The Need-to-Knows About Working Out Postpartum
The woman’s body is an amazing mechanism. It is a vessel of new life that carries it for nine months and thereafter brings it out to the world. Having a baby will significantly change your life and your body forevermore. This further enforces the importance of postnatal workouts which builds strength, physicality, confidence and energy that comes with it.
Postpartum Exercise and Its Benefits
Postnatal exercise is beneficial to restore physical health and also helps improve mood, sleep quality, relieve stress and prevent postpartum depression. Turning to fitness helps your body heal and allows you to focus on yourself. Being fit and healthy improves stamina levels which help new mothers cope with the demands of motherhood – making looking after a new-born much easier.
When Can You Start Working Out Again
Don’t jump into a rigorous routine following birth. Listen to your body and don’t take on too much too soon – the first steps toward regaining your fitness may include going out for walks, doing gentle stretches and pelvic floor exercises. It’s also important to check in with your doctor before diving in. Many doctors advise waiting six to eight weeks after natural birth before resuming more vigorous types of physical activities such as running, dance classes, etc. Caesarean section or complications during pregnancy or labor might set them back a few more weeks.
Here are some enlightening facts about postpartum exercise:
When you finally put on your workout gear and get moving, you’d notice that one of the biggest differences between pre- and postpartum exercises lie in your core. This is even more so when most women experience diastasis recti (partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis, or the “six-pack” muscles) at the end of their pregnancies. Research has revealed that up to 39 percent of women can still experience some level of separation even at six months postpartum.
It is said that most women see an almost immediate difference in their core muscles upon delivery. As you are progressively further along in your pregnancy, the body stretches the muscles in the abdomen to accommodate the growing baby and when the child is born, the belly area feels different. Words like vulnerable, disconnected, absent, vacant, and nonexistent were used by some women when describing how their postpartum core felt in the early days. When you pair a change in core muscles with a weakened pelvic floor, this can make the journey back to fitness an uphill battle especially since core strength is vital for overall health and basic fitness.
Different labour experiences affects postpartum recovery.
Your fitness level pre-pregnancy is the biggest determinant of how you'll fare in postpartum recovery. If you were fit and had a degree of conditioning beforehand, you're likely to experience an easier transition back into fitness after giving birth.
There are, however, several unforeseen complications that can hinder postpartum exercise such as postpartum depression, c-section, postpartum haemorrhage, excess weight gain during pregnancy, pubic bone symphysis and diastasis recti (partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis, or the “six-pack” muscles). That said, all of the aforementioned snags have solutions. Check in with your doctor often especially if you suspect that something is wrong.
The body will experience new aches and pains.
In preparation for childbirth, the body releases a hormone called relaxin which relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens as well as widens the cervix. Relaxin can very well stay in your system well beyond the birth of your baby and some sources believe it can stay in the body for up to 12 months after weaning. This means your joints remain looser than usual and will affect your stability. The repercussion from this means that your body will go through new aches, pains, and injuries.
Sleep when your baby sleeps.
Sleep is one of the most important, least expensive, most effective aspects of recovery from childbirth and perinatal mood. In general, most healthy adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to function at their best. Sleep occurs in phases, and interruptions to the sleep cycle makes the body start over, meaning the most restorative, deeper phases of sleep might never be achieved. Your new bundle of joy sleeps about 20 hours a day but that’s after several increments, which means that new mothers have to endure several weeks of interrupted sleep. Exercise has the potential to provide more energy, but it also has the potential to be completely depleting, especially when you're already sleep-deprived. Working out shouldn’t make you feel more exhausted so listen to your body and start with less-strenuous exercises like walking around the park. Take it a day at a time.
Build a strong support system.
One potential challenge to postnatal exercise is keeping your newborn somewhere safe while you work out. You have three options to consider — working out with a baby, paying for childcare (it can be uncomfortable leaving your child with a babysitter so early on), or leaving the baby with your partner or another trusted family member or friend. Having a strong support system is key here.
Breastfeeding is not a workout.
Nursing, as many have disclosed, burns calories, but it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to cardio like running. Because you burn calories from breastfeeding you may notice the scale dropping but your clothes still don't fit like it used to pre-pregnancy. This happens due to some level of deconditioning during pregnancy. Another reason not to partake in rigorous workouts is because it can impact the production of breast milk. Your supply should remain the same as long as you're eating well and drinking enough water.
Take Baby Steps Back to Fitness.
Exercising may seem like the last thing on your mind after childbirth and having lack of sleep but we can’t stress how much it would benefit you. Women who resume workouts after a baby is born, have stated how much that ‘me-time’ means to them.