Have you had or are you just about to have a baby? Congratulations! What a special time. Our bodies are capable of incredible things, and pregnancy and childbirth are truly spectacular.
Something we get asked about a lot by our clients and on social media is postpartum fitness/postpartum exercise. There is a lot of pressure on women to ‘snap back’ to their post baby bodies and, in many cases, that’s just not realistic (or even necessary!).
Plus, while keeping fit and healthy is so important, there are a number of risks associated with women who have recently given birth, such as:
- Heart disease
- Diastasis recti
- Vaginal prolapse
That means taking it slowly is key. Below is our guide to postpartum fitness. It focuses on helping your body to heal and strengthen after the changes you go through during pregnancy and childbirth.
(When it comes to postpartum fitness, everyone will be different in their abilities, especially if they’ve had a C-section. That’s why we recommend that you speak to a medical professional before you take on strenuous exercise if you’re not sure.)
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are important to do, even in the days following birth. Through pregnancy alone, your pelvic floor muscles will have gone through significant changes.
When your pelvic floor is weak, your organs aren’t properly supported, and you may experience symptoms such as not being able to control your bladder or gas, or lower back pain.
Two excellent exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor are kegels and squats. You can start doing kegel exercises in the days following the birth and squats in the weeks following the birth.
Learn more about kegel exercises here.
Learn more about squats here.
When you’re pregnant, your body changes dramatically and so does your posture. Pregnancy and motherhood can cause a number of changes to your posture, including anterior pelvic tilt, hunch back and rounded shoulders.
For hunch back (kyphosis), don’t sit for longer than one hour, try not to look down for long periods when you’re breastfeeding, and make sure your computer screen is eye level.
For rounded shoulders, get some resistance bands and hold them with your palms facing up, a shoulder width apart. Rest your elbows against your sides and pull the band until you feel resistance, making sure your elbows stay in contact with your sides. Repeat 15 times.
For pelvic tilt, glute bridges can be really helpful. To perform a glute bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat against the floor. Lift your pelvis up whilst keeping your back straight. Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 15 times.
Build up to it
Depending on how you’re feeling after giving birth, build up your exercise from the days following birth to the weeks and months after. Going too hard too quickly could do more harm than good.
Drink plenty of water
This is especially true if you’re breastfeeding and increasing your exercise. Your breast milk is around 90% water, so drinking enough water to keep both yourself and your baby properly hydrated is crucial.
Hire a personal trainer
Hiring a personal trainer who has plenty of experience in postpartum exercise could be really beneficial. It means you’ll be under the watchful eye of someone who knows what to look out for, whether you’re pushing yourself too hard or if you could increase the intensity of your workouts. Plus, having someone to hold you accountable to your fitness schedule and goals can really help with motivation.
It’s recommended that you don’t start doing postpartum workouts until after your 6 week postpartum checkup (with vaginal births) or your 12 week checkup (with C-sections).
The workouts you choose to do will depend on your personal fitness goals as well as your own ability. However, we’re going to give you some examples.
We recommend this short core workout which is fine for new mums who are experiencing diastasis recti. We also recommend this 8-minute workout which is appropriate for both those who have had vaginal births and those who have had cesarean births.
There are even workouts that you can do with your baby strapped to you (seriously!). This video from The Body Coach has been endorsed by doctors, physiotherapists and midwives.
For more fitness information from Fitness Warehouse, take a look around our blog.