The Do’s and Don’ts of Hitting the Gym after Childbirth
Your body isn’t the same as it was before you were pregnant.
You have had to deal with hormonal and other body changes in order for it to be prepared for childbirth. This often means that you don’t have the strength to do the same physical activities at the same intensity after you gave birth, and you shouldn’t, because it can lead to serious consequences.
But you probably can’t wait until you’re ready to get back into shape and get your pre-pregnancy body back. You can exercise a couple of months after you give birth, but your exercises need to be adjusted and you need to be extra careful not to overwork yourself and injure your currently sensitive body.
What you SHOULDN’T do:
1. Don’t become frustrated when you can’t do exercises at the same intensity as before.
A certified personal trainer Lisa Corsello explains that many women focus on what they could do before pregnancy and become frustrated when they realize they can’t do it anymore. At that time, while you’re breastfeeding and not a long time has passed since you gave birth, you are at risk of suffering pelvic and sacral stress fractures if you push yourself too hard too, soon after childbirth. This is because during pregnancy the ligaments in your body relax so your child can pass through the birth canal. These ligaments stay loose for a while after you give birth.
2. Don’t exercise at a high level until you stop breastfeeding.
The hormones that help your body produce breast milk also influence your strength and ability to exercise. You are not as agile as you were before the pregnancy. This is why Janet Hamilton, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a clinical exercise psychologist from Atlanta’s Running Strong, recommends not exercising at high intensity while breastfeeding, but waiting until the baby starts eating regular food. In the meantime, you can do some low intensity workouts, or walk, which will help you get into shape and won’t put you in danger.
3. Don’t do crunches.
As Jacquelyn Brennan, a certified strength and conditioning specialist suggests, you shouldn’t do abdominal crunches or any kinds of twisting exercises until your doctor says you’re clear of diastasis recti. This is a common problem which happens during pregnancy, when the uterus is expanding and potentially causing the rectus abdominis muscle (abs) to split down the center. With crunches, this problem can become more worrying and even require medical intervention.
4. Don’t drink less water because you’re afraid you may leek.
If that happens, it just means you should do more kegels to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
What you SHOULD do:
1. Do perform kegels.
While giving birth your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles have probably been stretched and your spine has probably become a little out of balance due to this stretching. Janet Hamilton suggests working on the pelvic floor muscles to strengthen them. She explains that those exercises can be done just by sitting on the couch, or you can incorporate them into your exercise routine.
2. Have in mind that it takes up to a year to get in shape again, depending on your recovery.
Don’t rush it if you want to stay healthy, but when you’re ready to start exercising give it your best while making sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.
3. Buy a good sports bra.
By good we mean perfect, because your breasts are sensitive and need support after childbirth. Wearing such a bra will prevent stretch marks and reduce the risk of discomfort. Also, put some breast pads in, as during some exercises your milk may start leaking, so this way you can prevent it from being too visible.
4. Drink up.
Drink enough water before and during your exercise routine, as well as after, as you need to stay hydrated, especially if your baby is still breastfeeding.