The first few weeks after birth or the postpartum period are crucial as your body begins to heal. Your physiological system slowly starts adjusting to not being pregnant and this is when you would notice a number of physical and emotional changes.
Of course the first couple of weeks after delivery is a great time to bond with your bundle of joy, but you would be wondering how you could get back to your fitness routine. Well, a number of changes take place inside your body during the postpartum period.
You are likely to feel tired for several days and your body would feel sore. As your uterus shrinks to its original size, you may notice bleeding and pain in your lower abdomen. These physiological changes start soon after childbirth and are different for every woman.
The recovery during first six weeks after childbirth if you had a cesarean birth (or C-section) would be very different from that of a vaginal delivery.
Your breasts which began to increase in size during pregnancy are filled with colostrum, a clear fluid after delivery. Yes, your breasts are filled with colostrum first followed by breast milk. You would notice that your breasts are firm and painful especially if you are breastfeeding but this should get better after a few days.
Most new moms develop difficulty urinating and become constipated after childbirth. Appropriate treatment can prevent infections, hemorrhoids, urinary incontinence so make sure you ask your doctor for prompt treatment to alleviate discomfort.
If you feel irritable or anxious after delivery, there’s nothing to worry about. Sudden mood swings or baby blues can happen after childbirth and this is called post partum depression. If your mood swings are so pronounced that it disrupts your normal functioning, please don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor.
If you preferred exercising during pregnancy and had a strict fitness routine before getting pregnant, you would want to return to your normal exercising as quickly as possible. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you get a green signal from your doctor before you resume any exercise routine.
On the other hand, it is okay to resume light physical activity couple of weeks after delivery as long as you feel comfortable.
Most medical experts suggest that you wait until your six week post partum period to see how well you are doing. Generally if you had a normal vaginal childbirth and you exercised throughout your pregnancy, you can do light exercise such as walking and stretching after a week as long as you don’t feel any pain or discomfort.
However, like any other exercise plan, you should be careful not to overdo it.
If you weren’t active during pregnancy, you should check with your doctor before starting any fitness plan. Most new moms are encouraged to start with low impact physical exercise such as walking. As you regain strength and your body heals completely, you can increase the duration and intensity of your exercise.
New moms who had a c-section need to wait slightly longer before beginning any exercise program. A c-section incision takes several weeks to heal and it may be some months after your delivery that you would feel like working out.
If you don’t want to be a couch potato, walking at easy pace is recommended to speed up healing and prevent other complications such as blood clots.
Many gyms, recreation centers offer popular exercise programs for new moms. Similarly you can start working out within the comfort of your home or outdoors. Post natal exercise is good for your body, but you need to give your physiological system time to adjust to the new changes.
An important thing to remember is that you should be careful with your abdominal muscles after delivery. Your belly expands during pregnancy to accommodate the baby and this can lead to a gap between your abdominal muscles.
So, when you start exercising, it is better that you don’t put too much stress on your abdominal muscles by doing sit-ups and crunches and give them enough time for recovery. Good postpartum abdominal exercises are designed to gently strengthen your abs and minimize the stress on your lower back.
More details on post natal workouts you can follow are coming up later.
Well as long as you stay hydrated and eat healthy, even high intensity exercise won’t affect the amount or composition of breast milk. You can wear a supportive sports bra while working out (even during brisk walking) so that your breasts don’t feel uncomfortable.
You should stop exercising and call your doctor immediately if physical activity after childbirth causes any of the following signs:
According to ExerciseRig the best way to drop those pounds you gained during pregnancy is to do some kind of cardiovascular exercise. You can start with gentle walking and then move to brisk walking, jogging and even yoga. Once you feel you’re back to normal, you can try more intense physical exercises such as running, swimming and biking.
Medical experts recommend that you should wait for at least six months before actively trying to lose weight. Ideally you should aim to lose only one pound every week especially if you are breastfeeding.
Restricting your diet soon after giving birth is not right as it can affect your energy level, your milk supply and your recovery. Post natal exercise has numerous health benefits including assistance with weight loss, physical and mental wellbeing as well as improved mood.
