Whether you’ve kept up a fitness regimen throughout your pregnancy, or are eagerly looking forward to your first trip to the gym in ages, navigating the world of postpartum exercise can be confusing, and a bit overwhelming. We’re here to help.
BRIDES spoke with Dr. Iffath Hoskins, clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health, for expert advice on working out as a new mom.
While you should always wait for clearance from your OB/GYN, Hoskins says that, generally speaking, “After waiting approximately 2 weeks, you can start exercises provided they are not new ones or more intense than what your body is used to.” Though she warns women to avoid lifting heavy weights, as this puts strain on pelvic and abdominal muscles (which are still healing). These types of strenuous activities can be resumed (or started) after approximately two months.
We already know that exercise is good for you, but there are specific benefits for new moms. Hoskins says that by working out after giving birth you will feel better and will maintain good fitness, muscle tone and most importantly, minimize risk of blood clots (which may occur due to being sedentary).
According to the Mayo Clinic, additional benefits include:
· Promote weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
· Improve your cardiovascular fitness
· Strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
· Boost your energy level
· Relieve stress
· Promote better sleep
The best postpartum exercise is the kind your body is already used to, so returning to your preferred and most consistent mode of fitness is ideal. It’s also wise to check out specific classes that are targeted to women during this time period, such as mommy and me yoga classes and postpartum Pilates.
Overall, Hoskins says, “Be as active as possible, slowly increasing with time. But, take ample rest and stay well hydrated. Be vigilant about mood changes and inform your doctor if your motivation [or] pleasure are absent.”
Effects on Breastfeeding
Some women worry that physical activity may have a negative effect on milk production or breastfeeding in general, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists it won’t affect milk production, composition, or infant growth. Though, they advise, nursing women should consider feeding their infants before exercising in order to avoid exercise discomfort of engorged breast, and recommend nursing women ensure they are adequately hydrated before partaking in physical activity.
"Start gradually," says Hoskins. "Don’t overdo it at any one time. It is ok to revert backwards and then restart slowly again.”
The Mayo Clinic also offers encouraging advice, while acknowledging the time constraints and difficulties that may prevent you from getting back into the swing of things. “Hormonal changes can make you emotional and some days you might feel too tired for a full workout," the doctors write. "But don't give up. Seek the support of your partner, family and friends. Schedule time for physical activity. Exercise with a friend to stay motivated.”
While starting (or picking up) a workout regimen is never easy, especially now, doing so can offer a world of benefits to your new life as a mom.