Congratulations mama! Your baby is here, and you’ve entered a whole new world. Many mothers tend to feel unhappy about their bodies in the days post delivery. Don’t worry, mama! You can and will get back to your pre-pregnancy self. Just take a minute to remember how amazing your body is – it held on to your little one, gave it all the nourishing, and delivered it safely into your arms.
Nothing in the world prepares you for pregnancy or delivery or raising a baby. It is truly an experience owned by that individual. In my case, it was more interesting because I chose to have my baby after 35. This is tougher – physically, mentally and emotionally. You don’t have the energy of your 20s or 30s, you’re already set in your ways personally and professionally, and simply unprepared for the upheaval that a little one can cause.
Getting pregnant was the easy part of this journey for me (I have to thank my fitness and good health for this one), I had a fabulous pregnancy (again, hat tip to my good health and fitness), and a smooth delivery (a c-section, but, that’s common for late pregnancies because of a tighter cervix).
No one told me any of this, and my journey and story are my own.
Why is exercise important?
Before I recommend a postpartum workout routine, I want to discuss briefly the impact of being fit before, during, and after a pregnancy. Even if you have led a sedentary life until you got pregnant, starting on a low-impact workout routine will help you during your pregnancy and even after childbirth. Exercise helps manage all kinds of conditions – gestational diabetes, hypertension, and even acidity and bloating and most importantly goes a long way in relieving constipation.
When to begin?
The time after childbirth is more critical than the months leading up to the birth of your baby. You need to be extremely careful about how you recover. If you have a normal delivery, you can start being active in 2 to 3 weeks. In 45 days, you can start light workouts too. But if you’ve undergone a C-section, you’ll need to rest* for around 2 to 3 months before you can be active again (*unless you have been exercising for a long time & you understand your body and are confident to start sooner)
You need to be doubly cautious about abdomen separation before you begin your workouts. Abdomen separation, also known as Diastasis recti, mostly occurs after delivery. The space between your left and right abdominal muscles widens, resulting in a separation. One must be extremely cautious, as it can happen to anyone. If you have this condition, do not pick intense workouts. Get this rectified by consulting a physiotherapist first.
After my c-section, I healed fast, and began walking from week 3, and exercising 2 months postpartum with basic pelvic floor strength work and began with weights from month 3. I am right now 7 months postpartum, and nearing my pre-pregnancy body and weight. I exercised and ate clean consistently for 4 months. How was I so motivated? I knew if I had to happily raise my baby, I need to be happy and the one thing that makes me happy is exercise.
My prenatal workouts, which I have discussed before, really went a long way in keeping me healthy and active for the duration of my pregnancy.
Where to begin?
During pregnancy, the most affected parts of your body are your core and spine. So, when you begin a workout, start with core-strengthening movements and also workouts that will help with aligning the spine since it experiences an increase in pressure during pregnancy.
Practice movements such as bird dog, cat and camel, dead bug, planks, superman, clam shell and hip bridge. Walking is an excellent way to work in some low-intensity cardio.
If you don’t start soon enough, the fat gets too stubborn to shed. So don’t wait for a year or two after delivery. It’ll become a much longer process that will require more discipline. It’s easier and faster to lose the pregnancy fat if you begin in 3 months (3-6 months if you’ve had a C-section). Walking and doing planks (for normal delivery) are the most reliable way to get back in the game.
Jumping, dancing, brisk walking, squats, resistance band workouts and yoga and dance are options you one can easily turn to once you’re feeling confident. Swimming is the safest if you avoid going too fast. Floating and swimming slowly can be extremely soothing for your mind too. If you enjoy medium-intensity cardio, and feel up to it, turn to running and cycling.
A step-by-step guide
Postpartum workouts need not be intimidating at all. It is a little me-time, and self-care. If you’re willing to try it out, I’ve listed movements for you depending on how far along you are in your postpartum journey. It’s okay if you are starting late.
1. Movements for new mothers, who are 2 – 3 months postpartum. For the first 2 to 3 months focus on these movements along with walking 5000-8000 steps everyday
Lying Leg Slide
Lying Leg Lift
2. Movements for mothers who are in their 4th month postpartum and later. Continue the above and add these movements with walking 8000 to 10000 steps everyday
Assisted Plank & Side Plank
Discipline is Everything
One of the most common excuses for most new mothers to skip working out altogether is saying that they have no time. Don’t fall into that rut. Get help with child care if you need to or squeeze in a workout when the baby is napping. Thirty minutes of exercise for five days a week can help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight easily.
A key aspect of postpartum recovery is your diet. Breastfeeding mothers usually experience some major hunger pangs and this is because your body is burning calories producing milk for the baby, there are ways to manage this by eating well and eating healthy. Traditional food practices for postpartum mothers are usually superfoods that go a long way in aiding your recovery. If you know someone who can help with this special diet – seek their help.
You’ll go through a lot of changes, so tune in to your body and understand what it needs. Think of it as a new body, so take no chances, and don’t force things on it that you used to do. You’ll find your way to new activities or slowly build up to the ones you used to enjoy. Use professional guidance for post-partum planning if you don’t have the knowledge and the people to help out.
No matter what, don’t get discouraged if it takes time to see results. You’ve gone through a life-changing process, and it can take time for the body to adapt. Remember, it’s never the quantity that will get you to your goal, it’s only the quality, effort and hard work that will.
Written By – Shwetambari Shetty