Why You Want a Healthy BMI a Year After Baby

Women who had a higher BMI one year postpartum were more likely to have pelvic organ prolapse, per a new study. Here's why shedding your pregnancy weight matters.

Why You Want a Healthy BMI a Year After Baby Andor Bujdoso/Shutterstock

You know that losing your pregnancy weight is good for your health, but if you need another reason to work on shedding the pregnancy weight, a new study found that maintaining a normal body mass index (BMI) after pregnancy can also help prevent pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where your uterus sinks down into your vagina. Also called uterine prolapse, this childbirth-related issue usually develops in a woman's late 40s or early 50s and can result in the uterus actually protruding from your body! (Yes, we're cringing right along with you.)

According to new research from Yale School of Medicine published in the journal Reproductive Sciences, the higher a woman's BMI number was one year after delivery, the higher her risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse (POP), regardless of her BMI during the first trimester and how much she gained during pregnancy. While it's still important to keep your pregnancy weight gain in a healthy range (ideally 25-35 pounds), this study suggests that losing the pregnancy pounds within a year of giving birth can help reduce your risk of developing uterine prolapse.

The women in the study gained 4.2 pounds on average between their baseline weight and one year after giving birth, suggesting that even small differences in BMI can lead to pelvic floor laxity in normal-weight women, says Yale researcher Marsha K. Guess, M.D., lead author on the study.

"In our study, the amount of weight a woman gained during pregnancy was not associated with her weight at one year postpartum," Dr. Guess says. This suggests that losing weight to get to a normal, healthy weight after pregnancy is the most important factor to help prevent early stage pelvic organ prolapse.

Other risks from not losing weight

Besides the risk of developing POP, retaining postpartum weight has been associated with continued weight gain, which can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, Dr. Guess says. Obesity has been shown to be a risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse. "Women who retain weight after pregnancy are at risk for starting a subsequent pregnancy at a higher weight which can lead pregnancy-related complications and health issues for the baby," Dr. Guess says.

Related: 5 Reasons You're Not Losing the Baby Weight

Healthy way to lose postpartum pounds

There are a few studies that suggest that moderate, regular exercise and breastfeeding for at least six months may be helpful for women to return to a healthy BMI after giving birth, according to Dr. Guess. "In our current society where obesity has become prevalent, education about healthy choices, balanced meals, and practicing portion control are also likely to be beneficial," she says. Make sure you're exercising regularly once your doctor says you're able to, and incorporate weight training to help build lean muscle mass that'll burn more calories when you're at rest.

Related: Follow Our Month-by-Month Postpartum Exercise Plan