Safely ease yourself back into fitness
Guide to easing yourself back into a fitness regime after giving birth
Here Laura Uglow of True Vitality 4 Mums explains how you can motivate yourself to kick start your health and fitness routine in time for summer.
Exercising after the birth of your baby is NOT the time to start any crazy boot camp or crash diet regimes. It is a time to be gentle with your body, to appreciate what it has been through and nourish and strengthen it to allow you to feel the healthiest, fittest and happiest you have been. After all you now have a family to look after and a little person/people to keep up with all day!
Your body needs time to recover from labour and birth. So take it steadily, and don't feel bad if the weight doesn't fall off fast. It is so important to be kind to yourself, as well as realistic and patient. It took around 40 weeks to form the pregnant body, and it could take nearly as long to fully return to your pre-pregnancy self. No matter if your labour is quick, long, or surgical, the body undergoes a huge transformation to grow and give birth to your baby/babies.
If you did regular exercise right through your pregnancy, and your baby's birth went smoothly, you can listen to your body and carry on with light exercise and stretching as soon after the birth as you feel ready. I completely understand you may be keen to get started as soon as possible, but it doesn't matter whether you had your baby recently or if you gave birth 3 years ago (or more!), if you haven't exercised since then you must still follow the post-natal exercise guidelines.
I have written my top tips below to help answer any questions you may have about getting started on your post-natal health and fitness journey safely and effectively. Though you'll need to wait until your doctor gives you the OK to start post-natal exercise, hopefully this information will help you to brainstorm your post-pregnancy workout plan now!!
1. How soon can I start exercising after having my baby?
It is recommended that you wait until you've had your doctor’s approval at your 6 to 8 week check up before starting any form of strenuous postnatal exercise, as your body needs time to recover from labour and birth. I recommend 6 weeks for a natural birth and 8 weeks for a c-section, however it is important to remember that everyone is different and that these are only guidelines, but when you do start your post-natal exercise regime though ensure you start slowly, making small manageable changes to your lifestyle and giving your body time to heal. If you were fit during your pregnancy you should start to see results sooner with your post-natal exercises.
You can start doing your pelvic floor exercises (kegels) as soon as possible after the birth. Beyond that, a lot will depend on how active you were during your pregnancy, and what type of labour and birth you had.
2. My body feels different when I exercise, what can I do?
It is important to bear in mind that having a baby has caused changes to your body that will affect your exercise plans.
Diastasis Recti: there can be a separation of the ‘six pack’ abdominal muscle during pregnancy, which is called diastastis recti.
Lactic acid: lactic acid can build-up in your muscles, but everything returns to normal after an hour or so. Lactic acid can get into breast milk and create a bitter taste, so to avoid this, you may want to feed your baby or pump a half-hour before you exercise.
Relaxin: Whatever your circumstance, keep it gentle. Pregnancy hormones and breastfeeding can affect your joints for several months after childbirth due to a hormone called relaxin which makes it really easy to over-stretch and cause an injury. So be careful not to do high-impact activity too soon.
Breastfeeding: if you exercise while breastfeeding, you will need to drink up to 50 per cent more water on those days. Post-natal exercise does not decrease milk production and has no adverse effect on the baby. Don't rely on breastfeeding to help you lose weight either. Some women lose all their weight and more through breastfeeding and others don’t!
Pelvic floor: the pelvic floor will be weakened after nine months of pregnancy and childbirth. This can often cause urine leakage, especially with high impact exercise such as running.
Breast leakage: overhead or strenuous movements may cause your breasts to leak. You need to wear a good bra, or even 2 bras! Back pain: heavy breasts, poor feeding positions and lifting of your baby can cause upper back pain, while less support from weakened abdominals can cause lower back pain.
3. When will my body be back to normal?
It varies so much from one person to the next. Although many new mums are eager to feel body confident again, one of the most important things to remember is to be patient with yourself. Give yourself plenty of time to get your strength and fitness back. and ignore stories of celebrities getting back into shape a few weeks after childbirth. Such quick weight loss is unrealistic for the average new mum, and although it is common to see women in the public eye going straight from the delivery room into her size 8 jeans, it is important to listen to your body and not overdo it with fad diets or really intensive workouts at this time.
Set yourself small and realistic goals each week and don't be afraid to ask a health and fitness professional for help and guidance if you need it.
4. Start your post-natal workouts slowly
If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, then you can actually be setting yourself back from real recovery. That, of course, does not mean you need to be held hostage in your house for 6 weeks. A walk can be considered a good start to your road back! Take a 5-minute walk and then come home and see how you feel. You will still be bleeding in those early weeks post birth, so if after your walk your blood loss is unchanged, and nothing pulls, or aches, take a 6-minute walk tomorrow and a 7-minute walk the next day. Because the strain may be too much, during these first few trips out into the world, don't carry your baby in a carrier just push them in a buggy. After you've walked comfortably and safely for a week or two, build up from there. The key is to build up slowly.
5. How do I know if I’m doing too much post-natal exercise?
Never exercise to the point of exhaustion when your body is telling you its tired then stop exercising immediately. Remember your body needs time to recover in between workouts. If you feel faint or dizzy, have shortness of breath, experience heart palpitations, have an increase in vaginal bleeding or have troubles walking or seeing, stop exercising and contact your health care professional. Another sure sign that you are being too aggressive with your post-natal exercise is if your vaginal discharge turns bright pink or red. If you notice any changes, slow right down or notify your doctor.
Find out more about the True Vitality 4 Mums 12-Week Post-Natal Transformation Programme here https://www.truevitality4mums.com/programmes/