Weight Control After Pregnancy

Medical Author: Carolyn Janet Crandall, MD, FACP
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Reviewing Editor: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD

Weight control is a widespread concern for many women after pregnancy. Although common during pregnancy , weight gain of 30 pounds is difficult for many women to handle emotionally. Many women are unclear about how to separate fact from fiction regarding this "post-pregnancy" weight control.

First of all, women need to understand how much weight gain is actually "normal" during pregnancy. About 15-30 pounds is the wide range of what is considered reasonable. This may vary according to how heavy a woman is before she becomes pregnant. A heavier woman may be advised to try to stay within the lower end of the weight gain range during pregnancy.

Second, there seems to be a myth that weight loss after pregnancy can only be successful if it occurs rapidly. Somehow, many women feel that if they have not lost all the pregnancy weight by 1 year after delivery, something is wrong with them, they are not normal, or they have failed in some way. Actually, the truth is that weight loss after pregnancy can take a very long time, sometimes a few years, without signifying that something is wrong. Gradual weight loss is the norm, not the exception, and the rate of weight loss depends on several factors, such as whether there were complications with the pregnancy or delivery. Pregnancy complications can make a woman feel weak or interfere with her mobility. Certain diseases like postpartum inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis), which is a common complication that shows itself soon after delivery, can cause massive weight struggles if they are severe. Other factors include whether the woman has other medical illnesses or takes medications that make weight loss difficult in the first place (whether after pregnancy or at another time in her life).