Five myths about postpartum weight loss and the truth

Five myths about postpartum weight loss and the truth

Postpartum is the period immediately following childbirth and up to six months. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the postnatal period as the most critical and yet the most neglected phase in the lives of mothers and babies; most maternal and newborn deaths occur during the postnatal period. The postpartum period can be divided into three distinct stages; the initial or acute phase, 6–12 hours after childbirth; sub-acute postpartum period, which lasts 2–6 weeks, and the delayed postpartum period, which can last up to six months.

The delayed postpartum period, which starts right after the sub-acute postpartum period and lasts up to six months, is when the body slowly recovers from process of pregnancy and childbirth. As the organs (uterus included), muscles and connective tissues slowly return to a pre-pregnancy state, excess fluids also subsides. Once no serious maternal complication is identified during this phase and the infant is thriving, the next objective for almost every mother is “how to safely shed the postnatal weight”.

Typically, as the uterus shrinks and the excess fluids are flushed out of the body, you should lose at least 10-15 lbs. Some women may lose even more while others tend to carry the weight much longer. I fall in the latter category and though I’m okay with my weight because I know how weight loss works and I also know my baby needs a healthy Mom, some people just don’t understand and can’t refrain from pointing out how fat I am.

Pregnancy can be overwhelming. To watch your body change during pregnancy from the weight gain, to the stretch marks and everything else in between, then having to deal with all of the unnecessary weight loss expectations is a bit much. No wonder some women suffer postpartum depression. Some people even go as far as telling me that “this is my woman’s body now (whatever that means)”, and also that “women who gave birth via cesarean session, tend to have bigger tummies”, and “I will never lose this weight”.

Most of these assertions are either ill informed or complete myths. But it can damage a mother’s self esteems nonetheless. So in this post, I decided to address the five most common myths I’ve heard and give you the truth.

Myth 1: You will lose the weight immediately

Fact 1: Nobody “snaps back” immediately after giving birth, not even celebrities. The raw picture of Megan Markle leaving the hospital after delivering her baby tells that much. Every woman is different. Some women gain more weight during pregnancy than others and some women recover a lot faster than others. Expecting any new mom to magically lose the weight she gained over 9 months in 6 weeks is not just ridiculous but down right wrong. There are so many other things going through a new moms’ head like the health of her baby, recovering fully from childbirth whether c-section or vaginal delivery, finding a nanny for the baby and even going back to work. These things are just as important as wanting to lose weight and so it’s important to be sensitive enough to stop talking about how this person snapped back from child birth. If or when the mom decides she wants to lose weight, she will. Until then, keep your expectations to yourself.

Myth 2. This is your “woman’s body” now

Fact 2: Your woman’s body is what you decide it is. Yes pregnancy changes your body a lot, but keeping excess fat gained during pregnancy is not a by product of womanhood. This statement is the most insidious and ill informed of them all. Women in my part of the world easily fall into this trap by believing that the weight gained during pregnancy is a symbol of maturity and womanhood. Wrong! Every woman deserves to be healthy and happy and if losing some weight will help you feel healthier and fit then you should absolutely pursue it without fear of being unable to achieve it. Because you can achieve it over time by making intentional lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising.

Myth 3.You shouldn’t wear a belly wrap if you had Cesarean session

Fact 3: The main purpose of a belly wrap is to support and align your abdomen until your abdominal organs and muscles can do their normal jobs again. According to a study published in Physiotherapy Canada, and in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics women who wear a postpartum belly wrap tend to have less pain, distress and bleeding after a C-section. The study further stated that the belly wrap could even help women get back on their feet sooner and walk farther. The important thing to know however is that, not every belly wrap is suitable for c-section. There are medically designed wraps as well as some soft ones made from appropriate materials. Read this article to learn more.

Myth 4. Women who gave birth via Cesarean section tend to have bigger tummies.

Fact 4: There are many pros and cons of having a ceserean birth, but having a larger postpartum tummy is not one of them. This is a big myth. Tummies stretch the same during pregnancy and the uterus shrinks the same postpartum. With proper diet and deliberate exercise any woman can lose the excess weight after giving birth. However, when myth number two informs your postpartum weight loss decision, then you may end up having a way bigger tummy.

Myth 5: Breastfeeding will help you lose weight.

Fact 5. Like I said before, every woman is different. Losing weight while breastfeeding is not something that can be easily achieved by all women. I personally struggled with this. I breastfed my first baby for 21 months and my second for 9 months (and counting) the entire time I didn’t (and still haven't) drop a single pound even though I am eating healthy 80 percent of the time and exercising. Factors like increased hunger and sleep deprivation can make it harder to naturally lose weight. These two are accurate in my case. Studies have found that many women only lose up to 86% of the weight gained during pregnancy within the first 6 months after giving birth while some women take up to five years to completely shed the weight.

So, it’s okay to take your time with losing weight especially if you are still breastfeeding. You need to make sure that you are getting enough of the right nutrients to nourish yours and your baby’s body. Don’t feel pressured in anyway to do any drastic weight loss plan. Your body is yours and in the right time you will lose weight. 

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