At five months old, my “little” baby boy, Alexi, weighed almost 25 pounds. I was a runner for years before getting pregnant and liked to think of myself as physically fit. But let’s just say having to regularly hoist up a gigantic infant who weighed more than my slightly obese tomcat was not a possibility I had done any planning for. Some new moms are exhausted and and feel their bodies need time to recover before getting back to fitness routines; postpartum exercise was essential for me. I had no choice but to get stronger and get stronger fast to meet my big Buddha’s basic needs.
So I started reading up on postpartum exercise. Each woman’s road to recovery following a birth is unique. But there is general agreement in the medical community that regular movement and training is beneficial and healthy after baby’s arrival. The Mayo Clinic provides this list (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/exercise-after-pregnancy/art-20044596). Even a gentle exercise program can:
- Promote weight loss
- Improve cardiovascular fitness
- Restore muscle strength and tone
- Condition abdominal muscles
- Boost energy level
- Improve mood
- Relieve stress
- Help prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression
So, we know it’s healthy. But how much can we do and when?
Writer and Pilates Instructor Karen Laing, in her article in Huffington Post UK, takes readers through the different postpartum physical stages and provides some fitness tips based on that information (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/karen-laing/post-baby-body_b_8739254.html).
In the past, women were told to wait at least six weeks after delivery to begin exercising. Now, experts advise women who delivered vaginally with no complications to start as soon as they feel ready. Women who had difficult deliveries or C-sections should wait, start very slowly, and consult with their doctors or coaches about limitations and pacing. Breast-feeding moms are advised to nurse baby before exercising to prevent the pain that can come with engorged breasts. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concur that postpartum exercise is beneficial (http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Physical-Activity-and-Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period). In addition, they suggest that women begin pelvic exercises also known as Kegels right after birth.
According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum exercise should include 150 minutes of aerobic movement weekly, keeping the following guidelines in mind:
- Take time to warm up and cool down.
- Begin slowly and increase your pace gradually.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Wear a supportive bra and, if you’re breast-feeding, nursing pads in case your breasts leak.
- Avoid excessive fatigue.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain.
You may not have to binge-train to lift a 25-pound baby like I did, but even stroller walks with other mom friends can do wonders. Postpartum exercise sets the stage for a healthier and happier way of living that you’ll enjoy with your family for many years to come.