So you look 6 months pregnant although your baby has already been safely delivered? Don't worry, most women will come out of the labor room with a wobbly tummy and layer of belly fat - its part and parcel of the whole pregnancy experience. How long will it take to lose that weight? On average it takes about 6 to 8 months, although half of the weight disappears within the first 6 weeks. For more about calories and diet, see weight loss after pregnancy. While exercise might not be the first thing on your mind after having a baby, it may be one of the best things you can do to speed up recovery and avoid postpartum complications like postpartum depression and back pain.
Benefits Of Exercising
Regular exercise after having a baby will:
• Help weight loss.
• Tighten tummy muscles that have been stretched and left saggy by pregnancy.
• Tighten perineal muscles that have been stretched by childbirth.
• Help pregnancy loosened joints tighten up.
• Improve circulation.
• Reduce the risk of postpartum depression, back pain, urinary incontinence, leg cramps and varicose veins.
• Improve your cardiovascular fitness.
• Boost your energy level.
• Relieves stress by boosting endorphins circulating in your system.
• Reduces the risk of postpartum sex problems.
• Making exercise an important part of your routine now will set a positive example for your child in the future.
Note: Research shows that new moms who exercise within 6 weeks of birth feel much better than those who do not. So I guess that means you've just about run out of excuses!
When Can I Start Exercising?
In the past doctors advised women to wait until their 6 week postpartum checkup to begin exercising. Today this advice has changed and it's generally considered safe to begin gentle exercises within days of delivery. If you are recovering from a cesarean section or complicated vaginal delivery check with your doctor first. The key is to start off slowly and carefully. There are quite a few postpartum exercise books and DVDs which you can buy or you could join class for new mothers if you are looking for a bit of social contact.
How Long Should I Exercise For?
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity for healthy moms after pregnancy. Ideally divide this into 20 to 30 minutes sessions a day. You can even further sub-divide each session into 2 or 3 mini-sessions a day (for example do 10 minutes twice or three times a day).
• Wear a supportive bra.
• Take time to warm up and cool down.
• Do your exercises slowly and don't do a rapid succession of repetitions. Rest briefly between movements.
• Don't over do it. The no pain no gain motto does not apply to new moms.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Keep a bottle of water near you and aim to drink two glasses after exercising.
• Always stop exercising if you feel pain.
• Stop exercising if you have bright red vaginal bleeding (postpartum bleeding) that's heavier than a period.
When To Start: Within 3 days Of delivery.
1. Brisk walk with the stroller.
2. A few laps at the local pool.
Indoor Options: Home Workout
Also called pelvic floor exercises, kegel exercises are used to strengthen the muscles which surround the vagina, bottom and urethra (the tube which we pee out of). These muscles can become weakened overtime by childbirth, constipation, obesity and aging. For instructions see: How do you do pelvic floor exercises?
This exercise will help strengthen your tummy and back muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back straight, not pressed into the floor or arched. Tighten the tummy muscles and raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for 3 deep breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times. Work up to 20 repetitions.
Leg Slide Exercise
This will tone your leg, tummy and back muscles. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Take a deep breath in and slide one leg into a straight position. Exhale and return to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat the whole exercise 10 times. Work up to 20 repetitions.
This will strengthen the tummy muscles. Lie with your back on the floor and your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor and tighten the abdominal muscles by tilting your pelvis up slightly. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times and work up to 10 then 20 repetitions.
Tip: Postpartum baby care is exhausting and challenging. Some days you may feel too tired to workout, but don't be tempted to put exercise on the back burner. Seek the support of your partner, friends and family. Go walking with a friend (and the stroller!) to keep your motivation up. Schedule a time for physical activity and stick to it. While it may not be easy initially, remember it is doing wonders for your body.
Exercise After 6 Week Checkup
If you have been given the go-ahead from your doctor, you can start to become more active - for example, you could do water aerobics, cycling, running, yoga or Pilates. Remember, always let your body be the guide. If it hurts, stop.
Will Exercise Interfere With My Milk?
No, exercise will not interfere with breastfeeding milk supply, nor will it turn your milk sour (a popular myth). You may find it more comfortable to feed your baby before exercising so that your breasts are less full, but it's not necessary. Don't forget to wear a support bra.