Before we learn how to undo what pregnancy does to the body, it is important to understand how complex these physiological changes are.
- Hormones: Your hormones are constantly changing from the moment you conceive to ensure that the body is the perfect environment for your growing baby. After you give birth, your progesterone levels will drop, causing symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and low libido. Your estrogen will increase causing estrogen dominance which can also be a factor in depression, and will make it difficult to lose weight.
- Fat cells: There are two times that we create fat cells, and those include childhood, and pregnancy. Aside from these two time periods, we can only increase and decrease the size of the fat cells. This means that post-pregnancy, you actually have more fat cells than you did before. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed! It just means that your body has changed and it will take quite a bit of work to shrink those fat cells down
- Body tissue changes: Given that you physically hold your growing baby in the mid-section of the body, there are many changes that happen in that area specifically. First and most obvious, the uterus grows to house the baby and takes time to contract back down to size post-birth. Our abdomen stretches at the midline (linea alba – connective tissue that holds both sides of the rectus abdominus together) to make room for the baby to grow causing a common post-birth condition called diastasis recti. And on top of that, our skin stretches beyond its limit (sometimes resulting in stretch marks).
So now that we have all the bad news out of the way…
What do we do about all of these issues to feel better and see improvements?
There are 3 things you can do immediately to start to see some positive changes in your body.
Balance your hormones
Estrogen balancing: Flax seeds are a great way to naturally balance your estrogen. Grind 1tbsp fresh, daily and add it to your smoothies or sprinkle on salads. Also, stay away from things that will worsen your estrogen dominance like drinking out of plastic water bottles which have xeno-estrogens (synthetic estrogen).
Progesterone balancing: Vitex/chaste tree berry is a great progesterone enhancer that can be taken in tincture form. Take a dropper full in the morning on an empty stomach. Also, progesterone is depleted with stress, so try to manage stress with breathing exercises, meditation, and general self care.
Other things you can do to balance your hormones are to balance your blood sugar and exercise.
Blood sugar balance: whole foods based diet, eating every 2-3 hours, and including a fat, fibre and/or protein source with each meal.
Exercise: Start slowly and build up progressively. Slow, controlled strength training is a good place to start, as well as core rehabilitation. We will touch on this more below.
Eat for fat loss and to decrease inflammation
As mentioned above, the first step is balancing the blood sugar. Once you have accomplished this and no longer get symptoms of the imbalanced blood sugar roller-coaster, you can start to increase the time between meals, from 2-3 hours, to 4-5 hours.
You’ll also want to eat an anti-inflammatory/hypoallergenic diet. This means minimizing or removing all of the inflammatory or allergenic foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, corn and soy.
You may also be struggling with some digestive issues such as constipation or bloating. If you have any chronic digestive discomfort, it’s a good idea to work with a health professional who can help you get to the root of the issue. Somethings you may try are:
- Digestive bitters (tincture to take before meals)
- Digestive enzymes (capsules to take before meals)
- Apple cider vinegar (diluted shots before meals)
- Zinc supplement to help increase stomach acid (don’t take long term)
- Probiotics (every day to balance gut flora)
- Fermented foods (food sources of probiotics)
Pelvic floor physio and train smart!
The first step in recovery is to visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Whether you’re pregnant, just had a baby, or have older children. It’s never too late to go get checked out by a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They can help you figure out the state of your deep core muscles, and diagnose any conditions that you may have such as abdominal separation or diastasis recti.
From there, you can work with a fitness professional who knows how to help you recover safely, and help you to exercise in a way that helps specifically with fat metabolism.
These articles may help you to understand this point a little better:
Get the 5 step blueprint to healing your body after pregnancy and childbirth: