Being pregnant and then having your baby can have a big physical impact on your shape and body as a whole. Nine months of growing that tiny little human and postpartum recovery whilst caring for your baby 24/7 can leave you feeling exhausted. Believe it or not, exercise, even though you are feeling tired, can help you feel more energetic. It can also help your body recover after childbirth and help with postnatal depression.
When can I start exercising after giving birth?
If your birth experience was straightforward then you can start with some gentle exercises as soon as you feel up to it. This could include gentle stretches, going out for a walk, or pelvic and belly exercises.
A good idea is to wait until you are cleared at your 6-week postnatal check-up by your doctor before you start any high-impact exercises, such as running or aerobics.
If you exercised before giving birth you may feel more up to the challenge and be able to start earlier. Talk to your health visitor, midwife, or doctor just to confirm.
Should I be cautious before starting to exercise?
After giving birth your lower back and core abdominal muscles can be weaker than they used to be. Your ligaments and joints can also be more flexible for a few months after birth so just be aware that over-stretching and twisting can lead to a risk of injury.
It is important to invest in a good post-pregnancy sports bra as your back and cup size are likely to have changed, so remember to get measured for the correct fit.
You will know if you are overdoing it if your postnatal bleeding (lochia) gets heavier or changes colour after you have exercised. You will also feel extremely tired.
Listen to your body and pace yourself. Rest is important too.
What exercises should I begin with?
- Check if there are any postnatal exercise classes in your area. Some even let you bring your baby along which is a great opportunity to meet new mums.
- If you join a gym, be sure to let your instructor know that you have just had a baby and they can develop the correct program for you.
- Get out and about with the pram. Keep your arms bent and your back straight. Walking is brilliant exercise so try and get out as much as possible.
- Build some activities into your day such as walking up and down the stairs or walking to places instead of taking the car.
- Go swimming. It is great exercise and also really relaxing, but you will need to wait until after your postnatal bleeding has stopped. If you take your baby with you, encourage someone else to come along so they can hold the baby while you get a chance to swim.
- Check out gentle exercise online, for example on YouTube. This means you can do the exercises at any time of the day, and you do not have any pressure to get organised and leave the house.
Do not be hard on yourself
The most important aspect of postpartum exercise is not to underestimate rest and recovery. Not only does your body need time to recover from birth, but you also need time to adapt to your new lifestyle as a mum. Do not be tempted to overtrain just to “get your body back” – you will get there but it just takes some time. Take it easy and congratulations on your bundle of joy!