Bouncing back to your pre-pregnancy weight immediately after giving birth is neither realistic nor recommended. Instead, taking a balanced approach to weight loss over several months will optimise a woman’s future health outcomes. Achieving a healthy weight after having a baby is also important if you’re planning on another in the future.
How quickly should I lose my pregnancy weight?
There are no set recommendations for how quickly you should return to your pre-pregnancy weight after having a baby. But it is important to lose your pregnancy weight at some point post pregnancy, so it is not carried through to your next pregnancy, or into later life.
Each woman’s weight loss experience will be slightly different. Most studies show women retain about 1-5.5 kilograms at 6-12 months after pregnancy. In our study we found three out of every four women retained some of their pregnancy weight six months after the birth, and one in three retained more than 5 kgs.
Very low energy diets or fad diets are not recommended during pregnancy nor immediately following birth. Trying to lose weight too fast can mean your food choices are less likely to provide a good balance of nutrients, which are needed while your body gets back to a non-pregnant state and for breastfeeding.
Health benefits of losing the baby weight.
Weight gained in pregnancy is due to the growth of the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, the uterus and changes in body tissues including the breast and fat stores – especially in the hips, back and thighs.
A few weeks after having your baby, this will generally include some extra fat tissue and breast tissue. Having some stored fat tissue at the end of pregnancy is nature’s way of making sure mothers have enough stored energy to support breastfeeding.
Losing this extra store of body fat in the first year following childbirth will help improve a woman’s future health trajectory.
One review looked at change in body weight between pregnancies and the relationship with health outcomes in the second pregnancy. Across 11 studies of 925,000 women, a major increase in body weight between pregnancies (equivalent to three extra units of BMI or 9kg) was associated with an 85% increased risk of having a large-for-gestational-age baby and a 50% greater risk of having a baby weighing more than 4 kgs.
Mothers who had gained this level of weight were three times more likely to develop gestational diabetes and 70% more likely to have a caesarean section.
In the same review, reducing weight between pregnancies was associated with a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes and having an large-for-gestational-age baby. But there was also an increased risk of having a baby born small for gestational age.