Pregnancy and Weight Gain

Dietitian, Juliette Kellow explains the importance of losing excess baby pounds and getting back to a pre-pregnancy weight to stay healthy.

Your Weight After Pregnancy

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Life has undoubtedly changed beyond belief – and so has your waistline. But to stay healthy, experts say it’s important to lose those excess baby pounds and aim to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight or even lower if you were overweight or obese to start with. This is even more important if you’re planning on having another baby at some point in the future.

Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to help start shifting those extra baby pounds. However, the Association for the Study of Obesity says that women shouldn’t assume that breastfeeding will shift all the extra weight gained during pregnancy. Many women find that breastfeeding increases their appetite dramatically so they end up eating more. This is often combined with less activity, so some new mums actually find themselves gaining weight rather losing it.

According to the Association for the Study of Obesity, although new mums are often advised not to diet or exercise when they are breastfeeding, studies in well-nourished women have shown that neither dieting nor exercising have any adverse effects. However, you should always check with your GP or midwife before dramatically changing your eating habits or starting exercise after having a baby.

Research shows it’s really important to avoid gaining weight after a pregnancy, especially if you’re planning on having another baby as this is strongly linked with complications for both mother and baby.

Swedish scientists found that the risk of pre-eclampsia and diabetes increased if a woman’s BMI increased by just one to two units from the beginning of her first pregnancy to the beginning of her second pregnancy. A rise of more than three BMI units, for example from a BMI of 26 to 29, increased the risk of stillbirths.

Top Tips - Your Weight After Pregnancy

  • Aim to breast-feed – it’s one of the best ways to help shift that baby bulge as you need around 500 extra calories each day to produce breast milk. Your midwife should be able to give you more information.
  • Breastfeeding also increases your requirements for many vitamins and minerals so it’s really important to eat a healthy diet that’s packed with nutritious foods. In particular, pregnancy and childbirth can deplete your stores of iron and this can lead to anaemia, the symptoms of which include extreme tiredness. Eating a diet packed with iron-rich foods before and during your pregnancy will help but it’s also important once you’ve given birth.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, you should continue to avoid drinking alcohol or have only small amounts. Alcohol can pass into your breast milk so that it smells different to your baby and may affect his or her feeding, sleeping or digestion.
  • Once you’ve stopped breastfeeding, if you still have excess weight to lose, continue with a healthy, balanced diet but reduce your calorie intake slightly – WLR will advise you on your daily calorie allowance to help you lose ½-2lb a week.
  • If you haven’t breastfed, wait at least six weeks before starting a diet and exercise plan to help shift those excess pounds and consult your GP first.


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More Information

Visit the Food Standards Agency website at for advice on healthy eating and information about diet before and during pregnancy.

Visit the British Nutrition Foundation at

Your midwife should be able to give you advice on healthy eating during pregnancy, suitable weight gain and breastfeeding.

The Pregnancy Book 2007 by the Department of Health is available on line at

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