Although exercise is important at any stage in life, studies have shown that exercise can truly enhance your overall postpartum health.
Bringing a new baby home can create upheaval in your household, no matter how many times you have done it. Regular exercise helps ease the stresses that come with a new baby. Other benefits include:
How soon can you safely start exercising after you have the baby? Although you may be able to do some mild exercises within a few days after delivery, talk to your doctor about when it is fine to return to extended physical activity. Women who have had a cesarean section might be advised by their doctor not to begin exercising for at least 6 weeks after delivery. However, this refers to abdominal muscle exercise, and it is possible to do other exercise for brief periods and gradually increase the time. Go slow, and listen to your body. The most important guiding factors will be how you feel and your energy level.
Pregnancy and delivery cause unique physical changes. For example, during birth, the pelvic floor muscles are stretched. Having strong pelvic floor muscles is important throughout life to prevent incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. This is a condition in which the pelvic organs lose suspension and fall through the vagina. Kegel exercises —the rhythmic tightening and releasing of pelvic muscles—are the best way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. They can be done anytime, anywhere—even shortly after giving birth.
When you begin exercising, remember the following safety tips:
Although you may feel psychologically motivated to get back in shape, the reality of taking care of a newborn may hinder your best intentions. Here are some tips that will help you fit exercise into your daily routine and improve your workouts:
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Council on Exercise
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
ACOG Committee Obstetric Practice. ACOG Committee opinion. Number 267, January 2002 (Reaffirmed 2009): exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstet Gynecol. 2002;99(1):171-17.
Crowell DT. Weight change in the postpartum period. A review of the literature. Journal of Nurse Midwifery . 1995; 40(5):418-423.
Getting in shape after your baby is born. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq131.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140131T1243185529. Accessed January 31, 2014.
Larson-Meyer DE. Effect of postpartum exercise on mothers and their offspring: a review of the literature. Obesity Research. 2002;10(8):841-853.
Postpartum period. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 5, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2014.
Ringdahl EN. Promoting postpartum exercise: an opportune time for change. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 2002;30:2.
Wallace JP, Inbar G, Ernsthausen K. Infant acceptance of postexercise breast milk. Pediatrics. 1992;89(6 Pt 2):1245-1247.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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