Exercise after Childbirth- Why & How

Both pregnancy and labor can affect a woman’s body. A healthy eating plan along with regular physical fitness is very important for physical and emotional health post partum.
As per ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists):

“If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start exercising again soon after the baby is born. Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth—or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a cesarean delivery or other complications, ask your healthcare provider when it is safe to begin exercising again”.

According to NHS UK, if you exercised regularly before giving birth and you feel fit and well, you may be able to exercise soon after delivery.

MAYO Clinic recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity preferably spread throughout the week after pregnancy for most healthy women.

Being active and exercising regularly has significant health benefits in all stages of life, and applies equally to a new mother in the post pregnancy stage. When to start exercising after pregnancy depends on different factors, like your fitness levels pre-pregnancy, type of delivery, postpartum complications etc. Generally, for a normal delivery and uncomplicated postpartum period, you can start exercising as early as 4-6 weeks post childbirth. However, for C-section birth, it is advised to wait for 8 weeks after childbirth or until the recovery is complete. It is important to consult with your doctor before starting any postnatal exercise program if you have had any complications or had a C-section birth.

Benefits of exercise after Childbirth

Exercise after childbirth has numerous benefits and can improve your physical and mental wellbeing. Some of the benefits include:

• Helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles.
• Boosts energy.
• Improves cardiovascular fitness
• Promotes weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
• Useful in preventing postpartum depression.
• Promotes better sleep.
• Relieves stress.

Better yet, including physical activity in your daily routine helps you set a positive example for your child now and in the years to come

(ACOG guidelines & MAYO Clinic)

Guidelines for exercise post Child birth

When you are ready to start exercising, following are some guidelines to help you ease back or start a regular fitness routine:

• Aim to stay active for 20–30 minutes a day.
• It is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
• When you are ready to start exercising after childbirth, walking is a great option to start with.
• When you first start exercising after childbirth, try simple postpartum exercises that help strengthen major muscle groups, such as the legs, arms, hips, abdominal and back muscles. Examples include yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, sit-ups, and push-ups.
• Gradually add moderate-intensity exercise. Remember, even 10 minutes of exercise benefits your body.
• If you exercised vigorously before pregnancy or you are a competitive athlete, you can work up to vigorous-intensity activity.
• As you get ready for your workout, follow these steps:
1. Wear loose-fitting clothing that will help keep you cool.
2. If you are breastfeeding, feed your baby or express your milk before your workout to avoid any discomfort that may come from engorged breasts.
3. Remember to wipe down your breasts with water and towel or non-perfumed tissue after exercising as your baby might not like the sweaty or salty taste.
4. Wear a bra that fits well and gives plenty of support to protect your breasts.
5. Have a bottle of water handy and take several sips during your workout.

• You can join a gym, local fitness classes, check out DVD and online exercise classes. Smart phone apps for exercise and fitness can help you stay motivated, keep track of your progress, etc.
(ACOG Guidelines)

Warning Signs:

Remember not to push yourself too hard. Your body has undergone significant changes in the last 9-10 months and needs time to recover. Listen to your body and stop if you need to. There are certain warning signs to stop exercising and get medical advice:

• Excessively tired or fatigued
• Increased muscle aches and pains
• Experience increased postpartum vaginal discharge (lochia) or color changes in the discharge
• Develop active vaginal bleeding from the vagina
• Develop severe pelvic pain or vaginal discomfort
• Urinary leakage/incontinence
• Shortness of breath, dizziness, rapid or uneven heart beat

Regular exercise has significant health benefits in the post partum period. A healthy body and mind will help you better cope with the physical and emotional challenges in your journey of motherhood. It will also set a positive example for your children to learn to respect their body right from the start.

Clear the myths surrounding Pregnancy with the ilove9months app

Article by Ganga Raj- Director-Wellness and Co-Founder, I Love 9 Months. You can contact Ganga at ganga@ilove9months.com.

Ganga has 15+ years of experience in fitness and wellness consulting. Over the years, she completed her Reebok Group Fitness (2000), Institute for Yoga and Consciousness (2002), AFAA Resistance Training (2003), ACE Group Fitness (2005-07), AFPA Prenatal Postnatal Exercise Specialist (2012-14), Sivananda International Yoga Shiromani (2012), Zumba Basic Level (2012), SOHYAA Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga (2015), IBBFA certified prenatal Barre certification (2016) and Doula Training (2017) and many more.


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