Skip to content

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

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.

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, she says.

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.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
 
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
 
slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 
pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video