- Within the first two weeks after giving birth, you can expect to lose an average of eight to 20 pounds as your body clears out excess fluid.
- It’s important to give your body four to six weeks to recover from giving birth before you try to lose weight. After that, losing about one and a half pounds per week is safe and won’t affect your milk supply if you’re breastfeeding.
- One study published in 2015 suggests that breastfeeding can help you lose weight after birth. But other research has found conflicting results.
- If you’re having a hard time losing weight because you’re still experiencing pregnancy cravings, you can expect them to disappear within six months after birth.
- This article was reviewed by Julia Simon, MD, who is an assistant professor with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UChicago Medicine.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Doctors recommend that women gain between 15 to 40 pounds while pregnant depending on their pre-pregnancy BMI. However, a 2017 review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that most pregnant women gain more than they probably should.
In their study, researchers reported that close to half, 47%, of the over 1.3 million women in the review gained more than what’s recommended, while about a quarter put on less. And getting rid of those pesky pregnancy pounds can be tough. But be patient.
In general, new moms can expect to lose their pregnancy weight, “within a year of delivery of their child,” says Craig Salcido, MD, an OB-GYN with Mission Hospital in Orange County.
Here are some tips for how to manage your expectations for weight loss and get back to your normal weight after pregnancy.
First steps to losing weight after pregnancy
The first steps start even before you become pregnant.
“The amount of weight a woman gains during pregnancy depends on the following factors: their pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), the number of prior pregnancies, physical activity levels and nutritional habits,” says Craig Salcido, MD, an OB-GYN with Mission Hospital in Orange County, CA says,
What to expect after giving birth
“Women tend to shed weight immediately after giving birth because of the loss of the placenta and amniotic fluid,” says Salcido. And that will likely continue in the initial postpartum phase: “Expect that within the first two weeks after birth to lose an average of eight to 20 pounds as your body clears out excess fluid.”
But after that, you will most likely still retain some residual pregnancy weight. Now, it can be tempting to start counting calories and try to lose all of that weight fast. But if you’re breastfeeding that’s going to be difficult because breastfeeding moms need an extra 500 calories daily.
That said, it’s safe to start on a diet and exercise regimen while you’re breastfeeding, says Salcido. You just need to give your body enough time to recover first. You’ll need between four to six weeks:
- Four weeks: If you had a vaginal delivery you can speak with your doctor about returning to a moderate exercise routine four weeks after giving birth.
- Six weeks: If you had a C-section, Salcido says to wait six weeks before you start counting calories and exercising to lose weight.
“Weight loss of about a pound and a half a week is safe and likely won’t affect your milk supply if you are nursing,” he says. Therefore, if you have 30 pounds of residual pregnancy weight, and you lost 1.5 pounds per week, you can be back to your pre-pregnancy weight in 20 weeks, or 5 months.
How to lose weight after pregnancy
Breastfeeding could be helpful when it comes to weight loss. In one 2015 study, published in Preventive Medicine, US moms who exclusively breastfed for at least three months lost more weight-just over 3 pounds-and were more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight a year after giving birth compared to moms who didn’t breastfeed exclusively or at all.
As far as which diet works best, Salcido says: “The safest and easiest way to lose pregnancy weight is to eat small meals throughout the day, instead of three large ones, to boost your metabolism.” He recommends always starting your day with breakfast, picking healthy snacks, like nuts, and drinking lots of water throughout the day.
Plus, as expected, sticking with fruits and veggies is smart. “Keep in mind to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables-they help provide your body with needed nutrients while also breaking up fatty deposits,” he says.
But if you find yourself with cravings, similar to the ones you had while pregnant, you’re not alone. “Some women may continue to experience cravings after birth because of changes in hormone levels,” says Salcido. Cravings may include anything from sugar to caffeine to protein.
Salcido says a good rule of thumb with postpartum cravings is to treat them like you would when you had them while pregnant: everything in moderation. Moreover, “these cravings tend to disappear within six months postpartum,” he says.
The bottom line is that when it comes to weight loss, studies show that eating well and working out is the way to go. Most women will get the OK from their OB to start exercising by 8 weeks after giving birth, says Salcido. And once you do, the usual advice for moderate exercise applies. About 2.5 hours every week, which equates to 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
Related stories about pregnancy:
- Your baby bump will pop out between weeks 12 to 16. Here’s how to tell if you’ll show early or late.
- How much weight you should gain during pregnancy, according to doctors
- Foods to avoid during pregnancy and how to still stay healthy
- How long it takes to recover from a C-section before you can drive a car, take a bath, and have sex
- Yes, Tylenol is safe for pregnancy. Here’s the right dosage
- Doctors debunk the 25 biggest pregnancy myths