After having a baby, you may wonder how and when you can hop back on the workout wagon. Starting a fitness routine after giving birth can give you something to focus on besides motherhood, and it is a healthy way to get back in shape and boost your mood. Here are some tips and considerations for postpartum workouts.
First and foremost, clear your exercise plans with your doctor. While some women feel up to working out within a week or two of giving birth, it entirely depends on the circumstances of your labor and delivery, as well as your recovery. Your doctor may have you start slowly with short walks before easing back into your regular routine, and he or she may expect you to wait until your six-week postpartum visit before giving you the go-ahead.
Focus on stretching exercises that improve your flexibility. After nine months of pregnancy, your muscles may have lost some of their tone, and your range of motion may have been limited. These low-key exercises will help your muscles become more limber and strong, which is helpful when picking up your little one all day. In fact, you can do yoga or Pilates as your child plays on the floor next to you.
Be careful when attempting abdominal exercises. Your abdominal muscles were probably stretched out of shape during your pregnancy, and the vertical muscle in the center of your abdomen may have even split (this condition is called “diastasis recti”). You might find exercises done on all fours (the quadruped position) to be the most comfortable at first.
Take up walking and comparable low-impact exercises, at least at first. Because of relaxin, a hormone produced during pregnancy that causes the joints to relax, your joints will still be “loose” for a few weeks post-partum. This increases your risk of injury somewhat. Low-impact exercises are easy on the joints and do not need quick, reflexive movements, but they still provide the cardio benefits you need.
If exercising alone is impossible, you can bring your baby along for your workouts. A jogging stroller is a great asset that allows you to maneuver through trails, bumpy sidewalks, or other terrain with your little one in tow. You can also look into fitness centers with on-site childcare available, or locate a facility offering “mommy-and-me” classes that incorporate babies into the workouts.
If you breastfeed, there are a few things to consider when working out. First and foremost, you shouldn’t forget that breastfeeding alone needs 300-500 extra calories each day, so do not burn your way into a deficit. This can hurt your milk supply. In addition, you should find supportive sports bras, or consider layering two of them for extra support. You may be more comfortable if you nurse or pump before your workout. Finally, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Becoming dehydrated will not only leave you feeling awful, but your milk supply can suffer.
Besides the obvious health benefits of exercise, working out after having a baby may help you feel in control of your body once more. With your doctor’s permission, use these ideas to get moving and find your way back to your old self.