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Guidelines while exercising
If you have been exercising throughout your pregnancy and have an uneventful delivery, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of the exercises. Always listen to your body. If you experience any increase in the lochia (post-delivery bleeding) or pain or feeling exhausted post exercising, it may indicate you have overstrained yourself.
Pelvic Floor (Kegels) Exercise
You may find that pelvic floor exercise appears to be THE exercise recommended for new mothers. This is because the pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus and bowel for the women. These muscles also provide support for the pregnancy and aid in delivery process.
During pregnancy and delivery, these muscles may be weakened. Hence, the need for you to exercise these muscles as soon as possible post-delivery to strengthen them again to avoid complications such as urinary and faecal incontinence.i
You can exercise your pelvic floor sitting, standing or lying down.
You need to firstly relax your body by taking in and slowly releasing your breath.
Imagine you need to empty your bladder desperately but you have to hold it. Feel the muscle you are squeezing. You can also identify the muscle by stopping your urine mid-way but this is only to assist you to accurately identify the muscle and not for exercising.
Ensure you are not holding your breath or sucking in your tummy while you are squeezing.
Once you have identified the muscle, you can now proceed to do your exercise. You may need to try a few times to be sure you have the right muscles.
When squeezing, you should also feel like you are lifting the muscles upwards.
Start off by doing about 10 times in a row (one set). Squeeze, lift and release. Ensure you are breathing normally while you are squeezing your pelvic floor.
Practise daily, gradually holding the squeezing and lifting for a few seconds longer. It is important to rest between sets of squeezing.
You should aim to do between one to three times a day with each set of 10 times.
If you are unsure of how you are doing or if you are making progress, it is advisable to speak to your midwife or doctor.
Can I exercise if I am breastfeeding?
Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on the well-being of mothers. Before starting your exercise routine, it is advisable to get clearance from your midwife or doctor. Start with simple gentle low level exercises.ii To ensure that you can enjoy your exercise, keep it at a comfortable and gentle/ moderate level with the aim to maintain/improve your general well-being. Do remember to drink plenty of water/nourishing fluids, have 3 balanced meals with all the food groups daily and wear a good supporting bra and comfortable outfit while exercising.
Start slow and gentle and work your way up.