Why Postnatal Exercise Is So Important
Having a baby will significantly change your life and your body – there are numerous reasons why exercise is so important after giving birth to your baby. There are of course the more obvious benefits such as weight loss, however there are so many other reasons why postnatal exercise is so important.
During pregnancy and childbirth all women experience a massive physical transformation of their bodies – throughout pregnancy internal organs, soft tissue structures and skin are all forced to stretch to accommodate the baby. Following birth, it takes some time for the body to recover and for everything to reduce back to its original size. How quickly this process takes place can depend on many things, including fitness level prior to pregnancy, diet, postnatal exercise and genetics – every woman is different, and individuals may take varying amounts of time to regain their former shape following birth. There is however, no doubt as to the importance of postnatal exercise.
During pregnancy the body experiences a hormonal transformation. Following birth, hormone levels begin to return to their normal level and for some women this can lead to mood swings, feelings of anxiety, irritability and tearfulness. Some women develop postnatal depression which is characterised by continuous low mood and irritability, negative thoughts, low energy, poor sleep and in some cases, difficulties caring for the baby. Exercise is mood enhancing, helping to promote a natural hormonal balance.
Postnatal exercise is beneficial to all women, it not only helps to restore physical health, but can also help to improve low mood, sleep quality, relieve stress and help to prevent postnatal depression. Being fit and healthy also improves stamina levels helping the mother to cope with the demands of motherhood – making looking after a new-born much easier.
Joining in with regular exercise is also a social activity, meeting with other women going through a similar experience can provide additional support and boost morale making the mother feel more positive about the birth of the baby.
Different Types of Post Natal Exercise
Immediately following birth, it is important to listen to your body and not do too much too soon – the first steps toward regaining your fitness may include going out for walks, doing gentle stretches and pelvic floor exercises.
Many women resume more vigorous types of physical activities such as running, dance classes etc. following their six week check up for natural births and 10 to 12 weeks post caesarean section.
Following a caesarean section, recovery time may be longer and greater precaution will need to be taken when resuming exercise. It is important to ensure the wound has had sufficient time to heal and any exercise will not set back recovery time. Some women may also experience greater fatigue following a caesarean section.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
This type of exercise can be done anywhere – sitting, standing or walking. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles will help prevent against accidental urine leaks, strengthen and tone the muscles around the bladder, vagina and back passage. It can also help to treat prolapse and improve intercourse, as well as helping the perineum and the vagina heal more quickly and improving circulation to the area which can help reduce any swelling and bruising.
A brisk daily walk around your local park is a great way to get back into doing exercise. This can even include your baby in their buggy or stroller as part of the workout. Many gyms and other health facilities offer postnatal fitness groups for mums, babies and their buggies.
Swimming is a highly effective low impact, postnatal exercise, which works the heart and lungs without putting too much pressure on the joints, whilst toning and tightening the muscles.
It is important to wait post caesarean section until the wound has completely healed and scarred over before doing any water related activities.
Highly beneficial – yoga encourages relaxation and de-stresses whilst strengthening core muscles and helping to relieve and prevent aches and pains.
Pilates is another highly effective type of exercise which strengthens the muscles which will have weakened during pregnancy.
Note: Before participating in any type of exercise class not specifically designed for postnatal women, it is important to inform the class instructor that you have recently had a baby to ensure that exercises are suitable.
Postnatal Exercise Classes
This type of class is specifically designed to help new mothers regain their muscle tone and improve cardiovascular fitness, by focussing on specific pelvic floor strengthening exercises, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility as well as educating regarding suitable exercise for the home. Postnatal classes also provide a great way to not only return to exercise safely and effectively as well as meeting other new mothers and their babies.
ProPhysiotherapy offers a wide range of physiotherapy and sports-related services in Wandsworth. Get in touch today for more information.