Postnatal exercise - getting back into shape
The good news is you are not alone - most new mums go through the same things and only very few are lucky enough to look and feel like they did 10 months prior within 6 weeks.
Don't think you can be like the celebrities in OK magazine - they don't live in our real world!! A well timed, well planned exercise program can help nature reverse all of these physical and other changes and get you back where you want to be, ready to face the challenges of motherhood.
Can I get straight into it?
Generally no! Listen to your body and use the time to bond with your baby and let your body naturally recover. You all have a wonderful inherent healing process and the first 2-3 weeks post delivery is the time to let that happen. You can start, (or hopefully continue) the very important pelvic floor and deep abdominal post natal exercises you learnt during pregnancy. These low level "recruitment" exercises can be done anywhere and are vital to provide a platform on which to build your strengthening, fitness and toning.
There are some circumstances which need closer attention.
- As a general rule, wait 6 weeks post caesarean section before embarking on any medium level exercises. You should be guided by your health professional after the birth.
- Stretching and separating of the abdominal muscles (rectus diastasis) can be a disabling side affect. Most times it will reduce but abdominal exercises esp. crunches done too early could cause permanent damage.
- Try and exercise after breastfeeding just to reduce the weight on your shoulders and back.
- Vigorous or hard stretching in the first 4-6 weeks is not recommended. Your ligaments and joint capsules are softened by the hormonal changes for about 12 weeks post birth so graduate your program.
Simple safe ways to start are
- Walking (probably with a pram!) - ensure you have good footwear
- Swimming or gentle aqua aerobics
- Specific postnatal yoga, Pilates (equipment is far better then mat work) classes or even better are individual programs in a group setting
- Easy cycling, light aerobics or weight training
Your pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises should continue throughout.
Don't be in a hurry to run, swim, cycle, do aerobics or anything else like you used to - but keep the plan. Everyone is different and your baby's unpredictable sleep patterns and new demands do not fit a normal postnatal exercise program for you. If you try to go too hard, too early you will pay the price. Consult your doctor, midwife, physiotherapist or other preferred health care professional if you have any concerns and enjoy the joys of motherhood rather than focusing on the physical negatives you experience for such a short time in the life of your family.