406 Diet and exercise effective for weight reduction after childbirth

April 02, 2014

PeARLS 406, October 2013, written by Brian R McAvoy

Clinical Question

How effective are diet, exercise, or both for weight reduction in women after childbirth?

Bottom Line
Women who took part in a diet, or diet plus exercise programme, lost significantly more weight than women in the usual care group. Women who only exercised did not lose significantly more weight than women in the usual care group. There was no difference in the magnitude of weight loss between diet alone and diet plus exercise groups. It may be preferable to lose weight through a combination of dieting and exercise to dieting alone, because the former improves maternal cardiovascular fitness level and preserves lean body mass. Diet or exercise, or both, appeared safe for breastfeeding women.

The available data were insufficient to infer important risks or other potential benefits for the mother or infant. Methodological shortcomings of some trials, especially the small sample size, the small number of studies reviewed for each outcome, and the diversity in the nature, duration and frequency of the interventions require caution in applying these encouraging results.

Weight retention after pregnancy may contribute to obesity. It is known that diet and exercise are recommended components of any weight loss programme in the general population. However, strategies to achieve healthy body weight among postpartum women have not been adequately evaluated.

Cochrane Systematic Review

Adegboye ARA, Linne YM. Diet or exercise, or both, for weight reduction in women after childbirth. Cochrane Reviews, 2013, Issue 7. Article No. CD005627. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005627.pub3. This review contains 14 studies involving 910 participants.

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.