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Is there too much pressure on women to lose weight after pregnancy?

31 March 2016, 12:10 Annie Mwirikia

Nairobi - After reading recent Janet Mbugua’s social media posts The journey with Janet I thought about the excitement of bringing a child into the world, the craziness of physically carrying another human being within you, and how it is an all-round amazing experience. But the thrill was cut short when my mind wandered to what I could possibly look like well into my pregnancy, big breasts, swollen feet etc.

The remark ability of birthing a new creation is very often overshadowed by the size of body one will have therefore, in most women’s heads, they already map out a Post-Baby Healthy Eating/Workout Plan long before they even think about reproducing.

We're constantly mobbed by photos of celebrity mothers who look like they hit the gym before the umbilical cord hit the ground, able to 'snap back into shape' and look breathtaking just months after giving birth. It's set the bar rather high for the rest of us normal folk! But is it realistic or even healthy to lose weight at lightening speed after pregnancy?

I believe in the importance of filling your body with foods that add value to it, eating in moderation and living an active life, but surely you are allowed to enjoy precious moments with your newborn before hopping back on the treadmill?

Is it realistic or even healthy to lose weight at lightening speed after having a baby? Or is the pressure necessary, in order to snap back in shape?

Are new mothers under too much pressure to be photo-shoot ready too soon after giving birth? Or is the pressure necessary, in order to snap back in shape?

Pregnancy is time of great physical and emotional change for women. Everything from the size of her belly to the speed at which her heart beats will change over the nine months leading to childbirth. During pregnancy, a woman's body undergoes a lot of transformation; some of these physical changes are visible while others are not. Although nature has been kind to most women in that they do not gain copious amounts of weight during their pregnancy, the reality is that most will visibly change in size and shape.

It is normal, every woman gets the amazing thought and the excitement of bringing a child into the world and the craziness of physically carrying another human being within you, feels amazing but the thrill is normally cut short when the mind wanders to what you could possibly look like during and after pregnancy.  Most women imagine having much bigger sagging breasts and larger thighs, swollen feet, a big tummy and other body changes. The remarkability of birthing a new creation is very often overshadowed by the already mapped out post-baby healthy eating/workout plan long before delivery.

There is tremendous pressure indeed. Pregnancy is accompanied by an obsession with how a mom’s body changes along the way with what she looks like before, during, and most importantly after the pregnancy.

The intense scrutiny seems to have created a culture where most famous women feel they have to be picture-perfect, before making appearances post-pregnancy, even after gaining a large amount of weight.

The importance of filling your body with foods that add value to it, eating in moderation and living an active life, but surely you are allowed to enjoy precious moments with your newborn before hopping back on the treadmill? Is it really safe for new moms to try and lose the baby weight so quickly after birth? Probably not, health experts say. Instead, new moms need to let their bodies heal after such a huge toll on the body.

“Dieting, restricting calories and exercising intensely immediately after baby, for any reason, especially for the sake of changing the body's appearance, is not safe “In fact, I believe it's dangerous physically, mentally, and emotionally.”Asserts Dr .Mutiso a gynecology practitioner in Nairobi.

“Women should be reassured that losing the extra pounds they gained while pregnant will take time and they should not try to crash diet. It is important for women to understand that weight loss after birth takes time and that physical activity and gradual weight loss will not affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed.”He adds.

Health experts emphasize the importance of being a healthy weight before conception in order to avoid complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth; they warn women not eat for two.

Women can safely exercise during pregnancy and do not need to eat more when breastfeeding moreover there is no need to drink milk that is high in cholesterol and other bad fats.

Although it may seem appealing to diet in order to reduce the alarming rate at which your weight increases, it would not be advisable to do so. Even if you are overweight, dieting is not a safe option for you or the baby due to the reduced amounts of nutrients and vitamins you would be absorbing.

