I have shared bits and pieces of my postpartum journey on my Instagram. Here, I am going to go into detail. Because it is hard! Pregnancy is hard and postpartum is hard.
Taking care of yourself is so hard.
Remember: consult your doctor before you make any significant changes to your diet or exercise routine - especially during pregnancy but even postpartum! This does not constitute medical advice. I am not your doctor and I do not know what is right for you.
I have a petite frame and started out with a low-normal BMI. I have always been small framed. This is my normal - my entire life.
If you want to find out your BMI, click here.
Pregnancy weight gain
The recommendations for ideal weight gain in pregnancy depend on your baseline BMI and how many babies you are carrying.
This is a nice calculator to calculate your ideal pregnancy weight per the Institute of Medicine guidelines: click here.
Now for me, I gained a lot of weight. For someone who is 5'1" (155 cm), gaining 65-70 lbs carrying a singleton pregnancy is a lot by any standard. But it happened. There are lots of reasons, a lot of which are preventable.
Let's review some of the reasons someone gains excessive weight in pregnancy:
Poor eating habits
Poor fitness habits
Twins or triplets
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. I know, I know. If you haven't been through it yourself, you would think that people will lose rather than gain weight. I'm here to tell you that is not always the case. People with significant nausea and vomiting will eat/drink whatever they can keep down. That is not always the healthiest choice (sour candy, crackers, bread, etc). Feeling unwell will also lead to lack of exercise. So do not judge.
Medical disease. Preeclampsia is most common. Edema, or swelling, is a very common part of preeclampsia. However, it is also a very common part of pregnancy. Most people with preeclampsia retain fluid and are swollen. But most pregnant people with swelling do not have preeclampsia.
Psychological conditions. Peripartum depression is real and grossly underdiagnosed, especially in high risk pregnancies. Eating disorders may present differently in pregnancy, such as binge-type. Talk to your doctor about this.
I had significant nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (notice I do not call it hyperemesis gravidarum even though I puked my guts out 12+ times per day. That's a specific diagnosis and it is relatively rare). I puked all the time. In the car, at home, at work between patients. It was rough. It started the cycle.
My poor habits continued throughout my pregnancy. I ate french fries and onion rings multiple times a week. I didn't exercise regularly.
Not all births are the same. A complicated birth can have a huge toll on mothers: physically and psychologically. This can definitely hinder progress in so many ways.
I had a forceps-assisted vaginal delivery. It is not as fun as it sounds :)
Postpartum: the first 6 weeks
Postpartum is hard, mamas. It is so hard!
Mothers are dealing with pain, incontinence, constipation, hemorrhoids, lack of sleep, stress, feeding, sore breasts, real and phantom baby crying, to name a few.
All those things. That was me.
Making good choices here is not easy either. You are in survival mode. Recruit anyone that can help: partner, family, friends.
Makes these a priority:
1. Healthy or not so healthy snacks.
2. Decent home-cooked meals.
3. Take walks outside as much as you can.
Postpartum: after the 6 weeks
My incontinence after my forceps delivery was very bad. I randomly mentioned it to my colleague on the phone who insisted that she put in a referral to pelvic floor physical therapy. It was life-changing.
It was the nudge I needed to start taking care of myself again. I was extremely physically de-conditioned. Slowly but surely I started to build strength. My incontinence improved and eventually stopped. I dedicated 10 minutes a day to myself to do my PT exercises.
I am a strong believer that weight loss is best achieved with changing eating habits rather than exercise. It is like the saying: Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.
I was breastfeeding so I had to do it slow. I stopped snacking all together, I cut down on added sugar. Remember the healthy snacks I talked about above? Those had to go. Slowly, I transitioned to my own modified version of intermittent fasting.
Most of this was mind over matter. I needed to change my relationship with food. To not eat my feelings. No not snack out of boredom. I ate when I was hungry, that is it.
Simple. But NOT EASY.
During this time, I was doing gentle exercises: PT, yoga, and taking walks outside. No hardcore exercises. I find that if I sweat, I'm ravenous and want to eat everything in sight. I'm not about to torture myself like that.
My goal was to be out of maternity clothes by 6 months postpartum, and to be to a certain weight (that was higher than pre-pregnancy weight). I made it.
Once I lost all my weight, I focused on fitness. Maybe not "once," more like a year later. I now have a Peloton (use my referral code YAQB5C to get $100 off), which honestly, to me, completely lives up to the hype. I also have been using the Sweat app for years (both not sponsored). Bonus: both of these programs have exercises for postpartum mamas.
Whatever you do, moving is good for the body and for the soul.
"Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it"
It took many months to grow a human, it will take time to get back. You may never look like you did before baby - I know I don't - but that is ok!
I am very open about my journey. Please feel free to ask questions below or reach out to me on social media. My DM's get crazy, but I always respond to comments on posts!
Let me know if you'd like me to share more about my fitness and health journey!