ADVICE FOR NEW MOTHERS
Exercise After Giving Birth - Part 2 You found the value in taking care of yourself. You know that exercise and fueling your body with the most nutritious food will give you more energy and more confidence. You trust that the small amount of time you carve out each day will accumulate into being a Mom On Top (the very best, happiest, successful mother you can be.) You’re ready to take action. Now what? There are some important considerations that will keep you safe and optimize your results. These are the most common questions I get asked, and my advice for new mothers… How soon after giving birth can I exercise? According to research done by James F. Clapp III, M.D., and presented in Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, the conclusion is that “if it doesn’t hurt or cause the woman to bleed heavily, it’s OK.” There is no pre-determined time frame in which to start exercising even after a C-section. However, pain was the deciding factor. Those who experienced pain from surgery started exercising later, around 4 weeks. What type of exercise is best… shortly after giving birth? Almost every new mom will tell you that what she needs most after giving birth is some time to herself, so the main goal of exercise at this time should simply be to provide personal time. The best types of exercise would be walking and stretching (yoga). The focus is not necessarily on losing weight and tightening up your belly, although you may get a head start if you exercise frequently and increase intensity slowly. 6 weeks postpartum and thereafter?
This is now the time you can start integrating all forms of exercise, but you still want to stay on a steady, gradual pace as you increase duration and intensity. A varied plan that includes cardio and resistance (running, cycling, swimming, weight training) and flexibility (yoga) is best. A jogging stroller might be a great investment! Now is also the time to focus on specific core building moves like isometric planks and scissors (lying on your back and alternating leg lifts) to work on strengthening abdominal and back muscles, and correcting possible muscle separation (diastasis recti) that often occurs during pregnancy. How many times/week is recommended? Three times a week is a basic recommendation, but 5 to even 6 times a week is ideal. What are the benefits to starting an exercise program after giving birth? Physical: Increased energy Return to pre-pregnancy weight (and beyond, if desired) Improved strength and flexibility Improved endurance and performance (especially if youâ€™re an athlete) Emotional: Much needed time for yourself (doing something for yourself) Improved body image Higher self-esteem and more confidence Less risk of baby blues and postpartum depression
What are some special considerations if Iâ€™m breastfeeding? Increase hydration and carbohydrate intake to maintain milk production (for adequate infant weight gain) and your own physical performance. A good rule of thumb is to drink 8 oz. of fluid (preferably water) and eat a piece of fruit, a salad or a half a sandwich each time you nurse the baby and each time you exercise. Nursing mothers should stabilize the breasts on the chest wall when exercising by wearing two bras, or crisscrossing an Ace bandage over the chest and shoulders with moderate tension.
If the intensity of my workouts was high before pregnancy, can I resume this level of intensity postpartum? Not right away, but certainly over time. Depending on when you begin regular exercise, you should gradually increase intensity (every week or 2 weeks), aiming for a return to pre-pregnancy levels by about 3 months postpartum. “No pain, no gain” does not apply for the first several weeks. Remember this: As far as weight loss and abdominal tone are concerned, it will take most active women between six months and a year to get their bodies back. Just stay disciplined and consistent, and match activity levels and goals with the time you are able to schedule for yourself. (But, really be strict about making this time by asking for help with the baby if necessary.) Overall, the answer to “Is exercising enhancing your well-being?” should be a resounding “YES!”