My best friend — yes, women always have one of those, irrespective of age — is going to have a baby this week. She’s looking forward to it for all the right reasons. I am looking forward to it just to get my friend back.
The baby, I guess, would be a bonus. I find pregnancy very unnerving. Though she sounds exactly the same, she now looks like a blimp on steroids.
She’s put on huge amounts of weight — some 20 kg — and swears it feels like 100 kg! Whenever I meet her, I cannot help blabber how good it would be to see her back to thin and normal.
Of course, in doing so, I add to the pressure most new mums are under to lose weight quickly after giving birth. Once the baby arrives, most new mothers want to return to their former weight quickly like the Hollywood celebs who miraculously get bikini-fit within a couple of weeks after delivery.
Now we have experts who have proposed a timeline for the post-partum weight loss.
According to the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), women should look to lose the weight over six months as an over-emphasis on weight loss could have a negative impact on breastfeeding (which incidentally, is recommended for six months after birth).
Though, there is no standard weight gain recommended for pregnant women. “A small woman who is underweight may gain more weight than a woman who is taller or overweight before pregnancy begins,” says Dr Suneeta Mittal, head of the department of gynaecology and obstetrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Gaining weight in pregnancy is both normal and necessary. Much of the weight gain, especially in early pregnancy, is extra fluid (water). The mother’s body has to nourish the growing baby and needs to take in more fluid to support the circulation in the placenta and baby.
Seven to eighth kg is lost immediately at birth, with sleepless nights caring for the baby and breastfeeding further helping the mother get back to normal within a few months.
Not all manage to get back to normal and the women who don’t lose the weight within a year have a higher chance of staying overweight all their lives.
To lose weight quickly after childbirth, women need to watch how much they eat during pregnancy. “Most women use pregnancy as a time to overeat, telling themselves they need to ‘eat for two’. Most continue over-eating even after pregnancy. Eating well for themselves and their baby is not an excuse to overeat,” says Dr Mittal.
Exercise helps, but not immediately after delivery. Though it works for overweight people looking to lose weight, going on an exercise-overdrive within weeks after birth does not work for new mothers. IQWiG data shows that very strenuous exercise programmes soon after childbirth do not lead to extra weight loss and women can take it easy immediately after delivery.
The most effective — and most permanent — way to lose weight after childbirth is a balanced diet- with or without extra exercise.
The caveat, of course, is don’t put off losing weight for too long. It takes three to six months for women to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy, so if you are still overweight six months after, it is time to hit the gym.