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Why you should exercise
Exercise, at this stage, does not mean going to the gym or training for a marathon. Many new mothers are understandably tired post-delivery but there are many who are equally eager to start exercising to try to regain their pre pregnancy shape and weight as soon as possible. Mothers who exercise during the post-partum period may feel more energetic, tone up their pelvic and abdominal muscles earlier, have better self-esteem, sleep better and may minimize the incidences of postnatal depression.i
When to start
If you had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you can start gentle exercises as soon as you feel you are up to it. This may be as early as a few days post-delivery. You can start off gently with pelvic floor exercise, walking and gentle stretches. Exercise for 10-15 minutes daily to begin with and gradually increase the duration depending on how you feel.
More vigorous exercises such as running or post natal yoga should only be commenced after your 6 week post natal check up with your midwife or doctorii. You may start swimming if you have stopped bleeding completely (Lochia) for a week and your stitches have completely healed. This is to avoid infections from the pool water to the uterus and wound.
If you have had a Caesarean Section birth, you may start some gentle exercises once you are no longer in pain. If in doubt, it is best to check with your midwife or doctor. For other exercises, it is wise to wait till you have had your 6-week postnatal follow up and discuss with your midwife or doctor on what exercises and when you can resume. You may have to delay swimming until the wound is completely healed to avoid infection. As with a normal vaginal birth, start off gently and gradually increase the duration and intensity of the exercises.
Types of exercise
Gentle exercises post-delivery include pelvic floor or Kegels, deep abdominal breathing exercises, walking, gentle stretches and swimming.
Vigorous exercises include running or jogging, yoga and weight strengthening exercises.
Start slow and gentle and work your way up.
It is not advisable to do sit ups/abdominal crunches, push-ups and planks until you have the all clear from your doctor/midwife after your 6-week postnatal check. Doing these exercises too early may further stress your abdominal muscles which were weakened and stretched during pregnancy. It may take a few months before you may be able to do abdominal crunches or planking as your core muscles need time to become strong again. It is advisable to gradually increase the intensity of your exercisei under the guidance of a professional.