Lose the (Baby) Fat
Get Your Body Back
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
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
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.
Timeline for Weight Loss
Within the first two weeks after delivery, Ogle says, women
lose a lot of weight quickly. Much of the 25 to 35 pounds they gain during the
pregnancy is made up of two things: water and the baby. But the weight still
left over after the baby is born and water retention is the hardest to lose,
Weight loss following a pregnancy should be gradual, says Megan
McCrory, PhD, a researcher in human nutrition at Tufts University. McCrory
recommends that women lose between half a pound and a pound per week.