post birth fitness
Health

Post birth fitness

Exercising post birth will help you to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and boost your energy levels. Pre and post-natal fitness trainer Stephanie Sinnott offers up the following workout advice for new mums.

You might be thinking about getting back into an exercise routine, or it might be the furthest thing from your mind, but when you do, you want to make sure it’s safe.

I gave birth to my second child in October 2014. All of these tips that I outline here are coming from years of teaching pre and postnatal fitness classes, learning and researching constantly, and from my own experiences with exercise and training after two babies.

Always consult with your hospital physiotherapist or your GP at your six-week check up. You should try to attend post-natal exercise classes in your hospital. There, you will be shown safe exercises to do in those first post-natal weeks. Once you have been doing these exercises regularly, you can then move on to further exercise routines about six weeks after the birth.

post birth fitness

Invest in a good sports bra, and get measured for it. If you are breastfeeding, wear a nursing bra, with a sports bra over it, while you are working out. The hormone relaxin is present for up to 12 weeks after birth, and will continue to be present when breastfeeding – this is the hormone, which literally relaxes your joints, ligaments and muscles, and makes it very easy to pull a muscle. So when you are stretching after your workout, (not before), make sure you only do light stretches.

Benefits

We’ve all heard of the many benefits of exercise, and there are specific advantages for new mothers;

  • Improves your physical and mental wellbeing – exercise releases ‘happy hormones’, which helps combat baby blues, and can help a lot with postnatal depression.
  • Helps you to lose excess weight – you will feel better about yourself when you see a small difference in your weight each week.
  • Improves your fitness and strength levels – it helps with the physical demands of looking after a new baby.
  • Restores your muscle strength – your arms become strong, which is needed when carrying car seats, buggies, baby bags and even shopping bags.
  • Strengthens your abdominals and core – helps to ease back pain.
  • Improves your posture.
  • You will get the opportunity to socialise with like-minded mothers in a postnatal exercise class.

post birth fitness

When you’ve had a bad night with a baby who wakes up every hour, you will be exhausted yourself. The good news is that exercise gives you energy. There were so many times I just wanted to lie on the couch, and do nothing, and I did, but there were many times I went for a walk, did a small workout at home, or went to a postnatal exercise class, and I felt much better and more productive afterwards.

Good post-natal workouts

1. Walk: First of all, get out walking with that buggy! It’s easy, it’s free and it’s well worth spending an hour in your local park. Look up a mother and baby-walking group, or recruit your friends to go along with you.

2. Join a post-natal fitness class: Some postnatal exercise classes allow you to bring your baby along with you.

3. Do a home workout: Or, close your curtains and get sweaty in your front room. When your little one has nodded off, or is happily playing on a mat, give yourself 20 minutes to get fit and strong. Always listen to your body and ease yourself back into fitness, working at your own pace.

Breastfeeding advice

If you’re breastfeeding, feed your baby or express before you exercise. Moving about with full breasts can be uncomfortable. A sports bra over your nursing bra will give you extra support.

post birth fitness

How to exercise safely

According to Liz Barry, Deputy Physiotherapy Manager, Physiotherapy Department in Cork University Maternity Hospital, women should take the following precautions for post-natal exercise:

  • Exercise should always be undertaken gradually.
  • Walking is the best exercise to start with. You can start as soon as you feel able. To begin with go at a nice gentle pace for 5-10 minutes. Gradually progress at a pace that suits you. Always remember to walk tall and draw in your lower tummy.
  • If doing weight training start with just your own body weight or very light weights from 8-10 weeks. Gradually increase as you are able. Avoid heavy weights for about five to six months.
  • Wear a supportive bra. It is essential that you wear a properly fitted sports bra when exercising especially if you are breastfeeding.
  • Avoid high impact exercise e.g. running, jumping, contact sports, aerobics classes for 12 weeks post delivery. This is to allow time for your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to recover.
  • Low impact activities such as swimming or cycling can be resumed once your stitches have healed and you can sit comfortably – this is usually after your 6 -week check-up with your GP.
  • Strengthen your core. Start working on the core muscles as they need to be strengthened after the pregnancy. Keep working on the pelvic floor muscles. Go to page 59 to find out how to exercise your pelvic floor muscle.
  • Make sure that you warm up gently, cool down and stretch gently after exercise.
  • Support your feet. It is important to wear properly fitting shoes as sometimes your feet might have grown during pregnancy.
  • Make sure that you stay well hydrated – drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Watch out for these warning signs; breathlessness, dizziness and nausea. These are signs that the body is overstressed during cardio. If any of these happen during exercise, stop immediately and wait a sufficient period until you have enough strength.

According to Margaret Mason, Physiotherapy Manager at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, it is vital that new mums make sure their bodies have healed up properly before undertaking any type of exercise. “It is essential that the uterus has retracted into the pelvis, the bleeding and discharge has ceased and that the stitches have healed before resuming any exercise routine.” Margaret also stresses the importance of listening to your body, “Be aware that you will be suffering from fatigue with a new baby. Have patience and do what you can. You will have more energy some days and less on other days.”

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.