As the day of delivery gets closer, we are sure you are ready with your hospital bag, diaper bag, nursery essentials, and everything else on your to-do list! While you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the challenge ahead, your body has also started preparing for labor. Whether you were physically fit before this or not does not matter; your body is ready for this. That’s what makes this whole journey so beautiful.
That said, there is no denying that childbirth is exhausting and tough. It requires a huge amount of endurance from your end. That’s exactly why most women wonder if they burn calories giving birth. The answer is yes, you do burn calories while giving birth but how many depends on a lot of factors like time, intensity, and whether you are medicated or not. Some people even say that you burn as many calories as running a marathon—is that really true? Let’s find out everything about burning calories during childbirth!
Do You Burn More Calories Giving Birth or Running a Marathon?
Vaginal childbirth is like an intensive workout that flexes every muscle of your body! You’ll experience uterine contractions, pressure on your cervix, and pain in your thighs, bladder, and probably every other part of your body. The intensity of this pain and the frequency of the contractions varies from woman to woman.
Every woman has a different experience when it comes to contractions, labor, and delivery. It is hard to say how many calories you burn giving birth because it really depends on your unique labor experience. If you had contractions but then had to be wheeled in for an emergency c-section, then chances are that you might burn fewer calories as compared to vaginal childbirth.
However, we can definitely tell you this: childbirth pushes the body to work hard and raises your endurance level beyond what you ever thought possible. You burn about the same number of calories as if you were to run a marathon.
In fact, there is a study that says that being pregnant is like a 40-week marathon. The physical intensity that the body experiences while carrying a baby is equivalent to what athletes go through if they were to run a 40-week marathon. So Mama, give yourself a medal because you deserve it!
Can You Wear a FitBit or Apple Watch During Labor?
Yes, you can wear a FitBit or Apple Watch if you wish to monitor your heart rate and the calories burned during labor. Most hospitals allow the mother to wear a smartwatch, but check with your doctor in advance. If your doctor and healthcare practitioners have no issue with it, then you can definitely wear a FitBit or an Apple Watch during labor.
During your pregnancy, if you have been using a FitBit or Apple Watch to monitor your daily heart rate, calorie burn rate, resting heart rate, or workouts, or even if you are just a fitness enthusiast, then it would be a great idea to wear one during labor. It will give you an idea of exactly how many calories you burn during your delivery.
Of course, monitoring calories burned for the purpose of losing weight is not the ultimate goal here; the goal is to understand what your body is going through during those intense contractions.
Do Uterine Contractions Burn Calories?
Once your body is ready to bring your little human into the world, contractions start. These contractions pull the cervix up into the uterus and slowly it becomes thinner, which is called effacement, and then open, which is dilation. When the cervix is fully dilated (around ten centimeters), you are ready to start pushing the baby out.
Every time you have a contraction, you burn calories. You can literally feel all that extra weight burn. So when you are in labor, just think about how you are losing all those extra pounds and focus on getting that kid out.
Your birthing class may mention that you lose as many as 50,000 calories during childbirth. Some articles online use this data and we are not sure how or where it started or came from, but realistically, that’s impossible. To burn that many calories you would have to deliver a baby and run a marathon simultaneously!! We are not sure how that 50,000 calorie number came to be, but it seems to run the rounds in a lot of places. To be honest, no one really knows how many calories you burn giving birth.
Every woman is different and every labor and childbirth is different. If the contractions are longer, then chances are you will burn more calories.
Figuring out exactly how many calories you will burn during labor is not really possible. You can only make a rough estimate. Choose a calorie chart for any physical activity or workout you usually do, something like jogging, weightlifting, or running. Then multiply the hourly expenditure of calories in that activity by the amount of time spent in labor. You will also have to consider your own weight at the time of delivery to get a rough estimate of the calories burned.
Even then, it would just be guesswork because every woman and every labor is different. The same woman can have very different birthing experiences during different pregnancies.
Average Weight Loss After Giving Birth
Whether you give birth vaginally or by c-section, an average woman loses as many as twenty pounds (9kg) in the first few weeks after delivery. The labor, lost fluids, and calories burned help you lose weight. As soon as you give birth, you lose around thirteen pounds (6kg), which includes the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid.
