Postnatal exercise is a controversial topic. Some women feel the pressure to get back “in shape” as soon as possible, but intense exercise may not be the best way forward for your body after delivery. However postnatal exercise does have its benefits. Gentle exercise can help to boost your mood by increasing levels of endorphins, protect you from aches and pains, boost your energy levels and improve your strength and stamina, making looking after your baby easier.
The key to exercising healthily is to listen to your body. If your lochia is becoming redder or heavier, this is a sign you may be over doing things. It is best to stay away from high intensity exercise for at least the first few months. This will give your pelvic floor time to recover before it has to deal with the pressures of high impact.
Postnatal exercise can be confusing so here are my top DOs and DON’Ts of Postnatal Exercise:
- DO – wait to get the all-clear from your GP at your postnatal check to re-start your exercise routine
- DON’T – think that because you are no longer pregnant you can jump straight back into your previous exercise routine. Respect your body, give it time to heal and recover.
- DO – remember it takes 12 months not 12 weeks to get back into shape. Every woman’s recovery is different and some may not be ready until months after the birth.
- DON’T – overdo it. If your baby has been up all night and you’ve had no sleep, put your exercise session on hold for that day and have a nap or choose a lighter activity instead. You are more vulnerable to injury when you’re tired
- DO – wear a good sports bra. Your breasts will need support during activities and an appropriately fitted bra can help reduce the risk of stretch marks and discomfort. Some arm movements may promote milk flow so pop in some breast pads and feed or express before exercise if you need to
- DON’T – restrict liquid intake because of fear of leakage. If you have been experiencing any wetness if is a warning that you may need to do more pelvic floor exercises.
- DO – focus on good technique and alignment. Go for quality rather than quantity. Slower is harder
- DON’T – do sit-ups and crunches. These exercises are inappropriate and will not flatten your tummy. They are more likely to cause low back ache and may make your tummy stick out more. They are also likely to increase the pressure on your weakened pelvic floor!
Instead of situps and crunches I have attached a video of my top postnatal exercises to get you ready for any more intense exercise. It is important to make sure you are comfortable with these postnatal exercises before you move on to anything more difficult. Often you have to regress exercises in order to progress further with them – believe me, your body will thank me in the long run.