Remember when, during those last few weeks of pregnancy, you began to long for a glimpse of your toes again? When being able to trim your own toenails was right up there on your wish list along with a decent night's sleep, a slightly larger bladder (or at least one that wasn't serving as baby's bouncing castle), and feeling comfortable in your favorite pair of jeans again?
Well, baby is now a few weeks – or possibly even a few months – old. Your bladder is once again all yours; you can see – and trim your toenails; and you comfort yourself that a decent night's sleep is not too far off.
But those jeans! No matter how you try, you are convinced that your favorite jeans are destined to become a distant, albeit fond, memory. Or are they? Isn't there something you can do to get back into shape – your pre-pregnancy shape?
Isn't it true that all women gain weight during pregnancy? Isn't it also true that many women (most women?) never lose all the weight they gained during a pregnancy – and just get larger and larger with every subsequent pregnancy?
Pregnancy Weight Gain: The Facts
Remember when your doctor or midwife warned you not to gain too much weight during your pregnancy?
This is because, gaining too much weight during pregnancy can:
- Increase your risk of a Cesarean-section delivery. Although C-sections are generally considered safe, they are a major surgical procedure and any major surgical procedure comes with some risk. In addition, if you have one, your risk of having a C-section for subsequent births is considerably higher.
- Increase your risk of developing pre-eclampsia, a condition that can potentially be fatal to both mother and baby.
- Increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes, which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on. It also increases your risk of delivering a very large baby. Babies with a very high birth weight are at significantly increased risk of developing all kinds of adverse health conditions later in life, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even neurological problems.
But there's more: the more weight a woman gains above 20 lb (9.1 kg) during pregnancy, the more weight she is likely to retain by the start of her next pregnancy.
In addition, the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey (NMIHS) found that women who were overweight before pregnancy were more likely to experience substantial weight retention at 10 to 18 months postpartum than underweight and average weight groups.
Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable. However, the amount of weight gained can affect not only your health, but also that of your baby. In addition, the bigger you are going into your pregnancy, the more likely you are not only to gain more weight during your pregnancy, but retain that weight after the birth of your baby (postpartum).
Best Way To Lose The Postpartum Weight
While postpartum weight loss is considered critical to preventing and managing obesity in women, there is clear scientific evidence that 13% to 20% of women are 5kg or more above their preconception weight 12 months after the birth of their baby.
So what should women do to lose the weight they gained in pregnancy?
An Australian review of 46 studies involving nearly 1,900 postpartum women looked at which strategies to lose weight postpartum were the most effective. It found that lifestyle interventions that required women to self-monitor their weight, and involved a combined diet-and-exercise approach, produced significantly better results than exercise alone.
If you don't lose the weight you gained during your pregnancy within a year after your pregnancy, chances are you may never lose it at all – at considerable risk to your health, and your baby's health during any subsequent pregnancy. And exercise alone won't do the trick.
What About Weight Loss Supplements?
There are hundreds of weight loss supplements on the market. Many come with unproven, or anecdotal, claims of efficacy. However, our research turned up one supplement which has the backing of two scientific, peer-reviewed studies, that attest to its usefulness as a weight-loss supplement: Forskolin. Forskolin, which is made from the root of a plant in the mint family, has long been used to treat a wide range of ailments from asthma and glaucoma to heart failure. It has also been hailed as a body fat burner.
There are two studies published in peer-review journals that really put forskolin on the map as a weight loss aid.
One study examined the effect of forskolin in overweight and obese men by measuring their body composition, testosterone, metabolic rate, and blood pressure. It found that forskolin made positive changes to the men's body composition by decreasing their body fat percentage and fat mass, while increasing their lean body mass and bone mass. According to the study's authors, this indicates that forskolin is a possible therapeutic agent for the management and treatment of obesity.
The second study looked at the effect of forskolin on the body composition of mildly overweight women. This found that while forskolin did not appear to promote weight loss, it seemed to reduce the risk of future weight gain in overweight women.
Yet another study, on rats, indicated that forskolin may be effective in preventing diet-induced obesity in rats.
Bottom line:There are studies done that show the potential fat burning qualities of forskolin. While more studies are needed, the good news for new mothers is that forskolin appears to help prevent weight gain in overweight women.
Our Ultimate Take Home Message
The more weight one gains during pregnancy, the more one is likely to retain it – and the situation will simply get worse with each subsequent pregnancy. That's a downward spiral to avoid as it's bad both mom and baby.
Taking a supplement like forskolin may help to prevent additional weight gain between pregnancies. However, forskolin should NOT be taken when pregnant; nor has it been shown to be safe to take while breastfeeding.
Tempting as it might be, don't try to lose too much weight too quickly after your baby's birth, particularly if you are breastfeeding as dieting can negatively affect your milk supply. Get your doctor's permission before you embark on a weight loss and exercise program after the birth of your baby.