Exercise can actually aid in the healing process as well as making you feel stronger.
For many women exercise will be the very last thing on their mind after they have given birth. Exercise may have never been a big part of their life.
In fact, it may not have been a part of their life at all. Believe it or not, there will also be many women who will be hoping to return to exercise as soon as possible when they have given birth. They may have exercised right throughout their pregnancy and now they have to consider the healing of their body that has just given life. They are raring to go and want to return to exercise at the earliest possible stage.
There are a lot of benefits to exercising after you have given birth. It can actually aid in the healing process as well as making you feel stronger. On top of this, the “feel good” endorphins and hormones are released when we exercise and a new mum will benefit from a positive shift in her mood during a time of great change and exhaustion. It is extremely important to consult your midwife or GP before you return to exercise though.
No two pregnancies are the same and the same can be said for birthing experiences and how the body responds to such an event. Your doctor will be able to advise on the best time for you to return to exercise or simply begin exercise after you have given birth.
For many women, the motivation for exercise is to feel stronger after they have given birth as well as helping to lose the baby weight that the pregnancy brought with it. While exercise can help you to recover from birth it is also important to allow your body time to naturally heal. You may be experiencing back pain as well as bladder issues due to a weakened pelvic floor. Exercise can make these things feel worse if you over-do it or introduce it before your body is ready.
When you have been given the go-ahead from your GP to exercise again it is important to take it nice and slow. Your joints and ligaments will feel different due to the pregnancy hormones which can actually put you at a greater risk of injury. If you were very active before or during the pregnancy you may be able to manage more exercise or carrying heavier weights than someone who did little or no exercise, but you must ensure that you are not doing more harm than good.
Carrying weights that are too heavy can cause important organs such as the Uterus to drop down and this can be very uncomfortable and dangerous. Slow and steady wins the race.
Many women like to begin their postnatal exercise by simply walking with their baby in the pram. The fresh air and sense of pride are extremely powerful for a woman’s mental health during a time when sleep is scarce and change can be a great cause for anxiety.
After six to eight weeks when your body has healed significantly you might consider a low impact exercise such as swimming or yoga. If your doctor has given the go ahead and your bleeding has stopped for about a week you will feel more confident and capable. It is important to slow down or stop if you feel discomfort or weakness and avoid high-intensity exercise initially.
If after three months you are experiencing a lot of bladder control/pelvic floor issues it is a good idea to speak to your GP who may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist who will be able to help with the issue.
Exercise has a lot of benefits but it is vital to consider that your body has just undergone something traumatic and the last thing a new mum should do is put pressure on herself to lose weight and return to her pre-pregnancy lifestyle. Take your time, look after your body and mind and they will look after you.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.