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Weight loss after pregnancy: Reclaiming your body

Medically reviewed on July 13, 2018

If you're like most new moms, you're eager to put away your maternity clothes and slip into your old jeans. Understand the smart way to approach weight loss after pregnancy and promote a lifetime of good health.

Consider your eating habits

When you were pregnant, you might have adjusted your eating habits to support your baby's growth and development. After pregnancy, proper nutrition is still important — especially if you're breast-feeding. Making wise choices can promote healthy weight loss after pregnancy.

  • Eat more plant foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Choose lean protein from a variety of sources
  • Limit sweets and salt
  • Control portion sizes

Include physical activity in your daily routine

In the past, women were often told to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to begin exercising. Today, however, the waiting game is over.

If you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin light exercise within days of delivery — or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a C-section or a complicated birth, talk to your health care provider about when to start an exercise program. Generally, you might be able to start light exercises about four to six weeks after your delivery.

When your health care provider gives you the OK:

  • Take breast-feeding into account. If you're breast-feeding, feed your baby right before you exercise to avoid discomfort caused by engorged breasts. Wear a supportive bra.
  • Start slowly. Begin with simple exercises that strengthen major muscle groups, including your abdominal and back muscles. Gradually add exercises of moderate intensity.
  • Include your baby. If you have trouble finding time to exercise, include your baby in your routine. Take your baby for a daily walk in a stroller or baby carrier.
  • Don't go it alone. Invite other moms to join you for a daily walk, or try a postpartum exercise class. Working out with others might help motivate you.

Remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after each workout. Stop exercising if you experience pain. This might be a sign that you're overdoing it.

The bonus of breast-feeding

Breast-feeding can also help you lose weight gained during pregnancy. This is because when you breast-feed, you use fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy — along with calories from your diet — to fuel your milk production and feed your baby.

Set realistic weight-loss goals

Most women lose about 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms) during childbirth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During the first week after delivery, you'll lose additional weight as you shed retained fluids — but the fat stored during pregnancy won't disappear on its own. Through diet and regular exercise, it might be reasonable to lose up to 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) a week. It might take six months to one year to return to your pre-pregnancy weight, whether you're breast-feeding or not.

Be gentle with yourself as you accept the changes in your body. Above all, take pride in your healthy lifestyle.

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