Post Natal Exercise – what, when, how…

Continuing on with my series on fitness and pregnancy we now come to Post Natal, after baby is born. There is obviously so much going on at this time fitness may not be on the top of your agenda, but it is something to be aware of, because by following the correct procedures you can make your life a lot easier and feel a whole lot better as well!
There is a massive media pressure, particularly on younger girls to look a certain way, and it seems to be getting younger and younger all the time – the same thing is happening to women after they have had a baby…this results in the desire to get back to the pre-pregnancy body as quickly as possible. Just look at Miranda Kerr, posing nude on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, it really creates the wrong impression of what women need to do.
In talking about post natal issues there are a few points that I should highlight…

  • It’s natural to put on weight during pregnancy, and it’s NATURAL to be still overweight afterwards!
  • Excess baby weight affects everyone differently – Genes certainly do play a part.
  • Nutrition is important after birth as well, especially if breastfeeding
  • Weight loss will depend on factors such as

                      – age

                      – health

                      – pre-exsisting conditions

                      – pre-pregnancy / pregnancy fitness level 

Firstly, the body has been through quite a trauma giving birth and it WILL take time for it to recover properly. In realistic terms it should take a minimum of approx. 6 months to return to your preferred weight, the younger you are the easier this should be. But it’s important to note that it also takes your abdominal muscles time to recover and for the bodies hormonal level to return to normal, the relaxin can be present for up to 9 months after the birth and it’s for these reasons why it is so important to ease back into your fitness regime. 

This is especially the case in c-section births, or if say you needed stitches, whereby you definitely need to get the go ahead from your healthcare practitioner before resuming your fitness program, it can take up to 3 months before you may be  ready for full scale exercise and you would need to rely on nutrition only to maintain a healthy weight –  note, it also takes 4 weeks for your Uterus to return to normal position.

 

It is important to move as soon as you can after the birth, but this needs to start as gentle walking initially and ease into a more energetic routine, it is generally recommended to wait around 6 weeks before doing this. Nutrition is obviously very important at this time, especially if breastfeeding. You still need to ensure you are eating properly to get the right vitamins & nutrients to keep the breast milk flowing, but simply by feeding by the breast you will burn around an extra 6-800 calories a day, so plan your meals bearing this in mind, but also when you stop breastfeeding make sure that you also reduce the calories you’re intaking to take account of this, or you will see a real increase in weight, not the reverse! IsoWhey it should be noted is fine to be used whilst breastfeeding, but again as a health supplement, not as a meal replacement for weight loss, wait until you have stopped feeding (at least 9 months) before you go back to one of our weight loss programs.

So what exercises can and should you do? Well despite the image of Miranda and Posh being pushed to the limit by their Personal Trainer, this is NOT the way to go. Start slowly, walk at first, use the baby in the pram for your resistance. Start interval training whereby you introduce a jog, or higher intensity part to the program. EASE into it! Talking about using the baby though – kill 2 birds with one stone! You can ‘play’ with baby, while also using the baby as a bench press, simply lie on your back, lifting then pushing the baby away from your body (chest). Do a simple range of squats while cradling baby in your arms, and use baby as a barbell while working the biceps, again raising & lowering your arms.

Initially though, I believe the more important exercises are those that focus on the CORE muscles and the pelvic floor. Primarily these are targeted directly in Pilates, but also in yoga. I would recommend going to a class specifically designed for post natal women, to be sure of the correct instruction – attention needs to be given say, to the fact that posture can be adversely affected by breastfeeding, inpart due to the hormonal changes that affect the flexibility of your joints, in particular the pelvis. With cardio, again go carefully due to the need to avoid the jarring of joints and causing serious damage, so go easy on the treadmill or fitness classes such as body pump. Here we are focusing on strengthening these muscles as of course you cannot ‘spot’ reduce fat from this area and it is unfortunately one area where women do store extra weight. As shown in my latest video ‘Post Natal Yoga – this can be a great way to get back into your fitness routine…with your baby to hand! Here you can work on your strength, balance & control AND bond with your baby and meet other mothers to exchange stories and ideas.

One thing to avoid, generally within the 1st six weeks is swimming, or at least until you have 7 days without bleeding and/or discharge. The main rule, I say, is to listen to your own body, everyone is different, don’t be in a rush or set unreasonable goals, use this time to eat properly and then enjoy your fitness..and of course your baby!                                 

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