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Getting Your Body Back After the Baby

Ellyn Ward remembers the moment she realized how much she'd changed. "We were going to pick out our Christmas tree," says Ward, who'd given birth to her son in October. "We videotaped it because it was Gavin's first tree. When we played the tape, I saw what I really looked like -- I wasn't the same person I knew myself to be."

The weight she'd gained carrying Gavin wasn't coming off. Because she'd been overweight when she got pregnant -- five feet three inches, 170 pounds -- she'd only needed to gain 15 to 25 pounds. But she'd put on 40.

Now, two months after having Gavin, she was 184 pounds, and it really bothered her. "I'd been exercising off and on -- running on a treadmill, lifting weights a bit -- but when I found out I was pregnant, I pretty much stopped altogether," recalls Ward, of Anderson, Indiana. "That first trimester, I was so tired. And I felt like it was okay to eat anything. I wasn't worried about gaining the weight." Now she was.

She's not alone. Millions of moms don't lose all the extra pounds they put on during pregnancy. For many, having a baby is a turning point -- and not a positive one -- in a lifelong struggle with weight. "There's a school of thought that a woman's risk for obesity increases with each pregnancy," says Edith Kieffer, Ph.D., a researcher in public and maternal health at the University of Michigan.

Gaining too much during pregnancy can turn a temporary weight increase into a permanent one. In a study by Cornell University professor of nutrition Christine Olson, Ph.D., half of 540 women weighed more a year after giving birth than before getting pregnant. A quarter were more than ten pounds heavier. Not surprisingly, most of the women weren't happy with their bodies.

The consequences of putting on those pounds are more serious than not fitting into your prebaby jeans. Over time, being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments. And it could cause problems for your next pregnancy.