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Experts Corner

Nutrition

Postpartum Weight Loss
By Mediconsult's Nutrition Services

Q. How can I lose weight after delivery?

A. Your post pregnancy time may find you with a few extra pounds. Try not to be discouraged! Your body went through some major changes over the previous nine months, including fluid expansion, lean body tissue growth and a normal process of a little fat storage. Give your body at least nine months to recover and get back into shape. This process will naturally occur to some extent, as long as excess calories are not consumed during the postpartum months.

As at any time of life, eating too many calories will result in more fat storage. Be aware, some women gain weight after pregnancy. This is usually a result of poor diet resulting from fatigue, change in routine and stress of being a new mother.

For good weight control after delivering a baby, however, a woman should strive to eat a nutrient-rich diet, lower in fat. Portions need to be adjusted for breastfeeding or, for women who are not breastfeeding, a moderate rate of weight reduction. Continue to stay well-hydrated, whether you are breastfeeding your baby or not. This helps to keep your energy level up, as your body begins its next transition. Keep caffeine to a minimum, and avoid alcohol if you are breastfeeding. For women who are not breastfeeding, a small amount of alcohol on occasion does not present the same health risks. However, alcohol ingestion does make weight loss more difficult.

If you are restricting your calories in an effort to lose weight, it is a good idea to take a multivitamin with minerals that provides 100% of the RDA. You usually don't need the extra iron from a prenatal vitamin after pregnancy. Women who were anemic during pregnancy, or women who had excessive blood loss with delivery, may benefit from continuing iron supplements or prenatal vitamins. Check with your health care provider at your postpartum visit if you have questions about nutrient supplements.

If you are breastfeeding, do not limit your food intake too much. Breastfeeding women should consume a minimum of 1800 calories per day. Use the pregnancy food guide to ensure minimum nutrient needs are met. Generally, breastfeeding women can lose between one and four pounds per month without compromising breastmilk production. If you are significantly overweight, or if you gained weight excessively during pregnancy, you may be able to lose a little more.

Exercise is a part of the weight control equation, although it is important to follow your doctor's advice about when to begin. After childbirth, your rest and recovery are priorities, along with successful transition into your new role as a mother. Your body usually needs between six and eight weeks to recover from labor and delivery. Women who had complicated deliveries, may need more time.

Resuming your pre-pregnancy exercise routine may be a challenge. The demands of being a new parent often leave you sleep deprived and harried. Your body has undergone some major changes and it may take some time before you can perform at pre-pregnancy levels.

Discuss any limitations on your physical activity with your doctor before you leave the hospital and at your postpartum checkup. When you are given the medical 'OK' to begin, start gently and be patient with yourself. Your new baby may mean modifications to your exercise routines, but that's all right. The important thing is to find some kind of regular activity that works for you, and stick with it. A daily walk with your baby may be the perfect beginning.

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