What Really Happens to Your Body After Baby

Laura Doss/Fitness MagazineLaura Doss/Fitness MagazineBy Ayren Jackson-Cannady

With celebrity moms showing off shockingly svelte bodies just weeks after giving birth, it's no wonder new mothers are so confused about what to really expect after delivery. Here, we separate fact from fiction.

Related: Lose the Baby Weight: Get a Better Body After Baby Workout

You'll Instantly Lose 10 Pounds

True. Take one seven- to eight-pound baby, plus about two pounds of blood and amniotic fluid, and you're pretty much assured a 10-pound weight loss in the hospital after you deliver. "In the first week you will probably lose another three to five pounds of water weight. However, it will take time until you return to your pre-pregnancy weight," says Lisa Druxman, a San Diego-based fitness trainer and author of Lean Mommy. "It took nine months for you to put the weight on, so you should give yourself at least that to take it off."

Your Hair Will Start to Shed
True. Up to 50 percent of women experience an increased shedding period after giving birth. "It's called telogen effluvium and it occurs anywhere from one to six months after giving birth," says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. During pregnancy there's a boost in hormones, which slows the shedding process and thickens the hair. As hormones balance out after delivery, the hair returns to its normal growing and shedding cycle. To maintain healthy hair and reduce some hair loss Fusco suggests eating foods high in protein, iron, zinc, flavenoids, antioxidants, and silica, which are all beneficial nutrients for a healthy scalp and hair.

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You Need to Eat More If You're Nursing
False. The calories for your breast milk are mostly coming from your body reserves. (Think: That extra cushion you put on your hips during pregnancy!) You should aim for one to two pounds of weight loss a week, until you hit your target weight. If you find that you are losing more than two pounds a week, you may need to add an extra snack to your day to slow weight loss down. "It is important that you focus on eating a complete diet, because the vitamins and minerals from the food you eat will get pumped into your breast milk," says Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, a lecturer at Arizona State University. "Focus on eating regularly with plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein, and check with your doctor about continuing your prenatal vitamin while you are breastfeeding."

You'll Lose Your Pregnancy Glow After Giving Birth. Hello, Acne!
True. During pregnancy, there is an increase of up to 50 percent in circulating blood volume. This increased blood flow manifests itself in many places, especially in the face where blood vessels become more dilated to accommodate the extra volume. If your skin reverts to its pre-pregnancy pimply state once you stop breastfeeding, start using a retinoid or OTC retinol, suggest Fusco. "This will speed up cell turnover and create an instant glow." For those with heavy acne, talk to your doc about a prescription product that combines a retinoid and acne-fighting antibiotic like clindamycin or benzoyl peroxide.

Breastfeeding Helps You Lose Weight
True. An exclusively breastfed baby needs around 500 to 800 calories a day for healthy growth and development -- if it's your milk that is providing those calories, guess where that comes from? "Sustaining a baby on breast milk means you are putting out your own calories just by feeding your child," says Johnson. Don't get discouraged if the weight doesn't melt off as fast as you'd like -- the longer you breastfeed, the more helpful it is for weight loss.

New Moms Should Wait a Few Months Before Exercising Again
False. There are some exercises, such as kegels and abdominal bracing (contracting the abs, lower back, and buttock muscles at the same time), that you can start to do immediately after you deliver. However, it is true that you should return to your full exercise routine very gradually. "Think baby steps (pun intended!)," says Druxman. "Take a few more steps each day and eventually you will get to where you want to go."

Related: Hot Mamas: How 4 Moms Got Their Fitness Back

My After-Delivery Pooch Is Because My Uterus Is Stretched Out
False. The extra baggage is from a condition called diastasis recti, a separation of the outermost abdominal muscles. When the muscles separate, the connective tissue joining them stretches sideways and becomes thinner. So now the weak connective tissue is supporting the organs instead of stomach muscles, says Julie Tupler, coauthor of Lose Your Mummy Tummy. "To get your abs back after baby, think the three C's -- cardio, core, and clean eating," says Druxman.

Stretch Marks Are Here to Stay
False. Up to 90 percent of women will experience stretch marks during pregnancy, says Dr. Fusco. "The tears are the results of rapid weight gain, when the body expands faster than the skin can stretch." In addition, an increase of hormones called glucocorticoids during pregnancy slow down the formation of collagen and elastin fibers in the dermal skin layer. The key is to begin treatment early when the stretch mark is still new and red, pink, or purple in color.

Here's what you can do to reduce stretch marks:
• Drink lots of water to increase skin's elasticity.
• Avoid binging on starches, sweets, and salty snacks that can lead to extra weight gain and bloating.
• Stock up on citrus fruits and foods high in vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient in collagen production.
• Apply a topical oil like Bio Oil ($11; drugstores nationwide) in the first trimester, to maximize the skin's elasticity and keep it hydrated.

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