Post Natal Nutrition

Nutritionist Vicky Gomez adds "How do we return to pre-pregnancy weight the healthy way?"

The pattern and timing of weight loss is highly variable post pregnancy. Some weight loss has been associated with breastfeeding when over 6 months and also associated with the exercise and diet patterns of the mother. The area of which body fat losses are greater generally reverses the area of weight gain during pregnancy. Body fat loss occurs from the hips and thighs as opposed to gaining fat at the hips and thighs during pregnancy1.

The rate of weight loss in the well-nourished woman is largely due to the desire to lose weight and can be the consequence of intentional dietary reduction and/or an increase in exercise2.There has been much discussion and expectation that weight loss is faster whilst breast feeding however, we know this does not always appear to be the case (The majority of women lose weight gradually while breastfeeding, some women actually gain weight, and others lose weight relatively rapidly.

It would be reasonable to allow 9-12 months as adequate time to readjust after pregnancy and expect weight loss. Weight loss and the retention rate is significantly related to pregnancy weight gain and fat gain. Studies have shown that on average a woman will gain approximately 0.5kg to 3.3kg between the time of conception and the first year after birth.(Ellison and Harris 2000). The retention of weight is variable and dependent on age, increased parity, socioeconomic and marital status, increased intake, decreased activity, and other factors such as psychosocial stress, isolation and loneliness, which may become apparent in the post-partum period.

Generally, exercise alone without diet modification does not lead to weight loss, because exercise tends to stimulate an increase in energy intake, Breastfeeding women may accelerate weight loss by reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity. A weight loss of 0.5 kg per week is achievable with modification in diet and exercise and does not affect intake and increase in physical activity, does not appear to affect milk

The type of diet is extremely important particularly for breast feeding mothers. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are not recommended while breastfeeding and during pregnancy. These diets will pose difficulty meeting requirements and also providing the glucose required to support the milk.

Practical Tips to achieve adequate weight loss post pregnancy

•  Have small frequent meals per day

•  Aim to achieve a 1kg weight loss per 2 weeks.

•  Enjoy a range of low GI carbohydrates

•  Encourage regular exercise.

•  High protein diets (over 20 percent of total energy), and consumption of protein supplements, protein powders or high protein

1.Butte and Hopkinson 1998.   2.Rogers et al 1997).  3. Chou et al 1999; Wosje and Kalkwarf 2004).