How soon is too soon to get in shape after giving birth?

Too soon to get in shape after giving birth?

mom lifting weights in gym
Mom Working Out

Having a baby is without a doubt the most amazing, life-changing experience. However, the stresses of adjusting to life with a newborn can be overwhelming. There’s so much to think about – feeds, diaper changes, sleepless nights and the constant worry about whether you’re doing it right – all at a time when your brain’s absolutely frazzled and your body’s acclimatizing to the hormonal changes. However, there’s one additional burden that’s also becoming an issue for Mom’s – the pressure to get in shape after giving birth.

It seems that there are daily news reports showing celebrities who have got in shape within weeks – sometimes seemingly in days – after giving birth. There are worrying rumors of women electing to give birth early, to avoid gaining the additional weight over the final couple of weeks gestation, as well as suggestions that some are electing to having liposuction at the same time as giving birth by C-section.

These celebrities may well be having to resort to plus size shapewear, doubling up their Spanx before making a public appearance, but all of this puts additional pressure on new Moms to lose that baby weight. So how soon is too soon to start exercising – and when you do, what exercises will actually help?

When to start exercising

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise has a number of benefits for women postpartum. Not only will it strengthen and tone the body, but it also boosts energy, reduces stress and helps prevent postpartum depression. In terms of when you can start exercising, this will not only depend on the type of birth you’ve had, but also on your level of fitness before and during pregnancy. It takes 6 weeks for your body to completely heal after a natural delivery, longer for those who’ve had a C-section. Until the healing process is complete, you should focus on your pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) and gentle activities such as walking and stretching. Not only is your body still healing, but your joints will also be affected for several weeks, so strenuous workouts are not advised until you’re cleared to do so by a Doctor.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s also important not to actively diet during this period. In fact, you’ll need to up your calorie intake by 300-500 compared with pre-pregnancy, in order to maintain an adequate milk supply. Don’t worry about eating more, despite the additional calories, breastfeeding is actually a great way to quickly lose weight.

Tips on starting exercising

Obviously gentle stretching and walking are recommended for new Moms. Walking in particular is great not only for the body but also the mind. Getting out and about with your baby is lovely, either using a stroller or – if your back is strong enough – swaddling them in a sling. Cycling and swimming are also good low-impact options, once any post-partum bleeding has stopped, as are yoga and Pilates.

Before starting exercising, here are some tips all new Moms should consider:

  1. Check your foot size – your feet may have increased in size during pregnancy, so may need to purchase new trainers.
  2. Invest in a new sports bra, not only will this minimize the risk of stretch marks but it will also help prevent upper back pain. Be sure to get properly measured as a bra that’s too tight may cause mastitis.
  3. Eat before exercising, this is especially important if you’re breastfeeding.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.

While it’s great to see the benefits of exercise, avoid high-impact sports until at least 3 months after the birth of your child. Not only will your core muscles be weaker after giving birth, but ligaments and joints will also be softer, increasing your risk of injury. Given that your pelvic floor will also still be weakened, you also risk stress incontinence if you run or jump too strenuously.

Our take home message? Be realistic. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure to conform to something that isn’t normal, no matter what you see in media reports. Remember many celebrities resort to Photoshop, so what you see is not always true to reality. Being a happy Mom with a contented baby is more important than trying to snap back to your pre-pregnancy weight.

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