If you feel comfortable doing it and you don’t have any physical problem that would prevent it, you can start exercising within weeks after delivery. Make sure you let your doctor know, and start gently and slowly. Let your body tell you how much you can do.
When to start exercising also depends on your delivery experience. Women who had a vaginal delivery may be able to begin earlier than women who had a cesarean section. Many doctors recommend waiting six weeks before starting to exercise, but a woman who has exercised throughout pregnancy and had an uncomplicated delivery could be ready even earlier. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Postpartum exercise is beneficial both physically and psychologically for new mothers. It helps work off the extra pounds gained during pregnancy while increasing energy levels and improving self esteem. Exercise also strengthens your muscles and may help lessen the aches and pains that are normal in the postpartum period.
Don’t get frustrated if it takes some time to get back to where you were before pregnancy, and use caution and moderation. Most women won’t be able to immediately return to the exercise routine they had before pregnancy since the body needs time to recover.
Here are some exercise tips:
- Start slowly, with a daily regimen of 15 to 30 minutes of low-to-moderate aerobic activity like walking, bicycling, swimming or dancing. It’s better to exercise moderately on a regular basis — say, three times a week — than to exercise strenuously every once in a while.
- Avoid overexertion, at least until your body has returned to normal, which usually takes several weeks after delivery.
- Don’t get overtired, and keep exercises low-impact, avoiding bouncy movements and sudden changes in direction, since your balance may still be affected.
- Schedule exercise sessions after breast-feeding when the breasts are not as large and engorged.
- Include strengthening exercises for the abdomen, back and legs, such as modified sit-ups (with the knees bent) to build up your stomach muscles. Sit-ups done with the legs straight are extremely stressful to the lower back.
- Avoid vigorous exercise in hot, humid weather and always wear comfortable loose clothing.
- Don’t get overheated, and drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising to avoid dehydration.
- Take a walk while pushing the baby in a stroller, and exercise and stretch as you go along.
- Seek out local hospitals or family-centered health clubs with postpartum classes and babysitting services.
- Find a workout video or books focusing on the physical needs and condition of new mothers. Ask your provider if he or she can make recommendations.
You should also include two special exercises, Kegels and the pelvic tilt or pelvic rock, in your postpartum workout. Kegels, which are done by repeatedly squeezing and then releasing the muscles of the pelvis around the genital area while standing, sitting or lying down help you regain control of your sphincter muscles.
To do a pelvic tilt, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Inhale slowly, allowing your abdomen to expand. While exhaling, lift your pelvis toward your navel, keeping your hips on the floor. When you’ve lifted as high as you can, tighten your buttocks, then release. Repeat eight to 10 times.
No matter which type of exercise you choose, stop immediately and contact your doctor if you don’t feel well, or if you experience any of the following:
- Dizziness or faintness
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual pain
- Increased bleeding
- Heart palpitations.
If you follow these general recommendations and start your program slowly, you should feel better within weeks.
The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.