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Postpartum Fitness

Image for post preg fitness Although exercise is important at any stage in life, studies have shown that exercise can truly enhance your overall postpartum health.

The Benefits of Exercise After Delivery

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:

  • Improves cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness
  • Increases your energy level
  • Decreases anxiety and depression
  • Prevents postpartum weight retention that can lead to obesity

Preparing for Postpartum Exercise

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 okay 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 slowly 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.

Safety Tips

When you begin exercising, remember the following safety tips:

  • Do not exercise vigorously in hot, humid weather or if you have a fever.
  • Avoid jerky, jumping, or bouncing motions, or changing direction suddenly.
  • Cool down after all workouts.
  • Stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor if you experience pain, lightheadedness, rapid heart beat, pubic or back pain, bleeding, or palpitations.
  • Remember to stay well hydrated.

Tips for Fitting Exercise In

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:

RESOURCES:

American Council on Exercise
https://www.acefitness.org

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
https://www.acog.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Women's Health Network
http://www.cwhn.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
https://sogc.org

REFERENCES:

ACOG Committee Opinion No. 650: Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;126(6):e135-e142. Reaffirmed 2017.

Exercise after pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq131.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140131T1243185529. Updated June 2015. Accessed November 10, 2017.

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 management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116868/Postpartum-management. Updated November 7, 2016. Accessed November 10, 2017.

Wright KS, Quinn TJ, Carey GB. Infant acceptance of breast milk after maternal exercise. Pediatrics. 2002;109(4):585-589.

Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 1/31/2014