One of the hardest parts of pregnancy is the radical changes that happen to your body–gaining weight, feeling tired and having to slow down are just a few. Regaining your strength and deciding when you can go back to a more strenuous exercise program after the birth of your baby is dependent on the circumstances of your pregnancy, the birth and your overall health.
Taking care of a newborn after the stressful 9 months of pregnancy and the exhausting process of labor and delivery can take its toll. Your recovery is important, and it may take some time before you’re feeling up to exercising again. If you’ve had a cesarean delivery, it’s likely your recovery time will be longer. Consult with your health-care provider before you return to any exercise activities.
The benefits of exercise are well known–increased heart health, weight loss, increased endurance, improved sleep and strength, and bone health. Exercising after you have your baby will provide all the traditional benefits–and new ones–as well as new challenges. It will be hard to find the time and energy to exercise now that your little one is home–the extra energy, losing weight and gaining strength will all be worth it. Exercise provides a respite for new moms from the demands of a newborn–walking outside with your baby in the stroller or sling will give you a few quiet moments and some fresh air.
If you exercised before and during pregnancy, it is probably going to be easier for you to begin again after your baby is born. Once you’ve talked with your health-care provider about returning to your exercise routine, begin slowly. Your mind may be ready to get back into it, but your body will be suffering from fatigue. Begin with brisk walking and slowly add time and difficulty–before you know it, you’ll be back to your old routine. If you’ve never exercised before, it’s likely to be harder for you to get started. Begin slowly with a brisk 5-minute walk and add 5 minutes a week. Set a goal of 30 minutes of activity a day. Stay away from swimming as a way to exercise until after your 6-week postnatal checkup to decrease the risk of infection.
It may be difficult–even if you’re highly motivated–to find the time to fit exercise into your new schedule. Be patient with yourself and get creative. Ask other moms to swap babysitting time and use yours to exercise. Many gyms offer on-site daycare–check beforehand, as some have age requirements for babies. Buy a running/walking stroller and hit the trails.
If you’ve returned to your exercise routine and experience any of the following symptoms, you should stop the activity and consult your health-care provider. If you experience an increase in vaginal bleeding (that is not your returning period) or have passed any blood clots while exercising, stop immediately and contact your health-care provider. If you have sore or tender calves that are different than overuse discomfort, again, call your health-care provider.