Before giving birth many women feel self conscious about their changing body, worrying about how to loose the baby weight or when they can get back into a regular fitness routine. While planning to get back into shape is great, the reality is after giving birth your body may not be ready to jump right back on the horse, especially if you’ve had a c-section. While every woman’s body is different in terms of recovery time, there are some general guidelines that every woman can follow to ensure no damage is done to the body when resuming exercise.
There are definitely a few factors to consider first – were you active before and during your pregnancy? Do you feel good and energized? Did you have a vaginal delivery or c-section?
With high energy, pre natal exercise and vaginal delivery most doctors will tell you it is safe to resume light exercise when you feel up to it or even days after giving birth. This means short walks, stretching and even modified pushups in some cases. While waiting 6 weeks is recommended in most cases, slow short walks following a c-section can promote healing and even prevent some complications.
Weather you are feeling great following delivery or have reached the 6 week waiting period there are some indications your body isn’t quite ready:
Signs you are not ready for postpartum exercise:
- You are bleeding/your bleeding increases with activity – this is a sign your body needs more healing time
- There is separation of the abdominal muscles (Diastasis Recti)– Many women experience separation of the rectus abdominals (6 pack muscles) during pregnancy and need to avoid crunches and twisting exercises that can further damage/hinder repair of these muscles. Some women need to see a physiotherapist to help the muscles come back together. How to check if you have a separation:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Place the fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, just above your belly button. Place your right hand on your upper thigh.
- Inhale, then exhale. As you exhale, lift your head and shoulders off the floor and slide your right hand up your thigh toward your knee. This will make your abdominal muscles tighten, and you should be able to feel if there is a gap – greater than one finger width means the muscles are separated and you need to try light core exercises to bring them together.
3. Urinary leakage- you experience involuntary urine loss when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting or with activity
4. Pelvic Prolapse- Feels like vaginal pressure/bulging with some women experience a feeling that something is protruding or pushing out of the vagina. This can be a sign of prolapse – when the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis overstretch during pregnancy/delivery. You can experience friction and discomfort and even difficulty when trying to insert a tampon or with intercourse.
The most important thing when resuming exercise is listen to your body, start slowly and watch for signs that your body needs more time to heal before exercise.
If you are ready for exercise, here are some tips to help you do it in a safe way
- Hydrate- keeping your body hydrated especially if you are breastfeeding is crucial to recovery
- Watch your joints- your body releases a hormone called relaxin to loosen joints and ligaments during pregnancy and birth, it can remain in your body for up to 6 months after delivery so it is important to be mindful of jerky exercises as you may have some join instability
- Try different exercises- think outside the box! Trying different exercises such a swimming, a mommy and me yoga class or even just walking with your stroller are all effective and can help you ease back into fitness before starting anything too rigorous.
- Rest-ensure that you are taking time to rest after each workout or activity. Your body needs more recovery time from exercises than normal.
- Don’t try to loose too much weight right away, especially if breastfeeding – aim for around 1 pound a week
- See a therapist- seeing a physiotherapist is a great way to help re stabilize joints, ligaments and muscles as well as conditioning your body to perform exercise again and recovering from exercise that you are beginning to perform.
Starting a diet/exercise too soon or too intensely after giving birth can affect your moods, energy levels and milk supply. Be patient and give your body time to do its job and heal. Your most important job is taking care of your new little bean, plus you might be surprised by how much weight you loose naturally!
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