Body after baby: a sensitive, highly personal, yet sensationalized subject. We are inundated by stories and images of celebrities shrinking rapidly weeks after birth, and whether we aspire to the set standard or not, the pressure to erase all evidence of baby can seep in.
Before I go on, I want you to know that you are not vain or selfish for wanting to fit back into your pre-baby jeans, and quickly. Carrying a baby is a sacrifice of your previous lifestyle, let alone your bodily space. On top of the hormonal changes, there’s the visible changes, and the reconciling of new identity. Body changes absolutely play into our new identity and our perceptions of ourselves.
Most birthing individuals lose ten to twelve pounds at birth, including the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, and placenta. As the average person gains about thirty-five pounds during pregnancy (depending on their weight before becoming pregnant), sometimes the reality of the postpartum body is surprising and even discouraging. During the first week after birth, more weight is lost as the body releases retained fluids, but you may feel you still “look pregnant.”
During this time the uterus is also gradually shrinking back down to its normal size, which takes about six weeks. Most people can safely tolerate losing 1 to 1.5 pounds a week after the second month postpartum. Losing more than this can result in you and/or your baby not receiving enough nutrients, which is not sustainable for long term health. This is not the time to try a quick fix diet. If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended you take in 1500-1800 calories a day, at least for two months. Depending on how long you exclusively breastfeed, you may be noticeably hungrier for a while. It’s recommended that you listen to your body, while feeding it lots of nutrition packed, healthy food.
In total, it is reasonable to expect that it could take anywhere from six to nine months to return to pre-pregnancy weight: “Nine months on, nine months off.” Even then, you may not recognize yourself in the mirror as you once were. For perspective, I weighed less than my pre-pregnancy weight at seven months postpartum, but I still couldn’t fit into my old clothes because my shape was different due to weight distribution. Be conscientious with your self talk.
You may be anxious to get back into your old routine. Most people are cleared to jump into exercise by 6 weeks postpartum, depending on the nature of their labor, birth, and recovery. It is best to consult your doctor regarding physical activity and recovery. The body needs time to recover after childbirth, and will pass lochia for up to six weeks. If your bleeding ever increases, you may be pushing yourself too hard. Gradually easing back into your old routine is recommended, as well as being very attentive to your body’s messages.
If you experience weight gain after birth that concerns you, consult your doctor. Above all, taking good care of yourself will lead to the most sustainable recovery and bodily adjustment. Motherhood does not require martyrdom. Feed yourself well, get out for a walk with your baby, bathe regularly, put on your favorite lippie or mascara. Get the support you need to make self care happen.
Have questions or need resources? We’re happy to help.
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