Health experts recommend exercise to help new mothers recover from childbirth. However, medical professionals say the wrong types of exercise can sabotage your post-natal recovery.
One of the biggest mistakes fitness-oriented women make during the postpartum period is rushing back into their established fitness routine. Over-exertion can provoke physical and emotional challenges. Light to moderate exercises such as walking, cycling, yoga or pilates is more beneficial.
If your childbirth was vaginal and the delivery was uncomplicated, you should be okay to start exercising again a few days after giving birth. If you feel ready, there is nothing wrong with easing yourself back into your routine – or starting a fitness program designed to help recover your body shape.
New mothers that had a C-section or need extensive vaginal repair should speak with their healthcare provider before you start exercising. You may need to structure an exercise program that does not over-exert your body.
Benefits of Exercise After Pregnancy
Regular exercise after pregnancy can:
- Promote weight loss
- Improve cardiovascular fitness
- Strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
- Boost your energy level
- Relieve stress
- Promote quality sleep
- Reduce symptoms of post-natal depression
Exercise and Breast-feeding
Mothers that are breastfeeding their newborn need to be vigilant if you are engaging in strenuous physical exercise because it can interrupt the volume and composition of the milk you produce.
Researchers have suggested that high-intensity exercise might cause lactic acid to accumulate in breast milk and produce a sour taste. However, other studies reveal this is not always true and cases are rare.
Moderate exercise does not cause the same problem for lactating women. You can, therefore, either engage in a relatively light exercise program or feed your baby from a bottle.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pregnancy stretches your abdominal muscles. They may even become separated and take longer to return to normal after childbirth. Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen stomach muscles and reduce back pain.
Your pelvic floor also includes ligaments that support your bladder, bowels and uterus. These body parts can weaken postpartum whereby you might secrete urine if you laugh or cough.
Ordinarily, your pelvic floor will heal of its own accord within six weeks. Complicated births may take up to three months for the pelvic floor to return to normal. Pelvic floor exercises will speed up the recovery process.
Walking is a moderate exercise you can do at your own pace. In the first days after your pregnancy, start with a gentle walk and gradually increase the distance until you’ve been out for one hour.
When you feel ready to step up the pace, try and cut the amount of time it takes you to walk the same route to half-an-hour. Experts estimate a 30-minute brisk walk three days a week will burn between 120-170 calories each time.
Brisk walking also has a number of other health benefits and should be something to aim for a couple of weeks after giving a normal vaginal birth.
How quickly you return to an exercise program depends on how much exercise you did before your pregnancy. If you were relatively fit beforehand, you will get back into the groove much quicker, but will still notice aches and pains.
Avoid exercises and sports activities that are high-impact. Trying to return to step aerobics, tennis or weight lifting too early increases the risk of prolapse.