As your body transitions back to its pre-pregnancy form, it is normal to lose weight gradually but healthily. Aside from the baby and placenta, pregnancy fluids will leave your body until about six weeks after birth. The demands of parenting can also take their toll on you. You are likely losing sleep, too tired, or churning calories over breastfeeding. But postpartum depression or postpartum thyroiditis could be other severe issues.
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Common causes of postpartum weight loss
It is normal to experience rapid weight loss during delivery and a couple of weeks following it. It is only understandable considering the weight you gain during the pregnancy.
But did you know that not all of the weight is immediately shed off after birth?
Your body holds unto it and stores it as fat. The stored fat is like a contingency supply that the body will use to produce milk if the breastfeeding mom is starved or falls ill.
The postpartum weight you shed is primarily due to the following reasons:
The body’s hormones experience dramatic fluctuations following the pregnancy and after child delivery.
Rapid changes in the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone create vulnerable and observable changes in pregnant women.
During labor, reproductive hormones decrease as it stimulates the production of prostaglandins. It enables cervical dilation and contraction.
It also increases oxytocin levels very well into the labor period. Oxytocin does not only give women the surge of attachment and motherly instinct but also stimulates cervical contractions.
Prolactin hormone will then increase to give way to milk production.
The hormones begin to stabilize about three weeks after birth, but the stress hormone cortisol will rule out.
Stress impacts sleep and may then result in decreased melatonin and serotonin levels.
At six months, the hormones become more stable, and it is around that time the woman will get her first postpartum menstruation.
The complicated fluctuations in hormonal levels normally affect sleep and ultimately cause weight loss.
It will also affect mood as a causal sequence, explaining why women are moody after childbirth.
Not eating right
Even if you’re eating, many moms tend to disregard proper nutritious food after birth in an attempt to lose weight.
Other times new moms become so busy taking care of their newborns that they forget to eat properly, sleep, bathe, and generally take care of their bodies after birth.
If you seem not to be losing weight, dieting is a bad idea. If you are losing more than you think you should, eating as much as you need is only necessary.
Sometimes, moms lose weight not because of how much they eat but because of what they eat.
The first three months after birth is crucial as your body stabilizes its hormones and stimulates breastmilk production.
Every day, it will need about 200 to 400 calories that go mainly into producing milk.
If you exclusively breastfeed, your daily calorie-burning grind roughly equals a 45-minute run.
If you do not watch what you eat, it will only mean a rapid decrease in weight. It is usually easier to remedy by taking a well-balanced diet to support your high caloric need.
You honestly cannot size up to the metabolism of a breastfeeding mom.
Since they burn more calories in milk production, they are also likely to shed weight faster than hitting the gym.
However, breastfeeding in itself is not a weight-loss miracle. Every woman’s body functions differently, and while some women lose weight rapidly, others might take longer.
According to a journal in BioMed Central, exclusive breastfeeding promotes greater weight loss than mixed feeding in the early postpartum period.
It suggests that breastfeeding is a way of preventing overweight and obesity in mothers.
But breastfeeding weight loss needs to be gradual; moms lose about 1 to 2 pounds of body weight a month.
If the weight loss is drastic, accompanied by other symptoms such as severe hair fall, and has a material difference, talk to a lactation consultant to identify the problem.
Women usually get skinny when they indulge in exercise after birth. Aside from diet, your daily activity can also lead you to lose weight.
Some women intentionally get involved in rigorous exercises to return to their pre-pregnancy bodies.
But only the doctors should recommend when and how intense the activity needs to be, or you could be harming your body by losing weight so rapidly.
Physical activity burns calories to produce energy and support the body.
An intense workout uses up the stored fat and energy leading to rapid weight loss. It may result in moms becoming skinnier than usual.
Some few weeks after delivery, any sustained movement accounts for physical activity.
So, getting some help with daily chores and childcare is recommended if you must.
Rest is essential to help your body recuperate and repair itself after what it has gone through for the past months.
Postpartum baby blues is prevalent in mothers around 3 days after birth and can stretch for a few weeks.
A strong feeling of excitement or extreme emotions to the point of anxiety characterizes it.
The mood swing, irritability, and overwhelming feeling often result in troubled sleeping and changes in appetite.
Baby blues do not necessarily make a mom become skinny. What makes it worse is the lingering baby blues that lead to postpartum depression (PPD).
The two conditions exhibit similar signs but with differences in their timeline and severity of the emotions.
Postpartum depression can last longer than a year, with more intense symptoms that affect the mom’s overall physical and mental health.
