After giving birth, many women experience an unpleasant surprise when their round, firm, pregnancy bellies give way to loose skin and belly flab. Although some women can shed the pregnancy pounds quickly through diet and exercise, others find it hard to get rid of the extra fat stores. The first step in addressing sluggish post-pregnancy weight loss is to talk to your primary care provider. She can evaluate you for any underlying medical conditions that might contribute to your difficulty losing weight.
Unrealistic expectations about post-partum weight loss leads many women to grow impatient with the pace of their weight loss, even if it is still within a normal time frame. Many women expect to regain their pre-pregnancy figure within days or weeks of the birth. Although you will often lose about 10 pounds immediately after the birth, the Babycenter website cautions that it can take three months to one year to lose the pregnancy weight. Pregnancy can also make some permanent changes to your body, such as wider hips and a softer belly, that might keep you from regaining your pre-pregnancy shape or weight.
Thyroid problems can make it difficult for you to lose weight after pregnancy. The womenshealth.gov website reports that some women develop postpartum thyroiditis, a thyroid condition common in the first year after giving birth. The problem usually begins with an overactive thyroid, which lasts two to four months and can cause weight loss initially. After that, many women struggle with an underactive thyroid, which can continue for up to a year and reverse the problem, leading to weight gain. Symptoms of thyroid problems include sleep problems, low energy and changes in weight.
Although breastfeeding can help many women lose weight after pregnancy by burning many excess calories each day, many women cannot lose all of their pregnancy weight through breastfeeding alone. La Leche League International suggests that most women will also need to exercise and control their diet in order to lose the pregnancy weight. If you breast feed for six months, this may help significantly with weight loss, according to a study published in 2008 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition". If you stop breastfeeding, you will need to cut your calorie consumption to avoid piling on the postpartum pounds.
Getting more sleep can address long-term sleep deficits that might contribute to sluggish postpartum weight loss. The uneven sleep cycles many new mothers experience can upset your metabolism and cause you to crave high-calorie, high-sugar foods that provide a quick burst of energy. In an article on the Fit Pregnancy website, Sheah Rarback, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommends napping as much as possible to keep your energy levels up and curtail these cravings.
La Leche League International suggests that women’s bodies might actually create new fat cells during the last trimester of pregnancy to help women store up fat for pregnancy and breastfeeding. These new fat cells might explain why some women struggle with weight loss after pregnancy, even if they never had problems in the past. These fat cells never completely disappear, but you can shrink them through diet and exercise.
- WomensHealth.gov: Recovering From Birth
- La Leche League International: Postpartum Body Image and Weight Loss
- Fit Pregnancy: Lose the Baby Fat
- Medline Plus: Hypothyroidism
- Babycenter: Diet for healthy post-baby weight loss
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Breastfeeding Reduces Postpartum Weight Retention