Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! But now that you have survived forty weeks of pregnancy, delivery, and recovery, what now? Many mothers find themselves feeling antsy and concerned about not only losing the baby weight, but also to simply get back into shape and back to their “normal” body before baby. However, you might also have questions about the timing, the process, as well as the different ways exercise might affect you and your new baby after delivery. No worries! This article is here to help inform you of your options and answer some of the most common questions about exercising after birth. (Please be aware that despite the answers here, consulting your physician is always the best choice when considering beginning exercising postpartum.)
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Something to Consider
In modern society, there is a HUGE emphasis placed on how quickly new mothers can drop the “baby weight”, almost as if it is a competition. This runs the risk of creating an unhealthy drive to lose weight and get back into shape as quickly as possible, without much concern for the health of you or your baby. Before even beginning to think about starting an exercise regimen after birth, you should remind yourself that it took a full forty weeks for you to put on the baby weight, as well as for your body to adjust to carrying another human being inside of it and it could take just as long, or longer, to lose it. No one, not even celebrities, truly is able to have her body simply snap back to the way it used to be, and to believe it does can be unhealthy. Most women will lose between five to twelve pounds after delivery due to the delivery of the baby, placenta, and other birthing fluids, and that is a great start! However, you should also consider that it could take up to six weeks for your uterus to fully contract, leaving you with a belly that still looks “pregnant”. Your breasts, increased blood supply, increased fat supply, and enlarged uterus can all create excess weight from pregnancy that will be difficult to “lose” since you need them!
Be patient with yourself, and be patient with your body. You recently not only grew a whole other human, but also carried it and delivered it. Your body needs time to adjust and you should give yourself a break and focus on maintaining your health! That being said, enjoy the rest of the article and hopefully you will be able to answer some of your major questions about postpartum exercise!
When Can I Start to Exercise?
Deciding when is a good time to begin exercising after delivery is highly dependent upon each individual mother’s pregnancy. If you were active and exercised regularly throughout your pregnancy, you should be able to start gentle stretches and activities shortly after delivery, though some doctors will ask that you wait until the six week check up to begin any vigorous activity. You should start out with a light activity such as walking short distances. As you begin to feel even better, you can lengthen the distance you walk, or increase the amount of times you go for a walk. You should be careful to avoid any motions with sharp movements, as your joints can remain wobbly for up to six months after delivery due to the presence of the hormone Relaxin.
If you had a complicated birth or a cesarean section, this timeline might be more stretched out due to the different circumstances of your baby’s birth. With a C-section specifically, you should ensure that your physician is on board with you beginning to exercise post-delivery. However, with either a complicated delivery or a normal delivery, you can begin to exercise your pelvic floor (with Kegel exercises or others) or your lower abdominal muscles as soon as you feel ready. Simply avoid movements that might pull on your incisions if you have had a C-Section.
Why Should I Wait?
Despite being fully energized to get out there and start feeling “fit” again after pregnancy and birth, caution should be used when starting exercise in several instances. You should wait to begin any swimming exercises until after all postpartum bleeding has ceased, in order to prevent infection. Additionally, it is better to avoid doing sit-ups and aerobic exercise, such as running, aerobics or tennis, until your pelvic floor has recovered. If you did not exercise throughout pregnancy either you should consider easing into exercise as your body is not conditioned for the activity.
Will It Affect Breastfeeding?
Nope! Exercising will not hinder your ability to breastfeed your new baby! Even with the most vigorous of exercises and workouts, your ability to breastfeed should not be affected. That being said, in order to ensure this outcome, you will need to make sure you are as well-hydrated as possible. Hydration is key to ensuring that you can breastfeed to the best of your ability. You should aim to avoid any sorts of exercise that might cause sore breasts, and if you are concerned about being uncomfortable during exercise, you can fix the problem by using a supportive sports bra and feeding right before you work out.
How Will I Know if It Is Too Much?
With how excited you may be to return to your workout regimen or begin a new one post-delivery, it can be possible for you to go too quickly or attempt to do too much. One of the best ways to check for signs that you are over-stressing your body is to check for bleeding, or lochia. Too much exercise after delivery can cause your lochia to become brighter red in color and to become heavier. This increased bleeding can be a signal that your body is losing vital fluids and you should consult your doctor if you notice it. Other signs that you might be taking it too far when exercising is if you have painful muscle soreness after working out that does not go away, or if you feel exhausted after every session, rather than energetic or invigorated.