With a new baby in the house, the everyday habits of daily life pre-birth can go out the window. An exercise routine, for example, undoubtedly feels secondary to feeding, changing, napping and nurturing. When you and your partner are tired, being active is probably the last thing you want to do. However, getting back into it as soon as is safe and manageable may help you feel more energetic, not least because regular exercise has proven benefits in its ability to boost your mood, reduce anxiety and develop muscular and skeletal strength. As such, it can also help your body recover after childbirth and may help prevent postnatal depression. With all this in mind, we’ve teamed up with Six Physio to share some top tips for getting back into exercise after having a baby.
HOW SOON AFTER GIVING BIRTH SHOULD YOU EXERCISE?
The answer can vary since everybody has different pregnancy and a different birth experience. Before getting back into exercise, it’s a good idea to have a pelvic floor assessment to determine the strength and control of the pelvic floor. Regardless of how you delivered the baby, this layer of muscle has worked hard during the pregnancy, acting like a supportive hammock for the pelvic organs against the growing weight of the baby. When your pelvic floor muscles are weakened, you may find that you leak when straining or performing high-impact activities. This is very common since being pregnant and giving birth stretches the muscles of your pelvic floor. A physiotherapist specialising in women’s health will be able to assess the pelvic floor strength and control, teach you how to perform a correct pelvic floor muscle contraction, and set a personalised strengthening programme for you. They will also be able to carry out a core strength assessment on the outer abdominal muscles – the diastasis rectus abdominis, which too can stretch as the baby grows.
Do it in your own time
Your body has been through a lot so give yourself the time you need to fully recover after a birth. Unfortunately, the media puts a lot of pressure on new mums to get back into shape as soon as possible. It’s important that you disengage from this, and begin with as much or as little physical activity as feels right for you. You’ll only add to the stresses of new parenthood by giving yourself ambitious goals and deadlines. Go easy on yourself and certainly wait until after your postnatal check, at between six weeks and eight weeks before taking up exercise. No matter how minimal it seems, it’s still a good place to start.
Build up gradually
It’s not advised you get back into high-impact sports for the first three months post-natal period, and perhaps beyond if you do have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Take the time to start gradually with low-impact movements such as walking, swimming and yoga, before building up your fitness routine. Both your body and mind will thank you for it. If you’re unsure as to your limitations, you can book into a sports assessment with SixPhysio to find your pain points.
Bear in mind that your ligaments and joints will be much more supple than normal after giving birth. This is because the hormone relaxin, which is responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy can stay in the body for up to six months postpartum. Go easy on any stretching and twisting you do as this increased flexibility can increase your risk of injury. Move gently and be mindful that the postpartum workout you choose is not too jerky in movement.
For any mums concerned about being away from baby for too long, some postnatal classes let you do the exercise class with them at your side. Some even include your baby and their pram or buggy as part of the workout. Plus they’re often outdoors in local parks, which is a nice bonus. If you’re going to a class that isn’t a special postnatal class, do tell the instructor that you’ve recently had a baby and they’ll be able to adapt the workout for you.
Comfort is key when it comes to your workout so it might be worth investing in some new activewear. Plus it’s a lovely treat! It’s worth noting that your back and cup size are likely to have changed so it’s certainly a good idea to get measured for a new sports bra post-pregnancy. Another area to focus on is your feet, which may still be holding a little extra water. Check that your trainers still fit comfortably without pinching anywhere.
It’s important to get back to doing what you enjoy safely, especially when it comes to movement and sport. Six Physio offers a number of services specialising in women’s health and pre and postnatal care, with 12 experienced physios treating out of seven London clinics. For more information or to book a consultation, visit sixphysio.com
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