The following intense symptoms characterize PPD:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Feeling of isolation
- Extreme exhaustion
- Loss of appetite
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of suicide and harming the baby
Postpartum depression needs immediate medical intervention.
Doctors will prescribe medications to lessen depression, improve appetite and improve the sleep pattern.
Left untreated, PPD may result in a mom harming herself or her baby. Her detachment also creates growth and developmental problem for her little one.
Some moms are at risk of postpartum thyroiditis or thyroid inflammation after delivering the baby.
It is an autoimmune disease that often starts out as hyperthyroidism and develops into hypothyroidism.
Simply saying, the antithyroid antibodies begin to attack the thyroid resulting in underactive or overactive thyroid functioning.
Why the antibodies attack is still unknown to researchers.
The common possible causes are changes in the immune system, family history of thyroid problems, or moms having Type I diabetes.
The first phase symptoms of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, anxiety, rapid heart rate, and excessive hair loss. It may occur from the first to sixth month after birth.
The second phase typically occurs from the fourth to eighth month when hypothyroidism takes place.
At this point, moms may gain weight, develop an aversion to colds, and experience fatigue, depression, dry skin, and constipation.
Doctors test thyroid functioning through blood samples that will measure the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
The treatment will depend on the phase of the disease and its symptoms.
So, if you are experiencing drastic weight loss after delivery along with other symptoms, talk to your doctor for early detection.
Tips for gaining healthy weight after giving birth
Every woman’s body is different and responds to pregnancy and delivery differently.
Unless triggered by an underlying condition such as postpartum thyroiditis, skinniness is remedied by some lifestyle and diet changes.
Postpartum thyroiditis is a rare condition where the thyroid gland gets inflamed after having a baby.
It causes excessive weight loss, restlessness, exhaustion, and milk oversupply.
1. Eating healthy foods
A variety of nutritious food is the basic support system for gaining weight after giving birth.
Have a balanced meal and take plenty of fluids to supplement your caloric needs for your and your breastfeeding baby’s nutrition.
2. Avoiding fad diets
Fad diets or plans claiming to help lose weight faster are misleading and unhealthy.
Most of these diets include eliminating certain foods, such as carbs, which can disrupt your nutrient intake.
These are not quick fixes to weight problems and may only make you lose weight with a health tradeoff.
Instead, aim for various nutritious food for health benefits and help you healthily gain weight.
3. Taking supplements
Taking prenatal or postnatal vitamins helps greatly in caring for your postpartum body.
Your body needs a great deal of help to repair itself. But food alone may not get you the complete and recommended nutrition that you need.
Vitamin supplements can help fill the dietary gap to ensure you are getting enough of each key nutrient for your postpartum body.
4. Getting enough sleep
Help your body mend itself and support the hormonal balance by getting enough rest and sleep.
Sleep re-energizes you and improves your mood and body functioning.
A deep and solid sleep of at least five hours daily can help sustain your postpartum weight management.
I know it cannot be easy to sleep properly once your newborn arrives, but try aiming for a nap whenever your baby is napping.
Make it a rule to sleep when your little one sleeps so you get maximum rest.
Of course, it’s much better if you receive your partner’s or extended family members’ help during the initial months.
They should help and allow you as much sleep and rest as possible.
How long does it take to gain weight after giving birth?
After about six to eight weeks, your body can recover from the ordeal of childbirth and consistently support its weight gain.
Is it normal to be losing weight after giving birth?
Yes, weight loss is normal for both you and your baby as you shed off pregnancy fluid that pooled up in the body.
However, if this weight loss is too rapid, you could suffer from other issues and should check in with your doctor.
Is it safe to take supplements to gain weight after giving birth?
Yes, dietary supplements can help you meet the nutritional requirements you may not get in food.
Postnatal supplements contain the right vitamins for your and your baby’s growth and development.
Just make sure you talk with your doctor about it to know the right supplements you must take.
The food you eat serves your sustenance and impacts your baby’s growth and development.
Getting skinny does not cause any concern unless other symptoms accompany it.
The weight should not also drop to a certain level that affects the BMI or body mass index.
You should be fine as long as your weight is within the normal range and your baby develops well.
However, if you think you are getting thinner than the presumed causes, reach out to your doctor.
A doctor can perform a series of tests to determine the problem and give you better advice for recuperating.
For further reading on pregnancy and post-pregnancy weight concerns, try to visit these posts:
- Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding? (5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding)
- I’m Pregnant But Not Gaining Weight — Is That Normal?
- Is Weight Gain After Miscarriage Common?