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Mom Health
Vetted by Dr Sandip Gupta, MBBS, MD, FNB-PICU on 19 May, 2022
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Journey After Child Birth: Changes in Body and Losing Post Partum Weight

Childbirth is one of the most remarkable things a woman’s body can do. Bringing a baby into the world is rewarding but physically exhausting too, and your body needs time to recover. Most women need approximately 6-8 weeks to recuperate from a delivery; however, some may need longer. There is no definite scale to gauge the ideal time to get back into shape, as every person is different with different metabolisms.

Postnatal changes: What can childbirth do to your body?

Both physical and emotional changes are to be expected after delivery, as your body takes some time to adjust to the post-pregnancy hormonal and physical shifts. The following changes occur in the body after birth:
  • The uterus (womb) contracts to its original size. There may be some abdominal pain as this happens. 
  • You may experience sore nipples and engorged breasts because of milk production and breastfeeding. 
  • During the postpartum period, your body will continue to expel the extra tissue that accumulated in preparation for the baby.
  • Stitches placed in the perineum, the region between the vagina and the anus (back passage), can take 7–10 days to dissolve and heal. They may cause pain when sneezing or coughing.
  • Constipation is quite common, and hemorrhoids (swelling of the veins around the anus) may cause bleeding and pain after bowel movements. 
  • Hormonal changes are also inevitable during the transition from pregnancy to delivery and breastfeeding. You may experience irritability, sadness, or anxiety within the first few weeks of childbirth. 
  • Some mothers may also experience postpartum depression as a result of persistent sadness and mood swings. 
  • You will lose about 5–6 kg after delivery and should continue to lose weight gradually until your body has lost all of its additional water weight from your pregnancy.

Which postpartum weight loss exercises should I do after my delivery?

Concentrate solely on yourself and your baby for the first two weeks after delivery. Begin with simple exercises such as Kegels, deep breathing with abdominal wall tightening, toe pointing, and foot-ankle circles. Three to six weeks after giving birth, you can resume your normal daily activities. However, you should avoid heavy exercise for at least 6 weeks after your delivery.  Exercising in moderation does not affect breast milk supply; therefore, mothers can exercise and feed their babies without affecting the baby’s growth.

Tips for recovery before a postpartum weight loss workout

A healthy postpartum weight loss plan will help you tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles, shed all the extra kilos, increase your energy, improve your sleep, and prevent postpartum depression. In the case of a normal delivery, you can begin light exercises immediately; however, you should begin exercising 6-8 weeks after a caesarean section, following your doctor's check-up.

A balanced diet and plenty of rest are necessary for your body to recover and be ready to work out.

If you're breastfeeding, then you're the source of nutrients that are essential for your child’s well-being; therefore, you should focus on taking a healthy diet rich in proteins (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, lentils, beans, and dairy) and whole grain (whole wheat bread, pasta, cereal, and oatmeal). Include 2-3 servings of vegetables and fruits in your diet. Along with diet, sleep is essential for recovering from the stress of childbirth, and it also helps to promote weight loss.

Does breastfeeding help you lose postpartum weight?

Breastfeeding not only nourishes your little one but also burns about 500-700 calories a day. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies may lose about 0.5 to 1 kg in a month. However, breastfeeding alone cannot help you lose a considerable amount of weight; you will need to make some lifestyle and dietary changes. You can start your post-partum weight loss journey six to eight weeks after childbirth when your body has healed to some extent and produces the right amount of milk.
  • Regular exercise, coupled with a healthy, balanced diet, is the best way to shed all the extra pounds you gained. Consider having five to six small meals instead of three heavy meals.
  • Choose snacks packed with protein and fibre.
  • Hydrate well but limit the intake of sugar and saturated fats.
  • Consume whole, fresh fruits to increase your nutrient and vitamin intake.

When to consult the doctor?

You should call your doctor about your postpartum health if you have:
  • Increased bleeding or pass blood-clots
  • Fever
  • Pain in the vagina or foul-smelling discharge
  • Sore breasts or any cracking or bleeding from the nipple or areola 
  • Painful urination, or inability to control urination
  • Nausea, vomiting, chest pain or cough
  • Vision changes or bad headaches
  • Depression or thoughts of harming your baby, suicidal thoughts or hallucinations

The weight you have gained over your months of pregnancy will not go away quickly, so do not be anxious if the going is slow. Respect your body and have faith in the weight-loss process.

  

References:

  1. Familydoctor.org. Recovering from delivery (postpartum recovery) [2020]. 
  2. KidsHealth. Recovering from delivery [2018]. 
  3. ACOG. Exercise after Pregnancy [2019].
  4. Mayo Clinic. Infant and toddler health [2020]. 
  5. LA Leche League. Weight loss ― for mothers.
  6. MedlinePlus. Losing weight after pregnancy [2019].

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