Tips for Exercising After Having a Baby

Parents taking exercise class with their babies

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Exercising in the postpartum period is a way to help you get back into shape and stay healthy for your baby and yourself. Many moms want to know when they can start exercising after giving birth. The general advice from physicians and midwives is to wait six to eight weeks before really getting into a fitness routine.

Overview

You may be asked to wait longer or hold back a bit if you have had a cesarean section or a vaginal delivery with complications. Your doctor or midwife can give you specifics on your personal timeline for exercise. In most cases, light and gentle movements are fine and will feel good.

Moms who engage in light exercise after birth tend to heal more quickly and feel better sooner than their less active counterparts.

Gentle movement should begin within hours after you give birth, even if you required surgery. This doesn't mean a jog around the block, but it does mean getting up and moving around your hospital room or in your home. Even after a c-section or after an epidural, you can begin to walk with assistance in just a few hours. Though the first few attempts may be painful, light, gentle movements are beneficial for circulation and healing.

Benefits of Postpartum Exercise

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercising during the postpartum period may help with recovery by:

  • Strengthening abdominal muscles
  • Boosting energy
  • Improving mood
  • Improving sleep
  • Relieving stress

How to Begin

Starting with a daily brief walk after the first week or two is perfect. Watch for overdoing it, which is not hard to do early on. A good way to tell if you are doing too much is if your bleeding gets heavier or brighter red within a few hours of moving.

Postpartum bleeding after exercise shouldn't change too much. If it does, you're overdoing it. You should also stop exercising if you feel pain.

If you were exercising prior to pregnancy, you may feel more of a need to get out and get going. On a limited basis, some practitioners will give you the go-ahead. You might be asked to do modified yoga versus aerobics, but stretching and gentle movements are fine. You may benefit from pelvic floor and abdominal strengthening exercises.

Remember that your body is still adjusting to its non-pregnant state. Your center of balance is shifting again, hormones will continue to make your joints a bit softer, and then you have just the feeling of exhaustion that can accompany any birth. This means that even when you have the energy, you may be a bit more prone to injury for a while. Go slowly and be gentle with yourself during this time.

Considerations

Once you are healed and ready for a regular postpartum workout routine, ease back in slowly as you return to pre-pregnancy exercise. Keep the following rules in mind:

  • Wait until you're given the go-ahead.
  • Slowly work your way back into a fitness routine.
  • Start with short sessions of exercise: 20 to 30 minutes a day, total.
  • Stop exercising if you have pain, increased bleeding, or other negative signs.
  • Think slow and gentle at first.
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