Everything you need to know to start your postnatal fitness journey.
After having your baby the last thing you will be thinking of is exercise, in fact you probably won’t be thinking about much more than trying to catch a few hours’ sleep. However whilst It is really important to take those first precious few weeks to enjoy your baby and settle into mum life and the big changes that come with it, its also important to think about how to restore your body.
Exercising after pregnancy has several benefits:
Increases energy levels
Improves sleep quality
Reduces the risk of postnatal depression
Restores abdominal muscles and pelvic floor after delivery
Helps promote healthy weight loss after pregnancy gain
SO WHEN SHOULD YOU START EXERCISING?
There is no need to rush to begin exercising and you certainly shouldn’t begin exercising before your body feels ready. NICE guidelines suggest that you wait till around six weeks postnatal before you begin any exercise programme but there’s nothing to stop you going for a few gentle walks with your fabulous new pushchair before then to help build your fitness back up. If you have had a cesarean section it is recommended that you wait until around eight weeks postnatal before you begin any form of exercise to allow your body time to heal after surgery. Many people believe that you can’t exercise before you have had your six week postnatal check-up and whilst it’s important to get medical clearance before starting any exercise programme that doesn’t mean you have to sit stagnant for six weeks after having your baby!
WHAT EXERCISE CAN YOU DO BEFORE SIX WEEKS?
During pregnancy and labour your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles take a real hit and so understandably during the first few weeks of your postnatal journey will be much weaker than pre pregnancy. The best way to remedy this is by beginning to gently strengthen these two areas as soon as possible. Pelvic floor exercises is a great place to start, try completing your pelvic floor exercises during every day time feed or perhaps every nappy change and before long you will start to really feel a difference. For more information on effective pelvic floor exercises watch our video here.
The next step is thinking about restoring your core muscles which in turn will help with any pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain and lower back pain. It is really important to take when beginning to work on your core after pregnancy so before you begin watch our top tummy muscle tips here!
SO IT’S BEEN SIX LOVELY WEEKS AND YOU FEEL READY TO EXERCISE AGAIN, WHERE DO YOU START?
So once you have reached the magic six week mark and you feel ready to exercise there are a few things to consider. Firstly what type of exercise programme are you after, there are several different effective postnatal workouts to choose from;
Low impact aerobics
Low weight training
The next step is to think about whether you need childcare or whether you want to join a group that is baby friendly. There are lots of postnatal fitness classes that are designed especially for mums and allow babies at the class however something like an aqua aerobics session is usually just for mum.
CHOOSE YOUR PROGRAMME CAREFULLY!
There are lots of great postnatal specific exercise programmes on the market at the moment and it is really important that you choose one that is right for you. In the same way that each pregnancy and labour is different so is each postnatal recovery period. Some women will be able to jump straight into fitness with very little consideration whereas some (most) of you will need to take a little time to rehabilitate your body. Your tummy muscles, pelvic floor, pelvis and lower back can all be affected by pregnancy and may need a little help to get back to normal. You need to make sure that you choose a programme that can cater to your postnatal needs to ensure it doesn’t cause any of your conditions to worsen. Don’t feel uncomfortable about asking the instructor or trainer for their credentials to make sure they have the right qualifications to help you properly.
WHEN SHOULDN’T YOU EXERCISE AFTER PREGNANCY?
Whilst there’s no denying the benefits of postnatal exercise there are a few instances that you should probably wait a little bit longer before you start working out again;
If you feel pain anywhere during or after exercise.
If your Lochia (bleeding) becomes darker or heavier during or after exercise.
If you feel dizzy, light headed or fatigued during or after exercise.
If you experience excessive or painful breathlessness during or after exercise.
These are all signs that you have done too much too soon, so stop and take a little time to speak to your doctor or midwife before trying again. It might be nothing other than your body not quite being ready or could be something more so make sure you seek professional advice.
FINALLY THINGS TO REMEMBER!
Protect your bosom! Even if you aren’t breastfeeding is likely your breast are larger and far more sensitive than before pregnancy so investing in a good sports bra is a must. If you are breastfeeding try to make sure that you buy a bra that is supportive but not too tight as this can lead to bouts of mastitis. There are also some great breastfeeding sports bras on the market so do your research and be sure to get those puppies measured before you buy!
Your trainers may not fit! Around 60% of mums say their feet grew an entire shoe size during pregnancy so be sure to check your trainers still fit before you start working out and hit the shops if they don’t to treat yourself to some new kicks.
It’s ok to miss a workout because you are tired! The first few months of your baby’s life are tricky sometimes and its ok to swap your workout for a nap if you need to. Even WonderWoman has to sleep sometimes!
Try not to focus too much on weightloss! It took your body ten months to prepare for the birth of your baby so make sure you allow your body the same amount of time to restore and heal. You don’t need to go back to your ‘pre pregnancy body’ despite what the world around you says so enjoy your gorgeous new body shape and embrace this incredible new mum body.