Get your body back into pre-pregnancy shape
After nine months of watching your body change and expand as it supported your unborn baby’s growth and development, it may seem an impossible dream to ever have your body back to its pre-pregnancy weight and shape. And while there are some things that can’t be undone – stretch marks for instance – regaining your pre-pregnancy body is not Mission Impossible.
Start exercising yesterday
The healthier you are before and during pregnancy will have a big impact on how quickly and easily you will be able to get into shape again post-birth.
Don’t put it off til tomorrow, what you can do today
Many new mothers delay exercising after birth because they have the misguided impression that they should wait six weeks, or until their post-natal check-up. Truth is, if you’ve had an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth, there’s no reason not to do a little gentle exercise almost straight away. If you’ve had a caesarean or a medical complication though, talk to your doctor before you embark on anything physical.
Get into a routine
If you didn’t regularly exercise before your were pregnant, you may find it challenging to find the time to slot another thing into your day, but the best way to get your body back to its pre-pregnancy shape is by doing a little exercise regularly – you’ll start to see the results of your labours surprisingly quickly if you stick to a routine. Don’t think of exercise as a chore but instead as something you that will empower you and make you feel terrific!
Don’t weigh yourself
Chances are you have a big number to lose off the scales in the first months after giving birth so there’s no reason why you have to obsess over it. Just as your body took nine months to get to its top weight during pregnancy, it’s going to take some time to undo this. Some doctors say that when it comes to pregnancy and weight, it takes nine months to get there and nine months to get back. So be kind to yourself and take a break from the scales.
Breastfeeding mothers take note
For some breastfeeding mothers, the journey back to pre-pregnancy shape and weight is going to take a little longer. While for some lucky women, breastfeeding simply strips all the extra weight off their body for milk production, for most, their bodies hold the extra weight as insurance for milk production. That, coupled with the need to keep their calorie intake up to encourage milk production, can have breastfeeding mothers despairing that their body will ever recapture their pre-baby glory.
Exercise and eating well in the first year after birth is important for all mothers, whether they are breastfeeding or not, and you will begin see the dividends once the weaning process is complete. And don’t forget to wear breast pads when exercising – or it won’t be seat that will be making your T-shirt damp!
Gentle exercises for the first weeks after birth
Clearly, no mother is ready to jump into a full-on exercise regimen the moment she leaves the hospital with her new bundle, but there are gentle exercises you can do to start guiding your body back in the right direction.
Isometric s are exercises that use resistance to build muscle strength. A very simple isometric exercise you can do to get your tummy muscles back into shape is to lie on the floor with your baby on your belly. As you inhale, tighten your abdominal muscles and push your belly out to lift your baby up, slow exhale as you lower baby back to earth. Repeat 10 times.
Pelvic floor exercises
After birth, your insides need as much care as your outside, so take a little time each day to do your pelvic floor exercises – they are as important now as they were during pregnancy to ensure good bladder control as you regain your post-pregnancy body.
Yes, you’ll be doing plenty of walking anyway as a mum – upstairs for nappies, downstairs for dirty washing, kitchen for snacks, hallway for settling baby at 2am – but getting out of the house with your baby in a sling or pram, to stretch your legs properly is a great head-clearer and an easy way to incorporate a little gentle exercise into your everyday routine. Once you feel strong enough, tackling a few hills in every walk will get your heart rate up a little and stretch those thigh muscles.
Six weeks after birth
Now that your body has had a chance to do most of its post-birth recuperation, you can now step up the exercise a little more and begin to focus on those areas of your body that need a little extra work. Stomach crunches, anyone?
As long as your abdominal muscles didn’t separate during pregnancy – this is something that your doctor will have told you – you can begin exercising your core muscles with the pelvic tilt. Lie on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Slowly tighten your abdominal muscles to that your pelvis begins to roll towards your upper body. Try to use only your tummy muscles rather than engaging your bottom muscles. Breathe through the exercise and hold for five seconds. Release and repeat ten times.
Lie on the ground with your feet together flat on the ground and your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head and gently lift your head and shoulder blades towards your knees as you inhale. Hold for five seconds and then exhale as you slowly lower your head to the floor. Repeat five times. This exercise should engage the abdominal muscles not the muscles around the neck and shoulders.
So what if your nightclub days feel like they are over? There’s no reason you have to stop dancing! Strap baby into a sling, crank the music up and spend a couple of crazy minutes letting your hair down in the living room. Your baby will love it, you be getting the benefits of weight-bearing exercise (great for bone health) and it’s a great de-stresser too.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are both great ways to build your core strength and increase flexibility. Many gyms and studios offer post-pregnancy classes so look for one that can cater to you at the time. You may even be lucky enough to find somewhere that has a crèche too!
It’s not necessary to get dressed in lycra and head to the nearest gym to see the benefits of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is exercise that’s sustained for 15-20 minutes with your heartbeat at 60-80% of its maximum. You should be able to continue a conversation while doing aerobic exercise so it’s not flat-out running that you need to do. Think more of walking quickly, jogging, swimming and bicycle riding. In fact, if you are gasping for breath and can’t speak, you are NOT doing aerobic exercise!
Find more pregnancy exercise related articles
- Pelvic floor exercises you should do
- 10 benefits of exercise during pregnancy
- Managing post-pregnancy weight loss
This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot, New Zealand’s best pregnancy and parenting resource.