A simple and easy guide to get back into shape after childbirth
Motherhood is bliss and of all things that women are anxious about with regards to pregnancy, getting back into proper shape is probably the most tedious one. However, it is an impossible goal to achieve without any adequate knowledge. It is always recommended that women should not return to post-natal exercise or yoga until their bleeding has completely stopped. If a delivery is through C-section, then we need to wait for six weeks before starting any physical activity.
If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, then you can actually be setting yourself back from real
recovery, because post partum the bones are fragile. And, if excess pressure is added, it may have an adverse effect.
Exercise doesn’t have any adverse effects on breast milk volume or composition, nor does it affect a
nursing infant’s growth. Still some research suggests that high-intensity exercises might cause lactic acid to accumulate in breast milk and produce a sour taste that a baby might not like; however, this is rare.
These are a few exercises to start with, to gain that shape back:
● Working your pelvic floor will help you protect against leaking urination (incontinence). You can also try to gently squeeze your lower tummy muscles to help them regain strength. One of the first forms of exercise you can start to incorporate daily can be a kegel exercises that is related to strengthening your
pelvic floor muscles.
● Gently tighten up and then relax the muscles of your pelvic floor, this can be done lying down, sitting
or standing. Start with just 2-3 seconds per tightening, that is, contractions moving up to five and then gradually to 10 seconds. This can go up to maximum 20 seconds. Try and start with two contractions every time and then you can increase it to five contractions, several times per day.
● It is very common that women experience a separation of the abdominal muscles, specifically
the rectus abdominals, also known as the six-pack muscles. Doctors can check this for you when you return for your six-week check up. How to check for abdominal muscle separation:
● Lie down on your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Then put your chin towards your chest, and raise your head and shoulders from the ground, until your neck is 6-8 inches off the floor. Hold one arm out in front of you.
● With the other hand, you can check for a gap or bulge in the middle part of your abdomen. There can be a soft region between these muscles.
● If there is a gap more than the width of two fingers, avoid further separation by doing abdominal strengthening, crossing your hands over the abdominal area to support and bring together the muscles.
● Try to exhale when you lift your head. This reduces pressure in the abdominal cavity and allows your abdominal muscles to be work
● Better to tighten the abdominal muscles when lifting the head to avoid abdominal bulging or straining. If this is severe, then we need to work with a physio-therapist to help draw the muscles back together. It is also advised not to try extreme deep twisting poses that can inhibit the muscles from repair.
Here are a few exercising tips you can do in the comfort of your home. Let’s dive into the details of few exercises:
● Pelvic tilts will help tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles and relieve backache. Apart from working on the pelvic floor, going for gentle walks is also a great way for most new mums to exercise. Getting out in fresh air and deep breathing will help to protect against post-natal depression too. Abdominal breathing will help you regain the strength in your abdominal muscles and relax at the same time.
● Ankle circles to enhance circulation and improve leg strength.
● Various stretches to improve blood circulation and tighten up your muscles. Check with your physio to get exercises specific to your body. Relaxin, a hormone responsible for softening of ligaments as well as joints during
pregnancy and childbirth, can stay in the body for up to six months postpartum. High levels of relaxin can lead to wobbly, unstable joints and a loose pelvis. Again, be mindful that the activity you choose is not too jerky in movement or else it can affect your bone health and cause various issues. So, choose your exercise wisely and stay healthy!