After pregnancy, most women want to get back to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight as soon as possible, and may feel under a lot of pressure to do so. If you exercised regularly before you had your baby , you may be itching to get back into a postnatal exercise regime as soon as possible
As a postnatal fitness and health specialist I wanted to write something about what to expect in the early weeks after having a baby and address the issue of ‘how soon after giving birth should I start exercising? ‘
Over the past 9 months your body has been through many changes and you have most likely been through a roller-coaster of emotions along your journey. With the new joys and challenges of motherhood ahead of you, one of the most common concerns for a new mother is ‘how do I get back my pre-pregnancy body?’
There is a reason why postnatal exercise is a separate discipline from normal exercise – a lot has changed in your body in 9 months of pregancy, and you will need to take care not to do too much too soon, as you can easily injure yourself. When you start exercising you may need to adjust the types of exercise that you do, and also the frequency and intensity, until your body, and specifically your core, becomes stronger.
What’s Normal After Birth
Birth to 6-8 Weeks After Delivery
- You’re tired and generally not feeling like your old self yet.
- Stitches and tissue damage/tears may feel tender.
- Your post birth bleeding should have ceased.
- You may be a little fearful of or cautious when performing bowel movements.
- You may have difficulty straightening up/standing tall especially if you birthed via C-Section.
- Your C-Section scar is still healing and may be tender. You will have to modify getting up and down from the sitting and lying down positions.
- Your pelvis might be feeling very unstable and loose or conversely you might feel a general tightness in your pelvic region.
- Your abdominal may feel loose and unsupported
- Your muscles may be tight and achy especially around your hips, shoulders neck and backs of your thighs
- You may have some degree of incontinence – urinary, gas or faecal.
- You may have difficulty mentally connecting to your Pelvic Floor muscles
- You might be experiencing some neck, bicep and shoulder pain and general tightness in your upper body due to the demands of breastfeeding
Your best actions:
REST AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, no lifting anything heavier than your baby, begin gentle stretching, get a specialist Post Natal massage and nourish your depleted body through OPTIMUM NUTRITION, homecooked good food!
Ultimately , start reconnecting gently to your body especially your Pelvic Floor gently but also let Mother Nature Do Her Job too!
In most cases postnatal exercise is not recommended until after you have had your 6-8 week check and been passed fit
8+ Weeks Post Delivery
- Your Post Natal bleeding should have stopped or the flow reduced considerably and the colour of your discharge become very light. If this isn’t the case, please seek advice from your Health Care Professional.
- You should be generally pain free but your C-Section scar might be tender or be painful if you over exert yourself. The area around the scar might also be numb.
- Your bowel movements should be easier and have returned to a normal rhythm, if not take a few teaspoons of Linseeds soaked in hot water before bed to help re-establish a good rhythm.
- Your pelvis may still be feeling very unstable and loose or conversely you might feel a general tightness in your pelvic region.
- You may still be experiencing some degree of incontinence – urinary, gas and possibly faecal.
- You may still have difficulty connecting to your Pelvic Floor muscles.
- If you are still feeling tired, check with your HCP whether you need to take an Iron Supplement.
Your best actions:
Ensure you include a high quality Vitamin and Mineral Supplement in your diet and also supplement with Omega 3 Fish Oils.
Apply the principles of high level Optimum Nutrition to replenish your Post Natal body after Pregnancy.
Keep well hydrated with water and fruit teas.
Take advantage of ANY opportunity to be still, quiet and rest.
Prioritise your self-care and the care of your baby, housework and the rest of life can wait until you get your energy and strength back.
When given the go-ahead start a gentle postnatal exercise regime according to your level of recovery.
Include a regular stretching programme.
Making Time to Exercise
It is important that you listen to your body and don’t feel pressured to exercise before you are ready, and even more importantly, try not to place any extra pressure on yourself by setting yourself unrealistic goals – you will find there are enough pressures as the mother of a newborn without adding this to your load.
And don’t expect too much too soon; many women experience difficulties in losing their post pregnancy weight – so allow yourself between 6 to 12 months with a constant and consistent program to achieve your goals.
Rachel Law is a personal fitness trainer based in New Malden, Surrey. Qualifications: ActivIQ Level 3 Personal Training; Burrell Education Pregnancy Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner; Burrell Education Advanced Post Natal Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education 3rd Age Women Optimal Health and Nutrition; Burrell Education Peri Natal Athlete; Burrell Education Pelvic Flow and Freedom; Olympic Weight Lifting; Premier Global Kettlebells; FIE Level Assessment and Mentoring