Exercising after pregnancy also assists with muscle strengthening and toning and can speed up your recovery.
As stated earlier, you should always consult with your doctor to know whether or not you are ready to start any postnatal exercise program. If you were active throughout your pregnancy, you may be able to return to exercise sooner than expected – maybe after the first week.
In addition to improving your physical health and mental wellbeing, post natal workout can:
Gentle physical exercising such as walking can be started a couple of days after birth. After six weeks, most of the physical changes that occur in your body during pregnancy will return to normal. The recovery time if you had a c-section birth would be longer than a vaginal birth.
Regardless of the type of birth, your lower back and abdominal muscles would be weaker than they used to be. You also need to remember that your muscle, ligaments and joints are weak and pliable so you need to avoid stretching or twisting. Similarly high intensity exercises should be avoided until you recover completely to prevent injuries.
Post natal workout has no effect on your breastfeeding ability as long as you maintain your fluid intake during and after your low intensity workout. Some studies suggest that high intensity physical exercise can cause lactic acid to accumulate in your breast and produce sour tasting milk that your baby won’t like.
This problem can be avoided by sticking to moderate and low intensity workouts as long as you’re breastfeeding.
Your pelvic floor is the most affected by pregnancy and childbirth. Stress urinary incontinence is more common after vaginal delivery than a c-section birth. All of the components of the pelvic floor including muscles, connective tissue and nerve supply are exposed to physical strains during labor, and childbirth.
Stress urinary incontinence occurs in 30 to 80% of pregnant women and the problem peaks during the third trimester. An important thing to remember here is that the mode of delivery has a significant impact on the persistence of incontinence. Anatomically speaking, c-section births are more protective against incontinence.
The pelvic floor exercises you learned during pregnancy can be resumed immediately after delivery.
Finding time for exercise can be challenging once your adorable angel is here. But lack of time doesn’t mean you avoid physical activity completely.
Walking at normal pace is a good way to start exercising – all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and you can even take your baby along. Start walking for 10 to 15 minutes and then gradually increase the duration and intensity.
Remember, if you can’t squeeze a walking workout on 5 days, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just do the basics and understand that you will get more time once your baby settles into a predictable routine.
Pelvic floor exercises can be done either sitting or standing along with walking and you don’t have to squeeze in additional exercise. Also, don’t rely on your old sports bra because your cup size is likely to have changed during pregnancy.
Post natal exercises that can be done during the first six weeks include:
The first thing to take into consideration when getting back to your fitness routine after delivery is to be patient.
It took almost 9 months for your body to prepare for childbirth and you need at least six weeks to return to your pre-pregnancy self.
Well, the landscape of your pelvic floor undergoes a dramatic transformation during pregnancy and you need to ease into the fitness routine. As a general rule you should return to post natal exercise only after your bleeding has stopped. You can however continue to walk to get your body used to physical exercise.
Your pelvic floor becomes weak after delivery which means you need to avoid stressful exercises such as crunches, swimming and zumba. Remember putting too much pressure on the pelvic muscles can even lead to organ prolapse and other serious medical conditions. The first few safe exercises that can be incorporated daily include Kegels and walking.
Most new moms experience a separation of abdominal muscles. Your six pack muscles are the most affected and if the separation or gap is severe, you need to work with a physical therapist.
The post natal yoga poses you select should focus on repairing your core and abdominal muscles. You can focus more on planks instead of crunches or other deep twisting poses that can slow down the repair of abdominal muscles.
The hormone responsible for softening joints and ligaments during pregnancy remains in your system for about six months after delivery. While you can start exercising after a couple of weeks, you should avoid high intensity movement that put too much stress on your wobbly joints and loose pelvis muscles.
Remember to drink enough water especially if you are breastfeeding. If you are taking your baby out for a walk or jog in a stroller, put the water bottle at a spot where you can see it clearly. At the end of your workout, especially post natal yoga, add a few restorative poses and relaxing stretches.
These guidelines will help you plan your return to post natal fitness. You should always check with your doctor before returning to exercise.
