Postpartum Exercise Tips
Anxious to start exercising and lose the baby weight? Not sure when you can start or what types of exercises you can do? Here are some answers to common questions about exercise after pregnancy and your postpartum body.
When is it safe to begin exercising?
In general, it is suggested to wait until three weeks after a vaginal birth and six weeks after a C-section. Of course, it all depends on how your body feels. It’s best to exercise caution as well. When new mothers rest during the first few weeks, it helps them to regain their stamina.
Which exercises can I do a few days after birth?
Within a few days of giving birth, moms can start exercising with Kegels, by contracting the muscles around the vaginal opening. Once the perineum is no longer sore, begin adding pelvic-tilt while lying on the back. Bend the knees and bring them toward the chest. As you exhale, contract the muscles of the pelvic floor and press the low back toward the floor.
What exercises can I do a week or two after birth?
A week or two after birth, take short walks. It’s best to wait until bleeding has stopped before taking really long walks or doing heavy lifting. If you feel like getting out of the house, head to a park for a short walk and then sit for a while. If we overexert ourselves by doing too much physical activity, postpartum bleeding increases. This is a message from your body asking you to slow down.
How long will it take to lose the extra weight that I gained during pregnancy?
This depends on how much weight was gained, your metabolism, physical activity, and whether you are breastfeeding or not. (Breastfeeding uses almost one-third of our caloric intake.) Postpartum isn’t a time for dieting. Instead, eat a variety of whole foods and drink at least 3 liters of water per day. When we combine a healthy diet with regular physical activity, we feel ourselves releasing the weight of pregnancy.
Why do abdominal muscles separate and can sit-ups help?
During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles naturally separate to make room for Baby. The muscles that run up and down the front abdomen are called the rectus abdominis. When the rectus abdominis separates, we need to work with the muscles on the sides of the abdomen, the oblique, and the transverse muscles. Doing sit-ups may strengthen the rectus muscles, but the separation won’t go away.
How can I tell if my abdominal muscles are separated?
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise your head and look toward the navel. Use the fingertips to find the muscles on either side of the abdomen. Walk your fingers toward the midline of the body, feeling the area underneath and below the navel. If there is separation, you will feel the edges of the muscles and a space between the muscles. Measure the separation by turning the fingers so that they are pointed toward the toes and feel how many fingers fit between the muscles. If there is a separation of one finger-width, you are able to do regular exercises. With a separation of two or more finger-widths, you will want to consult your doctor.
Before I was pregnant, I regularly attended a vigorous exercise class. When can I return to class?
For vigorous exercise, you will probably want to wait until your baby is about 3 months old. If you can tolerate an increased heart rate for that long without feeling fatigued, perhaps you’re ready to return to class. Not ready? Postnatal classes are geared toward the new mother’s body.
I'm finding that with a new baby, it is really difficult to find the time to exercise. What do you suggest for a new routine?
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is incorporate your baby into your routine by walking with a stroller or while wearing your baby. On hot or stormy days you might try going to the mall! Some exercise groups walk in the mall before it is open. There are even moms groups who meet at the mall to walk with their babies.
I don't have time to exercise with a new baby. What can I do?
Naptime can be an opportunity to exercise, but women often look at the dishes or other chores instead. Then suddenly naptime is over! Give yourself 20 minutes to exercise and go from there. Maybe some days you’ll exercise longer, or some days you’ll start the next load of laundry. Either way, you will feel better at everything that you need to do when you are taking time to care for yourself and your body.
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