pregnancy.

How much weight do you lose after giving birth?

Most women lose around 13 lbs (5.9 kg) during childbirth. This includes the baby, amniotic fluid, and the placenta.² During the first six weeks after childbirth, as you shed retained fluids, you'll lose additional weight, but the stored pregnancy fat won't go away on its own.

Through regular exercise and diet, you may be able to lose up to 1 lb (0.5 kg) a week in a safe, sustainable way. This may take about six months to a year to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, regardless of whether you're breastfeeding or not.

How to lose pregnancy weight safely and effectively

It can be a challenge trying to achieve a healthy post-baby weight. According to the CDC, almost half of all women who are pregnant (48%) gain more weight than what's recommended during pregnancy.³

Some tips on how to lose pregnancy weight include:

1. Maintain realistic goals

It takes time to lose weight after pregnancy, despite what celebrity gossip and social media would have you believe. It is also important to lose weight in a safe, sustainable, and healthy way.

A 2015 study showed 75% of women had gained more weight one year after childbirth than they had before they became pregnant. Of these women, 47% were a minimum of 10 lbs heavier at the one-year mark and 25% had kept on 20 lbs more.⁴

Depending on the amount of weight you gained while you were pregnant, it's realistic to anticipate losing around 10 lbs over the next year or two. By following a healthy diet and exercise plan, you should be able to lose a healthy amount of weight recommended by your doctor.

2. Breastfeed if possible

During the first six months or more of your baby's life, breastfeeding provides many benefits for both you and your baby, including:

Nutrition

All of the nutrients your baby requires to thrive and grow in its first six months of life are found in breast milk, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).⁵

Supports the baby’s immune system

There are important antibodies in breast milk that could help your baby to fight bacteria and viruses.

Reduces the baby’s risk of disease

Infants who are breastfed have a reduced risk of obesity, asthma, respiratory disease, type 1 diabetes, gastrointestinal infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).⁶

Decreases mothers' risk of disease

Women who breastfeed their infants have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.⁶

Research also shows breastfeeding can help with postpartum weight loss.⁷ In your first three months, however, you might not experience any weight loss due to your increased calorie requirements and decreased level of physical activity during lactation.

3. Eat a healthy diet

When you're pregnant, you may have modified your eating habits in order to support the growth and development of your baby. Proper nutrition is still essential after pregnancy, particularly if you're breastfeeding.

However, you should also plan your diet to promote healthy postpartum weight loss, with guidance from a healthcare professional.

Healthy eating habits include:

  • Choosing sources of lean protein

  • Eating more plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains

  • Controlling your portion sizes

  • Limiting salt and sugar intake

4.  Healthy snacking

While snacking is not an issue in itself, it’s important to make healthy snack choices if you do snack. Cut back on snacks that are high in sugar, salt, and fat, and opt instead for healthier choices.

Sweetened cereals, yogurts, canned fruit, chips, and baked goods are all loaded with extra calories with low nutritional value and should be avoided.

When breastfeeding, your energy needs are high so make sure to have healthy snacks on hand.

5. Find support

You may find it helpful to participate in weight loss groups. One study showed that women who engage in group-based weight loss lost more, or as much, weight, as those who tried to lose weight alone.⁸

Both online communities and in-person weight-loss groups can be helpful.

6. Increase physical activity

Women often used to be told to wait a minimum of six weeks after childbirth to start exercising. These days, however, the medical guidelines are that there is no need to wait.

If you were exercising during your pregnancy and successfully had a vaginal delivery without complications, it's likely safe for you to begin light exercise a few days after childbirth, or once you feel up to it. If you had a complicated birth or a C-section, speak with your doctor about when it's right for you to begin an exercise program. 

In most cases, you will be able to begin light exercises around four to six weeks after childbirth.

Once your doctor gives you the thumbs-up, you can take the following steps with your exercise:

Start gradually

Start with easy exercises that strengthen major muscle groups, which include your back and abdominal muscles, before slowly adding in moderate intensity exercises.

Take breastfeeding into account

If you breastfeed your baby, do so prior to exercising to avoid discomfort from engorged breasts. Make sure to wear a supportive bra during exercise.

Include your baby

If you can't seem to find the time to work out, include your baby in your routine by going for a daily walk with a baby carrier or stroller.

Don't exercise alone

Invite other moms on walks or to join you in postpartum fitness classes. It can be very motivating, and social, to work out with others.

Drink plenty of water

It's important to drink a lot of water before, during, and after working out. If you experience any pain, stop exercising immediately as this could mean you're overdoing it.

7. Avoid alcohol

Research shows that smaller amounts of alcohol, like the occasional glass of red wine, might provide certain health benefits.⁹ However, when it comes to losing weight after pregnancy, alcohol does provide calories without much nutritional value.

Alcohol may also contribute to weight gain, leading to increased fat storage around your organs (belly fat).

If you're breastfeeding, your safest option is to not drink alcohol at all, as there is no known level of alcohol that is considered safe for infants.¹⁰

If you are breastfeeding, during celebrations you could opt for something bubbly and lower in sugar, like unsweetened flavored sparkling water.

The lowdown

As your body goes through weight changes during and after pregnancy, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself the time before your six-week checkup for your body to recovery before you start to lose weight. Losing weight too quickly after childbirth could slow down your body's recovery process.

If you're breastfeeding, don't start cutting calories until your milk supply has normalized and your baby is at least two months old.

When losing pregnancy weight, make small, sustainable changes to do so in a safe and healthy way with a healthy diet and exercise.  Aim for a weight loss goal of around one-and-a-half pounds per week.

Once your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, you can start to incorporate exercise into your routine. It is important to speak with your doctor about how to lose postpartum weight safely.

Have you considered clinical trials for Weight management?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Weight management, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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