Tending to a baby is physically and emotionally demanding as well as time-consuming. It very often leads to gross attention deficit towards yourself. But keep reminding yourself that you are a mother, not a martyr. You need to take care of yourself. A right diet, some sleep and exercise after delivery will help you to be fit and healthy. A fit mommy can attend to her baby and manage her personal and professional responsibilities and ambitions.
Why exercise after delivery is vital
Childbirth brings about physiological and psychological changes in a mother. Childbirth can leave you emotionally overwhelmed and physically weak. Also, caring for a baby can add tremendously to the pressures of an already busy life.
Exercise is the key to recover from childbirth and strengthen yourself to cope with the demands of motherhood.
1. Exercise to recover from childbirth
Regular exercise, along with a right diet is the key to recovery from childbirth. Exercise after delivery will help to:
- Manage hormonal changes
- Prevent clotting
- Ease or prevent back pain
Manage hormonal changes
The hormonal changes post-delivery can bring about fatigue, irritability, emotional upheavals and mood swings. In some cases, hormonal changes can also lead to postpartum depression. Regular exercise is often recommended to beat baby blues and PPD .
Blood clots and bleeding for the first 6 weeks after childbirth are normal . However excessive clotting can pose a risk to the mother. Remaining reasonably mobile and active through light exercises can help prevent excessive blood clots.
After a C-section delivery, breathing and leg exercises are recommended. Since these exercises help to avoid shallow breathing and possible risk of clots in legs which can cause pulmonary embolism .
Ease or prevent back pain
Your body especially your spine changes shape during pregnancy to carry the growing foetus . Post-delivery your spine slowly regains its shape while the muscles are still weak from pregnancy and childbirth. The weak muscles, coupled with poor posture during feeding can lead to back pain. Exercise help to prevent or alleviate a backache by strengthening the back and abdominal muscles.
2. Exercise to sustain demands of childcare
Motherhood is very demanding. It can drain your body and mind. So to handle the constant needs of childcare, a mother needs to be physically and mentally strong. Exercise is crucial to achieving that. Exercise improves your physical strength and helps to boost your energy levels, relieve stress, and promotes better sleep. In short, exercise helps to make you a fit mommy!
3. Exercise to shed the pregnancy weight
Right diet and regular exercise are key to shed the weight gained during pregnancy and maintain weight post-delivery. Exercising also helps strengthen abdominal muscles and tone them to get back in shape.
Exercise after delivery
You can go for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activities every week post childbirth . Depending on your fitness and activity level before and during pregnancy, any complication during childbirth, you can resume exercising very soon after delivery.
Your muscles are weak after pregnancy and childbirth. So start with simple muscle strengthening exercises immediately after delivery.
1. Strengthening & recovery exercises immediately after delivery
A mother who has a normal delivery can start some strengthening exercises within a day of delivery. After C-section, you can begin after 24-72 hours after surgery. Start with following exercises immediately after delivery with your gynaecologist’s approval:
- Pelvic floor squeeze [6 watch from 0:00 – 1:00]
- Pelvic tilt 
- Bend and straighten leg exercises (your GYN may recommend this)
Note: If you had C-section, you can also include following post-operative exercises:
- Deep breathing exercise and huffing to prevent chest infection and clotting
- Circulatory exercises to improve circulation of blood in legs 
Note: If you had a normal delivery, you can also include exercises to tighten tummy  post-approval from your GYN. In case of C-section, discuss about abdominal exercises with your GYN first.
2. Low impact cardio and strengthening exercise after delivery
Generally, a regular, low impact, an exercise routine can be resumed six weeks post-delivery. At your six weeks, postnatal examination discuss with GYN about postnatal exercise. Once your GYN gives the go-ahead, please dive headlong. Following are highly recommended postpartum activities to boost energy, strengthen and lose pregnancy weight:
- Swimming (post bleeding stops or as advised by your GYN)
- Gym/weight training
Avoid lifting heavy weights, high impact exercises (e.g. running, aerobics) for 4-6 months postpartum. The hormonal changes that affect our joints during pregnancy can take that long to settle in many mothers. Always consult with your doctor or your trainer when resuming such exercises post delivery. Depending on your fitness level prior to delivery, you may be able to recover faster and resume your routine (or high impact exercises) sooner. But always listen to your body when you resume exercise.
Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the core muscles including the pelvic floor, abdominal and back muscles. Following exercises can help to strengthen and tone the core post-delivery:
- Kegels/floor squeeze to strengthen pelvic floor [Watch Video]
- Pelvic Tilt to tone abs and relax your back [Watch Video]
- Hip Flexor Stretch for hip and back
- Weight training for overall toning
Note: Listen to your body when you exercise and respect its response. Start slow, and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise. Do not rush to get back to pre-pregnancy size.
Tips to make exercising a daily routine
Childcare is demanding. But follow these simple tips to ensure you exercise regularly:
- Exercise daily for at least 15-20 minutes
- Maintain a regular schedule for exercise
- Hire help or ask family/friends to attend to your baby when you exercise
- If no help, choose exercises you can do around* baby or when the baby sleeps
- Exercise with a peer (fellow mom) so that you remain motivated
- Join postnatal exercise class where you can bring baby along
*e.g. You can wear your baby in a baby carrier (or put the baby in a stroller) and walk.
Your maternal instinct will drive you to give your child the best of everything. Keeping the focus on your wellness will catalyse that effort. Exercise after childbirth for a fit, energetic and happy you. Only a healthy and happy mother can raise a healthy and cheerful child!
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