0-3 weeks After Delivery
4 to 8 weeks Post Natal
8-12 Weeks Post Natal
16 weeks after delivery, you can return to your pre pregnancy activity levels if you don’t experience lower back pain, urinary incontinence or vaginal heaviness.
It’s always important to be safe when exercising after delivery, but if you’re running with your baby, you have more reasons to be careful. Running or jogging with your bundle of joy sleeping comfortably in a jogging stroller is an interesting experience both for you and your little one.
As a general rule, you should avoid running with babies less than six months unless your jogging stroller has a car seat adapter. Most high quality jogging strollers have car seat sort of thing so your baby’s head and neck will remain stable as you move.
You should lock the front wheel if possible when you’re running or jogging with the stroller. This will prevent the stroller from turning over accidently.
Because you would be spending time with your baby outside the home, you should use the basket underneath the stroller to store things you might need during the exercise. Don’t forget to pack extra clothes, baby wipes, diapers and toys (if your baby is older). Similarly you should have a water bottle along with healthy snacks in the basket for you.
Your body would warm up because you’re running or jogging, but it is important that you bundle up your baby to keep her protected. If it is really cold or windy, avoid taking your baby along and if you have to, make sure you use a weather shield for your stroller. On the hotter days, your child should be well protected with a sunscreen as well as the stroller’s visor.
It is a good idea to use jogging strollers with harness. This ensures that even if you are moving too quickly, your baby won’t fall out or get injured.
New moms prefer to run or jog in parks or other areas where there is no traffic. Not only this is a safer option for you and your baby, but you won’t have to stop abruptly and shake your baby to avoid cars.
Pushing your jogging stroller with both arms makes your legs tire out easily. So what you can do us push the stroller with one arm and swing the other to maintain the natural rhythm. You can keep switching arms so that you get to work both sides.
Last, you should never expect to run or jog at your usual pre-pregnancy phase especially if you have a jogging stroller with you. Remember it’s perfectly fine to be slower than your normal pace and you can always burn more calories with your walking routine even at a slower pace.
Giving birth is magical but this new phase would trigger a lot of questions in your mind. Will I be able to lose baby fat? Will I be able to exercise? Would I suffer from c-section side effects for the rest of my life?
Well, pregnancy and childbirth takes a toll on your body but you can always start exercising and get back in shape. As stated previously, the right time for post natal yoga will depend on your recovery. Since c-section birth requires stitches and incisions, you need to give your body enough time to recover before you start with any kind of yoga poses.
Most new moms can safely start yoga after 6 weeks of having their baby. However the recovery time might vary from person to person. Don’t forget to check with your doctor about your own health before becoming any kind of exercise routine.
Yoga is recommended after delivery because it will help your body recover better and at the same time, tone and strengthen your muscles. Relaxing yoga poses also calm your mind and soul and this is ideal to deal with all the stresses and worries associated with being a first time mom.
Start with breathing exercises and then try the following yoga poses when you are ready. The good thing about these poses is that they can help cure common post pregnancy issues.
All that pushing during labor can weaken your pelvic floor and it is no laughing matter. To correct urinary incontinence and strengthen the pelvic floor, move into the Child’s pose and practice Kegels. Yes, squeeze the muscles that control the flow of urine while in the Child’s pose. You can repeat the exercise at least 10 times.
You can try the Cow Face Pose. Bring your right arm overhead and turn your palm inwards. Now move your left arm slowly to the side and make sure it is parallel to the floor. Turn the left palm outward and bring both palms closer behind the back. Hold the position for about 5 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Standing poses like Warrior II can build stamina which is vital for new moms. Stand with your legs more than shoulder width apart. Turn your right foot in and left foot should turn out. Now slowly move your arms to the side so that they are parallel to the floor. Bend your left knee and reach out with your arms. Hold the position for about 5 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Other useful yoga poses that you can try are cobra pose and corpse pose.
Post Natal workout is a great way to speed up the natural recovery process and get into pre pregnancy shape. Yoga and jogging are two of the most exciting workouts that you can perform with your baby.