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Postpartum Workouts - What You Need To Know About Your Post-Pregnancy Body

Last updated on : August 11 2018

women touching pregnant stomach with heart shaped hands

Introduction

In a recent interview for The Insider, fitness blogger Emily Skye opened up about her struggle to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy.

She confessed to comparing herself to other mothers who seemed to have less trouble getting back into the postnatal swing of things. And she admitted to having difficulties with coming to terms with how pregnancy has changed her body forever.

It’s an interview that most new mothers would undoubtedly appreciate.

It’s also interesting to note the shifting panorama of the average mummy in 2018. Studies reveal that the only group with a rising conception rate at present are mummies in their 40s and over.

The older we are when we give birth, the slower the recovery period tends to be.  And the more cautious we should be of avoiding any fitness program that may do us more harm than good.

Post-pregnancy Weight Loss Requires Time And Exercise

While it’s true that what we eat can help us to lose weight or control what our body looks and feels like, an active postpartum recovery cannot rely on diet alone.

New mums adopting a fitness regime post-pregnancy need to be cautious and ensure their body is ready first. Introducing new exercises only when the body shows signs of being prepared.

Even if you’re one of those mummies who has always enjoyed exercise, you will need to take extra care when returning to a full-on fitness program after childbirth. Particularly one using a full range of fitness equipment.

Yes, taking your time is essential.

Common Pregnancy Body Complaints That Affect Exercise Postpartum

One area of weakness is the ligaments

As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, her body begins to release a hormone known as relaxin. This hormone helps to relax the body’s ligaments, which makes it easier for the pelvis to expand during childbirth.

However, at the same time, other ligaments in the body are also affected by the relaxin.

The hips, feet, shoulders, and ankles, all begin to loosen up, placing the mother at risk of joint pain, dislocation, and problems with hypermobility, lower limbs, and spinal alignment for many years.

Exercising on loose ligaments can be incredibly dangerous, which is another reason why new mummies need to take care when returning to intensive physical regimes too early.

Weak pelvic floor muscles pose further problems

Without a robust set of pelvic floor muscles, we can’t control our urination.

It’s more common than most people might imagine for new mums to lose control of their bladder when coughing or sneezing.

While it’s important to dedicate time to practicing specific pelvic floor muscle exercises, known as Kegel exercises, new mums with weak pelvic floors should stay clear of any heavy lifting for a couple of months at least.

In general, this means staying clear of exercise regimes that incorporate the use of weights.

And diastasis recti puts a hold on your abdominals 

Finally, about two-thirds of pregnant women get diastasis recti or muscle separation in the stomach. Caused by internal abdominal pressure during pregnancy.

New mums who throw themselves back into challenging fitness regimes straight after childbirth run the risk of damaging their core abdominal muscles. And of never being able to get rid of their mummy tummy.

Crunches, planks, and other types of abdominal exercises that put a lot of strain on the tummy area are not the best choice of activity for a new mum wanting to regain her pre-pregnancy figure.

Finding out whether you have diastasis recti needs just a simple test with your fingers on your tummy. Lay flat on your back, relaxed, and feel your abdominals for any inconsistency and separation

If you happen to be one of the many mums who develop diastasis recti after giving birth, there are a range of simple exercises you can perform to get your abdominal muscles back into the correct position. 

All are simple enough to do in the comfort of your own home. However, if you do need to do some damage control, then it’s important to perform each exercise correctly.

Then gravity works against us

It’s not just the tummy that new mums want to get back into shape. Pregnancy can take its toll on our feet, legs, buttocks, and breasts.

In fact, the strain that pregnancy can have on our breasts is particularly notable.

During pregnancy and throughout the months following childbirth, the female body experiences a range of hormonal changes.

These changes are relatively extreme, and as such, they take their toll on the female form.

In particular, lots of women find that their breasts are noticeably saggy after having children. These changes do nothing to keep our spirits up when dealing with the demands of a newborn. Like sleep deprivation and acute tiredness.

Breasts start to sag after childbirth because the surrounding tissue expands so much stretching the skin out of shape. This stretching also causes the loss of a significant amount of elasticity.

Therefore, an active fitness regime for women post-pregnancy includes exercises that help to strengthen and tone the pectoral muscles around the breasts.

Firm pectoral muscles give the appearance of a well-structured, well-lifted presentation and can help new mums to improve the saggy nature of their breasts.

Incidentally, regular breast massages using warm oil in an upward direction, and a supportive bra, are two of the most natural and effective ways of dealing with this particular problem.

And finding sleep is impossible - When sleep is so necessary

mother sleeping with baby

As a final consideration, rest is incredibly important for new mummies, and it can help to get the body back into shape postpartum.

In particular, getting enough sleep has been linked to successful weight loss, mainly because it stops us from craving unhealthy, high-calorie foods, as we fight to stay awake.

As such, put sleep into the daily routine as part of the "get back into shape post-pregnancy" goal.

It’s clear that babies don’t sleep for long periods of time and will disrupt nighttime sleep patterns for some months. So new mums should take as many opportunities as possible to sleep when their babies are sleeping. Even during the day, if they want to get back to their pre-pregnancy figure as quickly as possible.

Fitting Exercise Into A Busy Routine

Mother and baby in swimming pool

Another challenge for all new mummies is finding the time (and energy) to commit to a regular exercise program while taking care of the baby.

It can be even more challenging to find the time to exercise when there’s more than one child to look after. Or if we have to work, or we happen to be a single parent trying to manage everything on our own.

The key to getting back in shape and taking care of the little one at the same time is to let go of the way in which you used to exercise.

You might find it hard to get started if you want to work out like you did before you gave birth. A morning trip to the gym as soon as you wake up, combined with a couple of aerobics classes every week is not a comfortable routine with your new responsibilities. 

Instead, try coming at your fitness program from a new perspective. Run with your pushchair through the park, lay your baby on the carpet next to you as you work through a series of morning stretch positions. And reduce your workout time so that baby doesn’t have to be patient for too long.

Indeed, when babies are as little as two months old, new mums might only manage to exercise for five to ten minutes at a time.

Another idea is to buy a fitness machine that you can use at home. When the baby is sleeping, or when he or she is having a rare, quiet moment, you can switch on your exercise machine and start getting a little closer to your pre-pregnancy body shape.

If you find it hard to motivate yourself at home alone, you could try organizing a group of new mums who want to get back into shape together.

Trying to be on time for a fitness class in the first few months of your baby’s life might prove to be close to impossible. But getting together with other mummies one afternoon and fitting in a little bit of exercise around taking care of the children is a lot more plausible.

If little of the above inspires you, then you might also want to try taking your baby swimming. A heated pool, as close to home as possible, that’s open more or less all day long to accommodate changes in your baby’s timetable, provides the perfect context for easing back into a regular exercise routine.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t get a great deal of opportunity to swim in the beginning, as you’ll be spending all your time keeping your baby afloat. What’s important is that you start to help the muscles relax and strengthen again in the water.

What’s more, it’s a great bonding activity for you and baby. It ticks all the boxes, this one!

Summary

Understanding the changes to your body, and your lifestyle after the baby has arrived is essential. Care and in particular time is needed for you to regain your strength and pre-baby body. 

Use caution, and be aware of your limitations so as not to cause damage or long-term consequences. Your full and fit figure is within your grasp, take your time and listen to your body. 

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