People tend to say that there’s not a single exercise on this planet that’s quite like giving birth to a baby. It’s painful and empowering, scary and celebratory, intense and relieving, challenging and rewarding. So, it’s only natural that so many women are wondering, how many calories do you burn giving birth?
Because they most definitely do!
Some have described giving birth as being similar to fracturing 20 bones in your body, while others have said that it’s a tad more intense than menstrual cramps.
There’s no way to know this for sure other than experiencing it for yourself, really. And even then, that experience would be unique, personalized, and subjective.
But one thing is true for everyone: giving birth is no easy task. Just ask any woman who’s done it. And congratulate her while you’re at it for being so awesome!
She’ll probably tell you that she had to be strong, persistent, have a lot of endurance, and push her body to limits she didn’t even know she had. All of that requires a lot of energy, and that means a lot of calories burned.
But precisely how many calories do you burn giving birth? Let’s find out!
Does giving birth really burn calories?
Believe it or not, giving birth does indeed burn calories. And uterine contractions are the “main culprit.” This term refers to the tightening and shortening of the uterine muscles, which then cause the cervix to dilate and help the baby to reach the birth canal.
Since every woman is unique in her own way, one labor can significantly differ from the next. This means that uterine contractions can range from pretty mild and basically tolerable to extremely intense and almost unbearable.
Some studies have shown that the level of contraction intensity determines the level of burned calories. In other words, the stronger the contraction it, the more calories a woman will burn.
There’s actually a thing called the 5-1-1 rule used to differentiate true from false labor. This means that contractions happen every 5 minutes, last for 1 minute each, and take place for a minimum of 1 hour. Once a woman gets into this “cycle,” it’s showtime.
How many calories do you burn giving birth?
So, how many calories do you actually burn during labor? Is there a way to know this for sure? Or can we just guess?
Well, unfortunately, it’s not possible to say with complete certainty how many calories are burned by giving birth. This is because the calorie burn depends on various factors like:
- the length of labor;
- how strong the contractions are;
- the position the mother is in during labor;
- the size and weight of the baby; and
- the mother’s previous activity levels.
One study has shown that women burn somewhere between 400 and 700 calories per hour of labor. While another study says that they burn around 100 calories per hour of labor.
But even if these numbers differ greatly and we can never be one hundred percent sure, one thing is certain: You most definitely will burn calories by giving birth to your baby.
Vaginal birth is extremely intense, and it involves almost every muscle in your body. It’s like a special form of high-intensity workout specially reserved for women. So, women around the globe who have gone through with it can feel extremely proud of themselves.
If you want to find out how many calories you’ll burn during your labor, you can always use a smartwatch. It will accurately measure your heart rate and calories burned during labor. Just make sure you get the green light from your doctor first to know whether you’re permitted to have it or not.
How to ensure you burn more calories during birth
Now that you know for a fact that giving birth equals burning calories, you can finally rest assured, knowing that your preggo weight will start melting once you find yourself on the birthing bed.
But, to ensure you burn even more calories during labor, here are 4 things you can consider doing.
1. Be active both during pregnancy and on D-day
Being active during pregnancy is extremely important and has a lot of health benefits for both mother and baby. If you’re feeling good and your pregnancy is normal and healthy, then you can definitely do some exercise.
However, be extra careful when doing so. Avoid exercises where you’d be at risk of falling, like gymnastics, mountain climbing, or off-road cycling. Steer clear of high-altitude activities and activities in which you’d be bouncing heavily, like horseback riding.
If you love diving, I hate to tell you this, but you’ll have to say goodbye to it for 9 months. However, you can consult with your doctor and opt for snorkeling, which is a great substitution.
Exercises like pilates, prenatal yoga, aerobics, or brisk walking are perfect to do while pregnant and approaching your due date.
And on the day of your labor, stay active. Go for a light walk, do some squats, exercise on the birthing ball, and generally be constantly on the move. I know it’ll be hard, but motivate yourself because not only will you burn more calories, but labor will go much smoother.
2. Drink a lot of water on the big day
Keeping yourself hydrated is always important. Especially when you are pregnant, and even more so when you are just about to go into labor.
Drinking enough water is not crucial for burning calories alone, but it can also help you have smoother and quicker labor.
Of course, if you’re going to have a C-section, you probably know that you’re not supposed to eat or drink anything at least 2 hours before your operation. So, drinking water on the big day only applies for natural births.
3. If it’s possible, opt for a natural birth
Many traumatic natural birth stories from the past have made women today afraid of vaginal birth. They don’t want to go through a similar experience, so they often request a planned C-section instead.
I totally understand this. Sometimes I feel like I would act the same way. But it’s important to remember that vaginal birth is still the preferred option and the safest for both mother and her child.
So, if there’s no need for you to have a C-section, embrace the fact that you get to have a natural birth. I know it sounds scary, but just remember: Your body was made to do it! Just try to relax and everything will be fine.
And, if it helps, keep telling yourself that a natural birth helps you burn more calories because your entire body will move more through the whole process.
4. If you can, avoid using epidural
An epidural is a common pain relief medication during childbirth that involves an injection in a woman’s back. It serves as an anesthetic and creates numbness from the woman’s belly button to her upper legs.
It’s true that an epidural can be very helpful in alleviating the pain of giving birth, but it can also have many side effects. In this case, in particular, an epidural can slow down labor by making the woman burn fewer calories.
So, if you wish to burn more calories, maybe you should consider not using an epidural.
Does breastfeeding burn calories?
Almost every woman will immediately start breastfeeding her baby after giving birth. This activity is a great bonding experience for both of them and an opportunity for them to get to know each other.
Breastfeeding is also, believe it or not, a great way for a new mother to burn calories. It is physically challenging to do it, so no wonder it’s connected to weight loss.
Some experts say that a woman who exclusively breastfeeds her baby burns somewhere between 500 and 700 calories per day. The numbers are significantly lower if the woman combines breastfeeding with formula.
These numbers are only an estimation, since, just like with giving birth, many natural factors can affect them.
However, there is also the other side to the story. Some women tend to actually accumulate that stubborn weight while breastfeeding and have a tougher time with calorie burn.
Whether you are a part of the first or the second group, it doesn’t really matter. Every woman is different and has her own unique experience, and focusing on burning calories should be her last concern.
So, if you have a couple of extra pounds, don’t fret about it! Worrying about calories, stressing over weight gain, and restricting yourself from certain foods all while breastfeeding can only have negative outcomes and result in you disrupting your milk supply.
There will come a time when you’ll be able to lose it and return to your old weight. So, just relax and enjoy the gift of motherhood. Celebrate your body because of what it is capable of doing!
And remember, once your little one starts to walk, you’ll definitely be saying bye-bye to all of your excess calories.