Furthermore, as your blood sugar level drops in-between meals, depriving yourself of food will cause you to feel extremely hungry at all times. Moreover, whilst mild exercise is advisable during pregnancy, some forms of exercise are not safe and should be avoided. Although your normal weight-gain will depend on a number of factors, such as your BMI, if your weight was healthy prior to the pregnancy, it would be advisable for you to gain between 10 and 15 kilos.

How soon should you begin to lose weight after birth?

Although you may be keen to begin an effective weight loss regime shortly after you have had your baby, it is important to give your body time to recover from labour.You will also need to adapt to the new situation and life with a baby, so it is advisable to wait at least 6 weeks before attempting to lose weight. Eating less and excessive exercise will delay your recovery and is likely to leave you very tired. If you are breastfeeding, dieting can also affect your milk supply. Recovery from labour and looking after a newborn whilst being deprived of sleep will be very demanding physically.

You will need the first few weeks to regain your strength and stamina after the strain of pregnancy and birth. Therefore, it is best if you simply enjoy the first few weeks with your baby and only start considering losing weight following your six-week postnatal appointment.

Losing weight safely

The best way to lose weight is to do it steadily and at a constant rate. It would not be safe to go on a very restrictive diet and hard exercises especially if you are breastfeeding. This would reduce your milk supply and could release toxins stored in your fat cells, which will enter the milk supply and will be passed onto your baby.

Even when you are not breastfeeding, it is important to eat healthily and without significant restrictions, as you will need to retain your energy at all cost. Losing weight rapidly is not a safe or long-term solution and you should aim to lose some few kilos per week in order to keep your energy levels up and to recover from labour and other physical demands of being a new parent.

Recommended types of exercise afterbirth

It is not advisable to start with strenuous exercise whilst you are still recovering. Eric Ouko, a gym instructor at Eyoga Asana Centre, advises that mothers should begin with gentle workouts, such as walking, swimming or mild aerobics.

It is advisable especially when you are finding it hard to fit exercise into your routine. Make sure that you only exercise if you feel up to it, and stop immediately if you are not well. After six weeks you may attempt more vigorous workouts, or sooner if you feel ready, but it is only advisable if you had an uneventful vaginal delivery. It is best to ensure that you steadily increase the amount of exercise you do and that you do not overdo it, especially if you were not particularly active prior to the pregnancy.

Additionally there are a few tips that can help you achieve and, more importantly, maintain a healthy weight:

1.     Drink plenty of water. As we often mistake thirst for hunger, it is advisable to drink a glass of water before every meal. Taking into account the amount of blood and water lost during childbirth you should try to look for a way to compensate the loss. Additionally you are breastfeeding drinking enough water will also keep you nourished.

2.     Eat a lot of fresh fruits and healthy snacks. As you will be spending a lot of time at home, it is a good idea to have access to fresh fruits, nuts and yoghurt to prevent you from reaching for more sugary replacements.

3.     Do not reduce the amounts you take rather change the quality. Rather than depriving yourself of food, which will only leave you hungry, get into the habit of eating nutritious meals five times a day. It is advisable to have three large meals and two healthy snacks, which will provide you with long lasting energy but will decrease your calorie intake.

4.     Do not skip breakfast. Eating breakfast, even when you are not hungry, increases your metabolism, improves your performance and provides you with energy. You should always have something to eat within two hours of waking up.

5.     Avoid alcohol. Alcohol contains empty calories and it impedes your weight loss considerably. It is also not advisable when you are breastfeeding. Although a small amount will not harm your baby but will enter your milk supply.

It is sad that most women feel pressured to lose weight after pregnancy. The reality is that your body has just achieved something amazing, making a baby and I wish women would reward themselves with time to celebrate their bodies’ strength and beauty in doing this. A wadgier waistline simply is not as important. Therefore, although it may be difficult to accept when you are generally body conscious, the best solution is to eat healthily and exercise moderately, and once your baby is old enough you can concentrate on losing the unwanted kilograms.

- MyNews24

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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