You just gave birth. Now Let’s work on the re-birth of you.
Dedication and patience are key to losing postpartum baby weight and looking like your pre-baby self again.
Every woman’s birthing experience is different and so is their recovery. Some bounce back immediately, ready to take on the mothering world, some prefer to tread carefully, and sit down even more so! Whether it’s perineal tears and stitches, cesarean wounds, pelvic girdle pain, abdominal muscle separation, back pain or just your body is not the same as it was pre-pregnancy, there are some simple things you can do to get the best support after delivery.
Having a baby changes your body and changes your life. You may not like the changes, or you may enjoy feeling different and feeling like a mother. If you’re happy the way you are, that’s great. If you feel uncomfortable with your body, though, you might want to make some changes. You can tighten a saggy tummy with exercise, and any weight you have gained will gradually drop off if you eat healthy and exercise regularly. It won’t happen overnight. It took nine months to make a baby and it could take at least that long to get back into shape again. Even after your uterus shrinks back into your pelvis, you may continue to look somewhat pregnant for several weeks or longer. That’s because your abdominal muscles get stretched out during pregnancy, and it will take time – and regular exercise – to get your belly back in shape.
The sudden physical changes from the birthing process along with the steadier changes from pregnancy combine to leave many new mums feeling flabby and deflated, often physically and mentally. Not only will getting regular, light exercise make you feel better, but vitamin D from sunshine is very beneficial for your immune system and mood too. Many people, especially in colder climates or if you’re housebound, have been found to be deficient in vitamin D, which can effect mood, energy levels and your immune system, so make sure you get out in the sun daily. Please see our article on Vitamin D in pregnancy and post pregnancy by Dr. Derrick Thompson here.
Be patient, and know that your former self (or someone closely resembling her) will return. How long it takes depends on a number of factors. Your age, whether this is your first – or fourth – pregnancy, your fitness level, and your genes all help determine if and when you’ll be able to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans again.
Here we list some important things to get done for your health after birth:
1. Make sure you get clearance from your doctor or health care professional. This is usually at the 6 week follow up appointment with your midwife or Obstetrician before starting any exercise program. Its also important to have had the essential checks post birth, so that you know your baseline and what you need to focus on.
2. Abdominal separation – Do yourself a favour ensure you get checked at hospital and at 6 weeks. You will need to understand whether or not you have any abdominal separation (57% of women will suffer from this immediately after childbirth and a further 34% will still have unresolved abdominal separation or DRAM at 6 weeks, so its important that you get a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist or physical therapist).
3. Understand the state of your pelvic floor – Have you been doing your pelvic floor or “kegel” exercises during pregnancy and shortly after birth? Engaging your pelvic floor muscles regularly before and after labour is important to maintain and regain the strength of your pelvic floor and to reduce the chance of leaks. It seems that the more children you have, the weaker your pelvic floor muscles can become, but the key is to work at getting them back in shape as quickly after child birth as possible. An added benefit of stronger pelvic floor muscles is greater sexual pleasure. If you want more information about the pelvic floor please see our comprehensive sections dedicated to the pelvic floor here.
4. Understand your limits – Take it slow and step it up gradually. Know your limits and obtain the advice of a women’s health professional or a personal trainer with experience with women’s health issues. Walking is a great and gentle exercise, particularly for the first six weeks while your body is recovering. It’s very easy, gets you and baby into the fresh air, and is excellent for stress. Start your walks slowly, and increase the speed, time and distance of your walks as you feel comfortable. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop, and see your doctor. Exercise classes or sport are best to hold off until your 6 week check up, so you can get the all clear from your doctor or obstetrician.
Now for some tips to help with your post-pregnancy body shape:
1. Love the body you are in, even if it’s not at your ideal pre-pregnancy body shape. That’s the first step.
2. Start exercising (pelvic floor exercises and dedicated core and abdominal strengthening exercises – for a list of exercises – see our list here) – just starting will help you enormously. Build some time in to do some light exercise that you enjoy, have your little one taken care of or just go for a walk with them in the pram. Join a group exercise class or start your own with your mother’s group – just be careful with the exercises you do.
3. Eat well – Nutrition plays a vital role in returning to your pre-pregnancy weight and body shape. Nutritionist Vicky Gomez shares her tips for healthy weight loss here.
4. Wear two pairs of underwear – that should provide you support for your pelvic floor or a pair of really supportive underwear. Feeling supported down where you did all the work can make all the difference both physically and emotionally. Having compression to the area will aid in healing and to provide the sense of support to your pelvic floor muscles and perineum.
5. Sleep & rest – You wont have the motivation to exercise if you have not had adequate sleep or rest. So nap when the baby naps, to get more ZZZ’s. Once you have rested up you will feel ready to build in some exercise in your day. Make sure you are sleeping well
6. Breastfeed if you can – Good news: Breastfeeding burns calories. It can help mothers lose extra weight gained during pregnancy. 1st on the priority list – Breastfeeding, not only is it the best start for your baby, it saves you money on formula, you get to bond with your baby but breastfeeding burns calories baby!
7. Get a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist or post natal exercise specialist – the directory at Bump Moves lists accredited women’s post natal fitness professionals as well as you can purchase health care professional DVD’s and books that you can easily do at home. Bump Moves subsidizes the first consultation with accredited health professionals by 40% – click here to find out more.