Research reveals best time to lose pregnancy weight
There may be some sense behind the old post pregnancy saying “nine months on, nine months off” after all. Doctors in Canada say that the 3-12 months after child birth are key when losing your post pregnancy baby weight. And new mothers who don’t lose the excess weight within a year of child birth (or actually put more on) may be risking their health.
The study results
The researchers tracked post pregnancy weight loss in a group of 305 healthy women. They monitored risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, including blood pressure, LDL (bad cholesterol), and resistance to insulin.
Most women didn’t lose weight straight after the birth. After three months, 81% weighed more then they did before they became pregnant. But after 12 months, 75% of the women had lost weight.
The study found that the other 25% (new mums who didn’t lose weight, or who actually gained more weight within 12 months) were at higher risk for developing diabetes or heart disease. They also had higher blood pressure than the women who did lose weight.
These increased risk factors weren’t present at 3 months, but were present at 12 months after child birth. This suggests that the three to 12 months after birth is the critical window for new mothers to lose at least some of the weight they gained during pregnancy.
DID YOU KNOW: A woman’s weight one year after child birth is a strong predictor of the likelihood of her being overweight in 15 years time.
Dr Ravi Retnakaran is the diabetes researcher and clinician who led the study. He told BBC News: “Most women are not going to go back to their pre-pregnancy weight right away, and we found that the typical pattern is more than 80% don’t by three months. But, at some three months to 12 months, what we’re suggesting is that you should be on a trajectory of weight loss.”
Exercise for post pregnancy weight loss
Pregnancy is the one time when it is normal to gain weight – about 20% or more of body weight over the course of nine months. And any new mum is very aware that, after delivery, any attempts to lose weight can be hampered by lack of time for exercise, and lost sleep.
However, the study also found that exercise played an important factor in the women’s weight loss, with high physical activity levels, particularly through playing sport, associated with weight loss.
British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Maureen Talbot said that while it could be difficult to lose weight after pregnancy, being overweight increased the risk of heart attack or stroke.
“That’s why it’s important for new mums to look after themselves as well as their baby by keeping active and eating healthily. With a new baby you’ll have your hands full, so don’t try to rush into diets and fitness regimes. Instead, steadily ease yourself back into fitness by working physical activity into your routine, for example with a lunchtime walk or a mother-and-baby exercise class.”
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Heart Research, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and the Canadian Diabetes Association. The researchers disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.
Credit: BBC News.