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After months of preparing for baby arrival, most new moms are ready to shed the maternity clothes and leave pregnancy behind. But one of the unspoken truths of the early postpartum period is that during those first few months, sometimes called the “fourth trimester,” the majority of women still hang on to a lot of their baby weight, and many even feel as though they still look pregnant.
While shedding the post-pregnancy pounds can be a process, Expect the Best author Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., warns women to take their time and be patient waiting for the weight to disappear. In an interview with WebMD, Ward advised waiting until the baby is at least 6 weeks old before even considering a diet. During this time, she said, “Most women are sleep-deprived, tired, and lack the energy to exercise, prepare healthy meals, and do what it takes to lose weight.”
Understanding where the pregnancy weight comes from can be helpful. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a pamphlet explaining where this “baby weight” comes from. During pregnancy, about 7.5 pounds of weight gain comes from the baby itself. Increased breast size accounts for about 2 pounds, the placenta weighs about 1.5 pounds, and the growing uterus and amniotic fluid each account for about 2 pounds. Blood flow increases during pregnancy, and blood alone represents about 4 pounds of pregnancy weight gain, as do increased body fluids. Finally, a pregnant woman’s body protein and fat stores, necessary to carry a baby, can weigh up to 7 pounds.
Once the baby is born, much of the “baby weight” disappears immediately. It’s the extra weight that can present a challenge, and unfortunately, that weight is not always easy to shed.
Though it can be hard to accept, dropping baby weight can take a year or more. Of course, studies have also shown that baby weight that sticks around longer than a year is more likely to become permanent. The best target for postpartum weight loss, according to Ward, is 1-2 pounds per week.