The whole post-baby body issue has gotten quite a bit of bad press recently. On one hand, in many fashion and beauty magazines, there are still a whole host of features on celebrities whose post-baby weight apparently melted away in weeks (but whose cover pictures are purportedly heavily photoshopped). Then even in what seems to be more genuine cases of losing post-baby weight e.g. Kate Middleton, there are still critiques on how unnatural and unrealistic the expectations of post-baby bodies are. On the other hand, there has also begun to be pushbacks on this. Since delivering Isaac, I have come across several viral posts on positively affirming the changes that comes with carrying and delivering a child, including a really wonderful defense of her “baby bump” by Jennifer Garner. (You can read about it here).
My own take is that no woman should be made to feel guilty or uncomfortable about her choices with regard to her lifestyle and her body, before, during or after pregnancy, unless it’s obviously harmful. So if a new mother wishes to focus on her child and wear her post-baby body with pride, good for her! But if she wants to work towards regaining her pre-baby figure, that’s her own decision too. There should be no pressure or criticisms in either case!
So now that the little preamble is out of the way, I thought I’ll share a little about how it has been for me.
I have always been underweight for most of my life — the only non-pregnant periods when I barely reached the minimal weight of the healthy weight range for me was when I was eating twice my daily calorie needs and not exercising. But otherwise, I have light bones and a small frame and usually weigh around 38-40 kg. (I would come in at the 38kg end when I am watching my diet and exercising 2-3 times a week; I’m around 40kg when I don’t particularly watch my diet and exercise infrequently)
Just before conceiving Isaac (or exactly when we conceived Isaac), Ning and I were traveling in France and enjoying plenty of wine and cheese and bread and steak — so when I found out that I was pregnant, I was around 40kg.
Pregnancy Weight Gain
There are a couple of guides out there on the recommended pregnancy weight gain and while I did not target a specific weight gain, I knew roughly how much I should be gaining in weight and kept track. Because my BMI was below 18.5 pre-pregnancy, most guides recommend a weight gain of 15-18 kg over the entire pregnancy. My eventual weight gain was 14 kg, which was just a shade below the recommended weight gain, but otherwise it was entirely textbook, even in terms of how the weight gain was spread out over the three trimesters. For me, it was around 1.5 kg in the first trimester (some women lose weight in the first trimester due to morning sickness, but I completely dodged that bullet so I had a great appetite and put on weight since the first trimester), 7.5 kg in the second and 5 kg in the last.
The expected weight loss immediately after delivery is usually at least 4-5 kg, since you would expect that at least the weight of the baby and the amniotic fluids would be gone. For me, it didn’t happen that way. I weighed in at 54 kg just before delivery, but the next time I weighed myself at home, four days after delivery, I was 52 kg! Even if I discounted the weight of the amniotic fluids, Isaac was a solid 3.23 kg at birth so I should have lost that much weight at least. The reason I surmised for my low weight loss was that I actually had a very bad case of water retention after delivery (perhaps due to the effects of the epidural and the IV I was hooked up to), far worse than anything I experienced during the pregnancy proper. I was all bloated up and even though most women should expect water retention to go off in around 7-10 days, it was not until two weeks after delivery that I began to see that happening.
So it was only at two weeks that my weight really began to fall — but this was not at some astronomical speed that some women seem to experience either. For about a week, the weight came off quickly, probably because it was water weight, so I went from 52 kg to around 47 kg by the end of the third week. But then, it stopped there. Nothing much happened for the next two weeks.
Post Six Weeks
Until my follow-up examination at the gynecologist at six weeks, I did not do much to lose weight since we are advised against vigorous exercise until given a clear by the doctor. I did start going for very short, very slow walks since one week after delivery but that was it. At six weeks, I was given the go-ahead by my doctor. He said to start slow and build up, but otherwise there was anything I needed to avoid. So I started an exercise regime which included getting a personal trainer, and started watching my diet more.
From the sixth week onwards, I began to lose weight steadily, at a pace of around 1 kg every two weeks for the next two months, then around 1kg a month thereafter. So now, at six months post delivery, I am just below my pre-pregnancy weight, and still seeing a slow weight loss.
On Post-pregnancy Weight Loss
What I really want to share is that while some women seem to have the weight melt off, it did not happen that way for me. I was thin to begin with, and it was not impossible for me to lose weight (since I clearly did), but neither was it effortless. At various points before this, I would read with envy on mummy forums about how my peers have already lost all their pregnancy weight, or even went below their pre-pregnancy weight — at three weeks, at five weeks, at one month — while I was still struggling with too many kilos. So I thought to share how it happened for me, also to encourage other mummies who might be trying to lose their post-baby weight.
But in this, I also want to emphasize that carrying and delivering a baby is a mammoth task for the body and unless you are very very blessed genetically, most of us would not regain the exact body we had. I now have a livid red keloid scar where the C-section incision was made, my belly button looks like a sad fish instead of the cute little thing it was, and I don’t think my tummy (though almost flat enough now) will ever regain its previous tautness and elasticity. And these I accept of myself, so losing weight is not about denying the wonderful task my body has accomplished, but just to regain the previous fitness and tone I had.
And so with that! I shall share my (possibly not too interesting) post-pregnancy fitness and diet regimes here, links will be up when they’re written!