There’s no question that getting pregnant is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. But it’s also one of the most stressful. On one hand, you’ve got a dream come true — the birth of a child. On the other, you’re faced with the responsibility of caring for a baby. And all while trying to stay fit to provide for your family.
The stress of pregnancy takes a physical and mental toll on a woman. One study found that expecting mothers experience higher levels of anxiety and depression than those who had just given birth. Existing mental problems may even be exacerbated by the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy. And what’s more, carrying a baby in your uterus for nine months is no easy feat. Women who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) have an extra burden since they’re not only carrying a baby in their uterus but also one in a petri dish outside of it. That’s a lot of pressure for one body!
If you’re struggling with weight loss but wonder if birth control could help, then read on. We spoke with Lisa Horowski, MD, the chief of Ob/Gyn at the Medical University of South Carolina, and Elizabeth Montgomery, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, to better understand how and why birth control may be beneficial in your pursuit to shed those extra pounds.
1. Relaxing Your Muscles
Whether you’ve got a baby on the way or not, expecting mothers experience a natural tightening of their muscles throughout pregnancy. That’s due to estrogen and progesterone, which are hormones that play a key role in regulating a woman’s reproductive system. Estrogen increases the size of a woman’s breasts as well as the diameter of her blood vessels, leading to a flushing effect. Progesterone encourages the uterus to grow with each passing month, contributing to the bloating that often accompanies pregnancy. Both hormones also suppress the immune system, leaving women more susceptible to infections.
While you may not feel like you can relax during pregnancy, it’s important to do so in order to avoid injury. One study found that 26% of women reported at least one pregnancy-related injury. And while some of these injuries are minor (e.g., bra straps that cause wrist pain), others are quite serious (e.g., a fall that leads to a fracture). When it comes to losing weight, it’s important to do so safely, and preventing injuries is a great way to avoid added stress.
2. Boosting Your Metabolism
Metabolism is the term used to describe the body’s chemical reactions. When you eat, your body breaks down nutrients into usable forms that you can use to fuel various processes such as physical activity or brain function. Your digestive system is also responsible for creating metabolites (chemical constituents that result from the activity of your organs), which in turn contribute to your overall health.
One of the major factors that influence your metabolism is the hormone ghrelin. This hormone promotes hunger, leading to increased food consumption, and is therefore responsible for making you fat. In pregnant women, ghrelin levels increase as your body prepares for childbirth. Because ghrelin causes your body to hoard calories, it’s beneficial to keep your stomach fat at bay. Fortunately, there are ways, aside from dieting, to do so. Some studies suggest that synthetic hormones, such as naltrexone, can help to prevent or treat obesity. Unfortunately, these types of medications have associated side effects, and they’re not recommended for the treatment of obesity in general. But if you’re interested in trying them, be sure to consult with your doctor.
3. Promoting Better Sleep
During pregnancy, the need for sleeping improves as the hormones estrogen and progesterone direct the body’s chemistry toward better balance. As a result, many women experience decreased sleep times along with increased sleep efficiency. If you’re looking for ways to boost your productivity, then sleeping better may be a key to reaching your weight loss goals.
What’s more, because estrogen encourages the growth of new blood vessels throughout the body, including in the brain, increasing the blood flow to this area while at rest may assist in reducing the day’s fatigue. Some research even suggests that melatonin, a hormone that naturally encourages sleep, may reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. While it may not be a single answer to all weight loss issues, improving sleep could be a significant factor in your efforts to shed those extra pounds.
4. Increasing The Amount Of Calories You Eat
When you eat food, it gets broken down into usable forms that can be absorbed by the body. The resulting molecules, known as metabolites, then serve as the body’s basic building blocks, providing essential nutrients that help the body function properly. Some researchers have theorized that women who are pregnant should eat more than normal since they require more nutrients to allow for proper fetal development.
Well-meaning relatives may also remind you of this fact, but it’s a common mistake to assume that because you’re pregnant, you should increase your calorie intake. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Adversely, some studies suggest that women who try to lose weight during pregnancy may do so at the expense of their fetus’ health. This could result in offspring who are small for their age and have a high risk of developing health problems.
If you’re interested in boosting your metabolism, then consider eating less, not more. When you reduce the amount of food you consume, your body will become less responsive to its cravings, making it that much easier to say no to foods that aren’t good for you. In other words, keep your calorie count low, and your waistline will begin to shrink.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as many women find it challenging to change their diets once they’ve reached their optimal weight. Many factors contribute to this, including a natural desire for foods that are high in fiber and loaded with protein. If you’re able to follow a healthy diet plan and stick with it, then great! But if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to shed those extra pounds, then consider trying birth control. The benefits of birth control for weight loss far outweigh the risks, and if you’re open to the idea, then you may find that it’s the ideal solution for your needs.