During each of my pregnancies I had the usual concerns. “Am I eating well enough? Will the baby be healthy?” But I also had that lingering thought in the back of my mind as my belly grew (as well as other parts of me). Will I be able to get my body back after the baby?
I had my first child when I was 23 and my fourth when I was 35. I can definitely say there was a big difference in my pregnancy and recovery when I was older, even though I was in better physical shape pre-pregnancy in my thirties than I was in my twenties.
From my personal experiences I learned that everyone is going to want to tell you their story of “how they did it” and I promise you there will be one or two telling you how they walked out of the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans or ran a marathon 9 months pregnant carrying triplets. Congratulate them, and erase it from your mind.
I am going to share some of my realities of post baby weight loss as I know them. They will vary for you and everyone else based on a lot of factors such as:
1. Pre-pregnancy weight
2. How much weight you put on during the pregnancy
3. Fitness and activity level prior to, and during your pregnancy
4. Your age
5. If you are breastfeeding
Here are my experiences.
I gave birth to my first son at the age of 23 and the weight did just fall off. I also was so nervous and overwhelmed with the reality of having a tiny human being depending on me for his every need for survival, that I never ate anything. I also had a terrible time breastfeeding because of it. Your body needs extra calories daily to make breast milk. If you are losing weight rapidly, you definitely are not going to have enough nutrients to pass on to your child if you choose to breast feed. I will also say, even though I lost weight rapidly, my body was still different. It took a good year and a half before I really felt my body was back to what it had been before my pregnancy. A healthy diet and exercise helped with that. This is also when I was first introduced to strength training and the many benefits it offers.
My two middle pregnancies were closer together. I was 29 when I had my middle son 18 months after giving birth to my daughter. This brings up another topic. My body really seems to “peak” back into shape at the two year mark. Two years seems like a lot but it really isn’t. And again, I am speaking for my own body and what I experience. So having the two pregnancies closer together took a little more of a toll on my body. With these births I focused on eating properly and made sure I got enough calories. When the weight came off, it came off slowly. I worked diligently for every pound and it took time. The strength training was once again a huge help in getting back muscle tone and tightening things back up.
I had my now four year old when I was 35 and I have written about this experience before. The entire pregnancy was harder for me. And I was in excellent physical shape beforehand. People would tell me how great I looked but I felt awful. I still remember having to literally lift my legs up onto the couch to rest because I had absolutely no inner thigh strength. Getting back in shape after was the toughest challenge yet. It took small progressive steps to get back into shape. And the weight loss was once again slow and sporadic. I literally started from scratch with my fitness plan, starting out with all basic, beginner exercises. A lot of consistency, patience, and diligence were required.
I did not really exercise during any of my pregnancies. My iron levels were always exceptionally low while pregnant (even with a supplement) so I was tired a lot. My daily errands, activities, and taking care of my kids, were my source of exercise and naps were a staple of my day. That was what my body needed. As a fitness professional that was always a tough reality for me but I learned to let my frustration and feelings of guilt go over time and just trust what my body was telling me.
Over the next couple segments we will stay on the topic of pregnancy and fitness and tips for getting back into shape after. Just start knowing that pregnancy and motherhood is an extremely individual experience. It’s good to have some facts but it is even more important to know if those “facts” do or do not work for you. Your needs are just as individualized as the child you bear.
For more awesome fit tips check out Jeannine's blog Real [Fit] Life at the Times Union here.