Post-Natal Exercise Guidelines
Everyone always talks about what to do while you're pregnant, and it's (sometimes) very welcomed advice, but what happens when you get home with your new baby? Let me tell you, from my first-hand experience, the tabloids telling you it's easy to just jump back to pre-baby weight are so, so, so WRONG! Birthing takes A LOT out of you, no matter what type of birth experience you have, it's exhausting, and then, when you get home and are alone with your baby, that's exhausting too. To top it all off, you feel pressured to get back to your pre-baby weight, figure and fitness-level. Firstly, STOP feeling pressured... you just did an amazing thing, take time to rest and enjoy your little one, seriously, the first year is going to FLY by (my little girl is 16 months old and it feels like I brought her home last month.) Secondly, take your time and make sure to get back into fitness and activity on an appropriate time-line. Traumatic birth experiences (episiotomy, C-Sections, etc,) require longer recovery time. All exercise after birth should only begin at the approval of your doctor. Here are some tips I've learned through post-natal certifications and first-hand stories of my experience- Tam
- Walking can begin as soon as you feel up to it, but start slow; a one-hour walk, 1 week post delivery, could leave you laid up for several days. It’s best to begin with a short walk and to listen to your body. If there is any pain, light-headedness, nausea, etc- you’ve pushed it too far for now.
o As soon as we got home from the hospital, I was so excited to try out the new stroller and take our dog for a walk (especially after being gone from her for 3 days). I put on my maternity yoga pants, laced up my runners, buckled my daughter in, leashed up the dog and headed out. About 5 blocks away, the baby was asleep (yay!), the dog was sniffing after a squirrel and I, suddenly, felt nauseas and light headed. I had to stop and take a rest, then turn around and go home… I was devastated, but I knew that if I just pushed through, that I would be hurting for several days and could be putting myself at risk. It’s very important to listen to your body! By 4 weeks post-delivery, I was able to walk our normal distance (about 3.5km) again.
- At 6-8 weeks after your baby is born, as long as your doctor agrees, you can begin to participate in higher intensity activities, such as return to sports, jogging and strength training.
o At 6 weeks post-delivery, I went out and played hockey, and while it was exhausting, it was also exhilarating and stress-relieving and once I got over every muscle in my body hurting, for 3 days, I couldn’t wait to get out again! So Go For It!
Work on your core, early, BUT DO IT SAFELY!
o This means no crunches, no sit ups and no variation of either.
- Why? Because the muscles of your core are weak from being stretched, and crunching or sitting up will in turn work only your hip flexors and put added strain on your lower back.
- You need to first teach your core how to contract properly again. I’d advise speaking to a qualified professional to get exercises that will do this (online videos are great, but they won’t tell you if you are doing it wrong).
- Qualified professionals include: chiropractors, physiotherapists, kinesiologists and pre- and post- natal specialists.
- Check for diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal wall).
Strengthen your upper back
- You’re carrying a baby around for a long portion of the day, and feeding that baby, often in a slumped position. Plus, the centre of balance is thrown off while we are pregnant and we often alter our posture as a result, this doesn’t automatically go back to the way it should be. You’ll likely have to work for it.
- Again, online videos are great motivators and have great ideas, but seeking out the assistance of a trained professional is recommended, to ensure proper form.
- Also in this category: GO FOR A MASSAGE, regularly!
Forget about the scale
- This was a hard one for me. I put on nearly 60 lbs during my pregnancy and I was determined to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, ASAP! It took me 8 and a half months, and it was totally worth it!
- There is so much fluid retention from pregnancy, from breastfeeding (even if you aren’t- it takes 4 to 6 weeks for your body to get that hint), and from lack of sleep. It takes time to bounce back, especially if you put on a lot of weight (whichsometimes is just completely out of your control).
- Seriously, don’t do it! You need energy to look after your child. Dieting is not going to provide you with that.
- You need to set a mindset of eating healthy instead. Buy vegetable trays or pre-cut veggies (if you don’t have time or desire to do it yourself). Have hummus available. Have trail mix available. Eat plenty of protein – chicken breasts are easy. Enjoy your fruit. Drink LOTS of water! If you are constantly hungry, you are likely not getting enough nutrients.
- Need help in this department because you just don’t know what to do? Talk to a qualified professional- a dietician or a nutritionist. Certain fitness professionals may have qualifications in this department, but make yourself aware of what qualifies them to teach you healthy eating. Supplements should be taken with great caution while breastfeeding (most should be avoided completely).
In case I wasn't clear about this concept earlier on... I can't re-iterate it enough.... If it takes you a year (or more) to shed the extra weight, that's OK! Don't stress about how long it takes, focus on the journey and making the healthy choices. Your child is going to be watching you every step of the way and what you do is what he/she is most likely going to do. Set that example. Be positive about body image, eat healthy, and make sure to exercise.