Exercise after pregnancy

This is what was published in the Parnell/Newmarket/City Plunket Newsletter. We hope you enjoy our column and we welcome your feedback.

The importance of exercise after pregnancy

By Alexandra Couling

There is plenty of evidence to suggest exercise is just as important after pregnancy as it is throughout pregnancy.

As well as numerous health benefits, exercise following pregnancy enables you to prepare for the demands of becoming a new mother by increasing your strength, muscle tone and building endurance. It helps you more effectively carry your increased weight, resulting in less discomfort.

Exercise can also help you to sleep better and can overall increase your mood, self esteem and wellbeing. This is especially important for women suffering from postnatal depression as exercise can help to manage it better and thus enable you to enjoy your new baby much more. Other benefits include maintenance of bone density, increased aerobic fitness and improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

If you are suffering from musculoskeletal pain following your pregnancy, prescribed exercises can help to manage the pain. Similarly, specific exercises can help with pregnancy related urinary incontinence. It is important to note that moderate exercise after pregnancy can be undertaken without affecting breast milk production or infant development. Please ensure you keep well hydrated if you are exercising while breastfeeding.

So when should you start to exercise after giving birth? Gentle walking can be commenced as soon as you feel comfortable. Following a caesarean birth, you should generally wait at least six weeks or until you have been given clearance by your doctor before starting aerobic exercise. This allows adequate healing to take place. Low intensity exercise such as walking is the best form of exercise to start first. You can then progress to swimming, weight training and aerobic exercises. Postnatal pilates is a great place to start as it is gentle and focuses on improving your strength and reducing any pain you may be experiencing. If you are experiencing pelvic floor issues such as urinary dribbling, leakage, or urgency, then it is important for you to see a physiotherapist specialising in women’s health, who will be qualified to prescribe you exercises or refer you on should that be required.

Remember, most importantly you should try to do exercise that you enjoy as it is much easier to stick to on a regular basis. If you enjoy training in groups then get together with other new mums where you can perhaps share your new experiences while working out. Set yourself small, achievable goals and keep re-evaluating them. Before you know it you will be back to shape in good time. Good luck and have fun!


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