Diet and exercise effective for weight reduction after childbirth

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.
Review CD#: 
October, 2013
Authored by: 
Brian R McAvoy