Stepping Back into Exercise Postpartum

Stepping Back into Exercise Postpartum

Good Morning Everyone, 

Ayesha here.  Today I will be speaking from personal experience.  In my opinion, one of the most emotional and the most challenging phase in the life of a woman that chooses to give birth, is life postpartum. A woman sacrifices everything to welcome an extension of her flesh and soul, that I think is completely worth it. But after giving birth, the first mindset that many of us go to is the desire to get straight back to our pre-pregnancy bodies and/ or to become and a certain size again.  My ask is - why the rush?

Many first-time mothers, myself included are under the illusion that springing back to exercise within a couple of weeks post birth will be a breeze.  

My reality struck differently.  I quickly realised that it was no way easy to get back into the physical shape than I had estimated.  And that's fine - let our body set the tone.  Listen as she heals and regains her strength. 

I was not aware that there are postpartum core muscles, extreme tiredness and sleep deprivation. Many other mothers experience a similar awakening. Compared to that of pregnancy, the postpartum body can have atrophied muscles, bad posture, an achy body, and general fatigue.

The most important thing when getting back to exercise is to receive the green light from your doctor to go ahead with postpartum exercise.  Until then, you can brainstorm some work out plans. The postpartum exercise has to be different in all ways. Here are some ways to start.

  1. Do not start postpartum workouts too early

Jumping back into a workout routine so soon after birth is not a great idea. If you push yourself too hard too soon, then you can be refraining yourself back from natural recovery. Moreover, if you are recovering from a C-section, confirm with the doctor that the skin is properly closed and have a walking routine.  Start by giving your body time to heal and enjoy a leisurely walk and the fresh air.

After you've walked comfortably and safely for a week or two, build up from there with some gentle upper-body stretching or join a postpartum exercise class.

  1. Wait for the bleeding to stop

Before you want to hit the gym with heavier activities, pay attention to the postpartum bleeding. If the bleeding is heavier, it is a sign that the body needs more time to heal. It would be best if you waited for more before starting a post-pregnancy workout.

  1. Give it sometime if breastfeeding

If you're breastfeeding, do not worry about weight loss -if that is your goal- until a couple of weeks until your milk supply is firmly established. When you're nursing, the body needs 500 calories a day more than the regular calories it needed before you conceived, so eat healthily and take adequate calories.

  1. Evaluate your pelvic area

It is certainly not good to put intra-abdominal pressure like crunches, pilates, or general ab work if the pelvic floor is weak. Putting extra pressure on the pelvic floor can reduce healing or even lead to organ prolapse. One of the gentle forms of postpartum exercise can be a kegel routine to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

  1. Repair diastasis

Commonly, the rectus abdominals, widely known as six-pack muscles, separate from the abdominal muscles known as diastasis. If it is severe enough, after your six-week check-up, you may need a physical therapist to help draw the muscles back together and be mindful not to overdo it when getting back to a postpartum workout.

  1. Mind your weak joints

The hormone Relaxin stays in the body for up to six months postpartum. It is responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth. It can lead to wobbly, unstable joints and a loose pelvis for a few months postpartum. So, be mindful that the postpartum workout you choose should not be rough in movement.

  1. Stay hydrated

Once you are ready for a postpartum exercise, please make sure to hydrate well, especially breastfeeding mothers. A well-hydrated body helps to keep you energised.

  1. Have some rest

There is an old wise phrase, sleep when your baby sleeps. I strongly recommend these words. So, a few moments to relax post-workout can help replenish you. If you feel rested and restored, you will have so much more to offer to loved ones who need you.

Take Away

New mothers should be realistic and patient when getting back into a postpartum exercise routine. Give yourself a couple of months to fully return to your pre-pregnancy self. No matter what the method of childbirth, the body undergoes a massive transformation.

The body discards the stored fluids postpartum, and it causes a few kilos to drop within a few days. The rest will come off gradually as you become more active.  Go easy on yourself and give yourself love.  You have birthed life from your womb, you are superwoman.

By Ayesha Gulzar, PharmD, Doctor of Pharmacy, Research and Medicine
Editor and Founder: Katherine Elyse Blake, BSC Nutrition, ANutr

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