While celebrity mums who get their slender figures back within months of giving birth must feel rather pleased with themselves, their svelte example holds no weight with the experts.
Research shows that 40 per cent of midwives think the celebrity yummy mummy culture is having the biggest negative influence on a woman’s post-birth body, and both obstetricians and fitness experts say rapid weight loss after having a baby is absolutely not the way to go.
But it’s hard for new mums to avoid media images of stars such as Beyonce.
The singer, who gave birth to her daughter Blue Ivy in January, says she lost 60lbs in less than five months by “eating lettuce” and running three or four times a week.
And then there’s The Saturdays star Una Healy, who was back in her skinny jeans just two months after giving birth to her daughter Aoife Belle in March, having lost two stones.
The survey of 177 midwives found that more than a third believed women have low body confidence because they’re unprepared for the body changes that occur during and after pregnancy.
Midwife Hannah Challen says: “Women need to be kinder to their bodies after birth, and be realistic about giving themselves time to recover.
“Exercise and a balanced diet will help post-pregnant bodies get back into shape, but try to give yourself a realistic time frame to do this in.”
It’s easier to lose weight after having a baby if you weren’t overweight when you got pregnant. Plus being a normal weight makes it easier to get pregnant and it reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy, points out consultant obstetrician Patrick O’Brien.
He stresses, though, that women who are overweight when pregnant shouldn’t try to lose weight at that time, but should focus on eating healthily, getting regular exercise and keeping weight under control without calorie-restricting.
“After the birth there’s huge pressure on women to lose the weight quickly and be like Posh Spice and back to normal within six weeks,” he says. “But that’s crazy. It’s almost impossible for any normal person to do that.
“You gain the weight over time when you’re pregnant, so be prepared to lose it gradually over six months or so after you’ve had the baby, and do it in a healthy way.”
O’Brien says the belief that breastfeeding helps new mothers lose weight may be a myth, as breastfeeding stimulates a woman’s appetite. Marie Behenna, an expert in both post and ante-natal fitness and creator of the FitMama Method for mothers-to-be (published by Souvenir Press, priced £15), says good nutrition is vital. “The first six weeks of motherhood is like a train smash, and women’s bodies are going to need so much support from food to help cope with lack of sleep and constant feeding demands,” she says.
Three healthy, balanced meals a day with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and healthy snacks in between, will help keep up energy levels.