The week after delivery, your body will slowly lose all the retained fluids and any extra blood produced during pregnancy, which will help you lose a few additional pounds.
The rest of the weight that you gained steadily over the nine months will take a while to lose. These fats are what helped you through your pregnancy, so give your body some time.
A study shows that carrying a small child around is equivalent to doing 200 burpees. If you hate workouts or hate burpees, then carry your little one around and get your workout for the day done! Honestly speaking, everything about parenting will make you burn those calories, from not being able to have a meal without interruptions and running around after a crawling baby or climbing toddler to sleepless nights due to teething or sleep regression. Parenting is a constant workout!
Do You Burn More Calories in Pregnancy?
Yes, you definitely burn more calories during pregnancy and also when you start lactating. This is because of the increase in body weight and the body surface area. In general, the body burns calories while making sure it keeps the blood flowing, heart pumping, brain functioning, and muscles working.
Now that you are pregnant and your body surface area has increased, your body has to work harder than before to make sure all these bodily functions are running smoothly. That’s why you burn more calories in pregnancy.
During the first trimester, your body does not show any significant physical changes except for feeling exhausted and sleepy all the time (thanks to your body working twice as hard as before). It is in the second and third trimesters that you will start gaining weight as the baby starts growing, and that is when your body will need additional calories to keep your body charged and going. An average pregnant woman needs around 400 to 500 additional calories in a day during the third trimester.
Your body will burn more calories during pregnancy and that’s why you will also feel hungry more frequently. Make sure you snack and munch on healthy and nutritious food. Also, remember you don’t want to lose weight in the second and third trimesters. You want to put on the pounds to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and focus on burning calories post-delivery.
Does Your Metabolism Slow Down After Pregnancy?
Once you reach fifteen weeks, your body’s metabolic rate will increase substantially and usually peak in the third trimester. This is the fastest and biggest growth phase during pregnancy and that’s why your metabolism rate will be much higher.
A woman’s body adjusts to the changes happening within her and her metabolism also goes through changes to meet the needs of the growing fetus. Adding more healthy and nutritious food becomes important to maintain your health and that of your little one.
Generally, a woman’s metabolism increases by fifteen to twenty percent over the pregnancy period. This increase may continue after the delivery, but it depends on a lot of factors.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, then the amped-up metabolism will continue for a while even after pregnancy because nursing takes up a lot of energy. Any mom who has breastfed will tell you that you will feel hunger pangs every few hours! This is also the time when you should eat right and take care of yourself to ensure your body gets all the nutrients it needs. Once you wean and move your baby to solids, your metabolism rate will return to normal.
However, you need to remember that your metabolism can slow down after pregnancy if you don’t take care of yourself. When you bring home a newborn, life takes a 180-degree turn and it’s possible to lose track of time, day, and your life. During this whirlwind, mothers tend to forget to eat or eat food that isn’t nutritious enough. Add that to the sleepless nights and it can lead to a slow metabolism post-pregnancy. If your calorie intake is too low and you are not taking care of yourself properly, then your metabolism rate will slow down, affecting your health.
That’s why it is very important to care for yourself while caring for the baby during this time. Also, every individual woman is different. Depending on your pregnancy, age, lifestyle, and other factors, your metabolism rate will differ.
You Deserve A Break!
A woman’s body undergoes hundreds of changes during pregnancy and childbirth. Your body needs time to heal and recover and at the same time, your baby will need you in those early weeks. Sleepless nights, feeding, caring for the baby, healing your body and every other parenting task can be exhausting.
Give yourself a break. Yes, you will gain weight during pregnancy but you will also lose that weight eventually if you exercise and eat right. In the meantime, focus on delivering a healthy baby; that should be your only goal.
Give yourself a break because you are accomplishing something amazing—you are nurturing, carrying, and giving birth to a baby. Your body is doing something amazing, so don’t pressure yourself to bounce back to your pre-pregnancy weight or shape. Weight loss can wait. Enjoy this phase of motherhood, and slowly and steadily, you will burn those calories. Focus on being healthy and fit rather than on the calories.