Last week the hormonal changes mom experiences after birth was discussed. Hormones aren’t always to blame though. There is a lot of pressure on moms “bouncing back” after pregnancy and returning to pre-pregnancy weight right away. Women are advised to gain an average of about 25 lbs during pregnancy. This recommendation is based on the BMI (body mass index) of the woman at the time when she finds out she is pregnant. Overweight women are advised to not gain as much for the health of themselves and their infants. This hasn’t always been the guideline though. In the 1930’s excessive weight gain was seen as a possible sign of swelling or impending high blood pressure. In an effort to prevent this, it was recommended that weight gain should not exceed 15 pounds during pregnancy 1. This was also considered good for “preservation of figure”. Like it or not, eating for two doesn’t give to the green light to eat whatever you like or twice the usual amount. Healthy lifestyle habits are important in maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy, supporting baby’s health, and also appropriate weight gain makes it easier to lose the extra pounds after delivery. Keep in mind the weight you gained during pregnancy isn’t all baby, but also includes larger breasts, larger uterus, placenta, amniotic fluid, increased blood volume and additional fat stores. The part you can control is the amount of fat you gain and lean muscle you preserve.
Many women are unhappy with their post pregnancy body due to the presence of stretch marks, a belly bulge, wider hips, and breast changes. A TODAY Moms survey of 3,000 new moms found that almost two-thirds of women say they worry their partner doesn’t like their body 2. We live in a society of judgement and a culture that expects women to maintain their physique.
It is important for new moms that are feeling the pressure of returning to their postpartum bodies to accept the fact that it took around 40 weeks for the body to make a human and prepare for delivery, so in turn, it will take time for the body to return back to what you are used to. It may not even happen though. Depending on if you are planning to have more children or if you have just had your third, each and every pregnancy is different.
It is no longer only your body. You have shared your body with the tiny humans you have created. Your body has nurtured them and will continue to do so, physically and mentally, for the rest of your life.
Returning to exercise isn’t always easy. Waiting 6-8 weeks after delivery is typically recommended. However, if you had a C-section, you may not be able to recover as quickly. For some, it can take months to recover and although your doctor may “clear you for exercise” be certain that this means light and gentle exercise. Getting outside and going on a walk with your new baby is probably one of the best exercise you can get for your body and your mind. If aches and pains are holding you back, we can help with that with chiropractic care, proper rehab, and appropriate exercises. We can help you move better and feel better so you can get back to activity without pain. Try to change up the scenery too. You can wear your baby in a front carrier facing inward as early as you want. This allows you to go on walks where there may not be a stroller path. Be careful though if you choose to hike where there may be tree roots or rocks you could trip on. See your carrier instructions for different ways to wear your baby. I would also love to show you various ways your baby can be worn or connect you with local women who specialize in babywearing.
Dieting isn’t recommended right away after giving birth. Your body needs calories and nutrients to feed your baby and for the healing process to begin. This is true especially if you are nursing because your body can burn up to 500 calories a day just by making milk for your baby! A diet high in protein and healthy fats will supply you with enough energy to take care of your baby while the extra weight you gained during pregnancy can come off. Keep healthy snacks around like nuts, guacamole, peanut butter with celery, vegetables and hummus, etc. Drink lots of water and be sure to measure it if you aren’t sure if you’re getting enough. Drinking 2-3 quarts of water is recommended and it will keep you hydrated if you are nursing.
Don’t start working out or changing your eating habits because you HATE the way you look, but instead make the changes because you LOVE yourself. Your kids will model your behavior and start with the tools to make good health choices from a young age. They will eat the things you eat and they will exercise because it is what they have grown up seeing on a regular basis. As a role model for your children you can demonstrate how to live a healthy life. It takes work and we all stumble, but by picking yourself up and starting again is what life is all about. Your mental and physical outlook will improve with each successful goal you achieve. As always, I am happy to help you achieve your goals and get you started on the right path. Chiropractic care, nutritional counseling, and meal planning are all services we offer at Venture. Need help getting started, give us a call!
~~Dr. Melanie Dockter DC, CACCP
1. Miller, Debbie. Pregnancy Weight Gain Guidelines in the US – a Historical Overview. Marian University Nursing. May 2010.
2. Dube, Rebecca. ‘Love my kids, hate my body’: Real moms speak out on body image after babies. TODAY. February 12, 2013.