It’s no secret that your body changes significantly during pregnancy and once you’ve had your baby it won’t look or feel the same as it did before you were pregnant. Many moms feel despondent about the changes in their body and want to lose weight or eliminate stretch marks and flabby skin soon after baby is born. Being bombarded by images of celebs who’ve bounced back looking even better than before they had their baby, doesn’t help.
Remember that whether you had a natural birth or a C-section, birthing your baby will have taken a toll on your body. You will experience bleeding as your uterus sheds its lining, and you may experience cramps – that could be painful – as your uterus shrinks back to its regular size. You’ll be adjusting to sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, breastfeeding and getting used to having a new baby. Given all of this, it’s important to be realistic about your expectations around exercise and how your body looks.
For women who’ve had an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth, it’s generally fine to begin with light exercise when your baby’s a few days old – provided your doctor hasn’t told you not to. Walking is a great way to get out of the house and move your body without putting it under too much strain. The bonus is that you can do this with your baby in a pram or carrier. Light exercise is also good for mental health, especially for women who are experiencing post-partum depression. If you’ve had a C-section, you’ll have to wait for your doctor to give you the go-ahead before starting to exercise.
It’s a good idea to wait for your obstetrician or midwife to give you the all-clear at your six-week check-up before doing more strenuous exercise. Some sources suggest starting off doing the type of exercise you were doing in your third trimester, then moving on to exercise suitable for the second and first trimesters, before returning to a pre-pregnancy exercise routine. Relaxin, the hormone that loosens your ligaments in preparation for birth, will still be present in your body for a few weeks after the birth – and it’s important not to start off doing high-impact exercise immediately after birth as you might cause permanent injury to your joints.
Most women will lose some weight within the first week or two, and it’s also common for women who are breastfeeding to lose weight very quickly. Find exercises that will strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscles – as these were particularly affected by pregnancy. Eat healthy foods, drink a lot of water, and avoid crash diets, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Most importantly, allow yourself the time to recover post pregnancy and to spend time bonding with and getting used to your new baby. If you do decide to exercise, make sure you listen to your body and don’t pressure yourself to do more than what is realistic. Your body took a long time to grow a baby and it might take a while before you’re back in the shape you want to be. – Gabi Falanga