A woman’s body goes through a wide range of physical changes throughout pregnancy. Though the miracle of life is reason enough to celebrate and embrace these changes, some women hope to return to their original physique as quickly as possible. Once the baby is born and the mother recovers from childbirth, many moms contemplate getting back into a fitness routine. Here are some tips for mothers who want to establish a workout routine after giving birth.
What To Consider
On average, women gain about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Even if you are still taking yoga or exercise classes during pregnancy, you’re still likely to experience the common symptoms of being pregnant, including weight gain, abdominal extension, breast enlargement and warped posture. Regardless of how fit you might have felt before pregnancy, most moms experience atrophied muscles, poor posture, aches and general fatigue long after the baby is born.
Generally, it takes 40 weeks to form the pregnant body and grow a baby. Because of the complex transformations you experience during pregnancy, it is unrealistic to expect your body to bounce back quickly. Depending on different factors — such as age, labor and lifestyle — it could take another 40 weeks (or longer) to return to your prenatal physique. Here are a few tips to consider if you choose to implement a workout routine after giving birth.
Starting a Post-Pregnancy Fitness Plan
For most women who undergo an uncomplicated delivery, it’s usually okay to resume regular physical activity a few days after giving birth. Regular exercise after pregnancy can help strengthen the soft abdominals and boost energy levels while relieving stress, promoting sleep and reducing the risk of postpartum depression. If you’re ready to focus on physical health, consider these tips.
Start slow and steady.
Even if you went to the gym six days a week before giving birth, exerting too much force on your post-labor body can present complications. If the labor involved a C-section, it would be wise to wait until the first post-operative check to make sure the skin has closed completely. Starting slow usually involves a walking routine to make sure nothing bleeds, pulls or hurts. The priority should be a safe recovery for your uterus.
Establish a feeding routine first.
Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed, your milk supply and feeding cycle could contribute to some of your “baby weight.” Though some of the pounds might be lost as fluids are released during the first few days after labor, the rest of the weight is typically lost over time. If weight loss is your goal, remember that if you do breastfeed, you will likely need at least 500 more calories per day than before the birth.
Evaluate the muscle groups.
It will certainly be nice to reunite with your favorite gym, but don’t expect your muscles and joints to work the same way as before. Your pelvic floor might be weak and unable to take any intra-abdominal pressure. Additionally, the rectus abdominals may have separated in order to carry the baby. Consult a doctor or physical therapist to help draw the abdominals back together and strengthen your muscles.
Experiment with exercise.
Exercises that may have worked before pregnancy may not work post-partum. There are many forms of physical activity that are gentle and ideal for a new mother’s body. Try various exercises that won’t strain any sensitive areas or risk infections on healing wounds. Brisk walking, swimming, light weightlifting and yoga are great to start incorporating into your workout routine after giving birth.
Don’t neglect nutrition.
As your body readjusts without the baby, make sure it’s still getting the food and vitamins that it needs. Losing weight is often a challenge with or without pregnancy, so be conscious of the transformations that can happen. Hydration is also a key component of health, especially if you are breastfeeding. Hormones may also be changing, which can influence your appetite and metabolism.
Having a baby is no easy task, especially if you’re a new mother. Don’t give up or feel discouraged if the weight sticks around longer than expected. Seek support from your partner and loved ones if exercise is a priority for you. The most important thing to remember is that rest is crucial. Even a few moments of rest post-workout might help with relaxation and muscle restoration. Exercise may not be easy, but it can provide benefits for you and your newborn.
Dan Borucki is an ISSA Personal Trainer at Apogee Fitness, a group fitness facility. He has more than 20 years of experience in the industry and holds various certifications in fitness and nutrition.