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Lose the (Baby) Fat

Get Your Body Back

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Nov. 19, 2001 -- You've heard about those new moms who get their pre-pregnancy body back just months after childbirth, so why is it taking you so long to lose your baby fat?

Well, to be honest, for most women, getting back the body they had before giving birth isn't easy.

But it can be done. "It takes time," says Amy Ogle, a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist. "Women should be kind and understanding with their bodies for up to a year," she says.

How long it takes to get back in shape also depends upon what type of delivery you had. "It takes about six weeks to recover from any abdominal surgery, such as a C-section," says Lisa Mazzullo, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and clinical instructor at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. Women recovering from a vaginal delivery are often told to use their own judgments when deciding when to start exercising, but they should talk with their doctors before beginning a postpartum exercise program.

The Fitness Factor

Ogle has published a video and companion booklet, titled Before Your Pregnancy: Prepare Your Body for a Healthy Pregnancy. But she gives advice for women after pregnancy as well. Women should eat small meals about every three hours, she says. And they should exercise regularly, as long as they get their doctor's permission first.

Women who were fit before getting pregnant have the easiest time losing weight afterward, says Ogle. To become and stay fit, say experts, you should exercise three to five times a week for 30 to 50 minutes each time. Workouts should include a variety of cardiovascular, strength-training, and flexibility-enhancing exercises.

But doctors warn that women during or soon after pregnancy should avoid starting any moderately strenuous cardiovascular activity they haven't already been doing before the pregnancy. "You never want someone who hasn't been doing moderately strenuous exercise to start doing it," says Mazzullo. "But if someone's been doing something strenuous, we usually let them continue." If a woman wants to start an exercise program after she finds out she's pregnant, Mazzullo recommends she begin with walking and low-impact aerobics. She shouldn't move on to high-impact exercise during the pregnancy. Mazzullo tells most women to avoid high-impact exercise after the 20th week of pregnancy.

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