Many women gain weight after having a child, but new research has determined that this extra weight isn’t from pregnancy, but rather a result of shifts in lifestyle choices brought on by motherhood and sadly, just a side effect of aging. It’s not all bad news however, as the report says that maintaining a healthy weight after pregnancy is possible through better food choices and exercise.

The study, now published online in the journal Women’s Health Issues, found that post-pregnancy weight gain is due more to issues such as poor eating habits and lack of sleep than because of the pregnancy, Yahoo Beauty reported. In addition to having less time to cook healthy and go to the gym, mothers often experience sleep deprivation, a factor that can increase food cravings and make losing weight even more difficult. The older a woman, the more difficult it can be to lose post-pregnancy weight, as added pounds are a normal side effect of aging.

Read: How To Lose Your Pregnancy Weight While Taking Care Of A Newborn Baby

“Mothers tend to put the needs of their children first, so they might not be exercising or taking care of themselves,” lead study author Olga Yakusheva stated in a press release. “It might also be little things like finishing the food on their child’s plate or spending more time sitting with their kids reading or watching a movie.”

For the study, the team looked at data of around 30,000 women who had given birth between one and four times and analyzed how much weight they gained over the years. All mothers gains an average of 1.94 pounds a year due to aging, but mothers who had toddlers gained an extra pound a year compared to women without children, Yahoo Beauty reported.

Losing the “baby weight” isn’t just helpful for women’s self-esteem, it could be critical to their health. According to a 2014 study, failure to lose excess baby weight increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

All in all, it seems like new mothers are working against the odds to get back to their pre-baby baby. However, it’s not all hopeless. Erin Palinski-Wade, who offers nutrition advice for families on and is the author of "Walking the Weight Off for Dummies," told Yahoo Beauty that losing baby weight comes down to ensuring you take time to look after yourself and fit your own needs into your new busy mother routine.

In addition, although it can be difficult to eat healthy, it's important for new mothers to get enough minerals and vitamins into their diets as to meet their new dietary needs. This will not only keep them healthy, but also satiate hunger, and prevent them from munching on less healthy foods. Also, sneaking in a few power naps can help you feel better overall, and suppress the stress hormone that in the long run can lead to weight gain.

Source: Yakusheva O, Kapinos K, Weiss M. Maternal Weight after Childbirth versus Aging-Related Weight Changes. Women’s Health Issues . 2017

See Also:

Increased Diabetes, Heart Disease Risk For Women Who Don't Drop The Extra Pounds 1 Year Postpartum

7 Things No One Tells You About Losing Weight