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How can I get Back in Shape After Giving Birth?

Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Dee Saale

No one wants to look and feel pregnant for months after delivering a baby. Consequently, getting back in shape is one of the toughest and most important postpartum activities. In fact, the right exercise regime will tone up tired bodies, prevent backaches, and hasten recovery from labor and delivery. As long as the baby was delivered vaginally and without complications, a few exercises to get back in shape can begin shortly after delivery. As usual, a doctor should be consulted before beginning or continuing any schedule of exercises.

One of the first exercises that can begin almost immediately are kegels. Kegels can be done nearly anywhere – laying down in bed, standing in line at the store, changing dirty diapers, while nursing – just to name a few. New mothers should start with short sessions and can work up to 25 repetitions 6 times each day. Doing kegels are important to regain muscle control in the pelvic region. Without such control, more strenuous exercise, such as jogging, may cause urine to leak.

Dancing is a good way to burn calories.
Dancing is a good way to burn calories.

Also, during the first few days, new mothers can engage in deep diaphragmatic breathing. It will work to tighten the stomach muscles. Simply tighten the abdomen muscles while breathing slowly through the mouth. The stomach muscles have been stretched over many months and it will take some work to get them pulled back to their normal place.

Once the postpartum check up is complete – usually six weeks after delivery, it is time to begin a more active exercise regime. Although thirty minutes of exercise each day is recommended, it is all right if exercises need to be broken up into three segments that are ten minutes long. To get back in shape, everything counts, even for the most mundane activities: take the stairs whenever possible, park far from the entrance to the shopping center, stand rather than sit, flex muscles and hold while sitting in traffic.

Yoga is a good way to tone and lose weight after giving birth.
Yoga is a good way to tone and lose weight after giving birth.

There are a few common guidelines for any form of exercise when trying to get in shape after pregnancy. First, try to exercise at least three times each week. It is hard to make the time to do so, but it is also very important. Warm up before any strenuous workout, especially since postpartum joints are extremely loose. Also, cool down slowly and stretch. Drink plenty of water, especially if breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding mothers need to consume an extra 500 calories to keep their milk supply up as well as wear a supportive bra.

Taking a baby for a walk can help lose weight.
Taking a baby for a walk can help lose weight.

One of the best exercises to begin with is Pilates. It works to strengthen, tone, and elongate the muscles around the back and abdomen. It can be done on the floor with a mat or by using a Pilates reformer machine. There are typically Pilates classes and studios that can teach proper technique.

Aerobic exercise is extremely important to get in shape. Many activities can be done with the new baby. For example, go for a brisk walk through the neighborhood with the baby in his stroller, use a jogging stroller to take him on a run, or a bike trailer to take him on a bike ride. Most babies love dancing with their mothers and dancing is a great way to burn calories. Of course, these activities can be done solo, as well.

Jogging strollers allow parents to take the children along on a run or brisk walk.
Jogging strollers allow parents to take the children along on a run or brisk walk.

Sit-ups and crunches are immensely helpful to loose excess weight around the mid-section of the body. Start with ten sit-ups and crunches in the morning and then add a few more every other day. Before long, a set of 50-75 sit-up and crunches will be the normal start to any morning.

Lifting weights is another great way to get back in shape. A new baby can make an excellent weight – just lift him up while lying on the floor, then give a big smile, and lower again. A pair of dumbbells works, too. The entire body can be worked out during one session, or each body part can be a focus of a given day. For example, work the legs one day, the arms the next, and the back and abdomen the following day.

A challenging Bikram yoga class may be a good choice for people who want to lose weight.
A challenging Bikram yoga class may be a good choice for people who want to lose weight.

Yoga is another wonderful way to tone, lose weight and get back in shape. Beginners may need to start slowly to learn the various positions; but, eventually the entire routine will flow smoothly. There are various forms of yoga. So, it is best to try several different types from Bikram to Hatha and find out which ones work best.

Getting in shape after having a baby can take time. After all, over nine months were spent doing limited exercises; so, it is not surprising that it may take a few weeks to get back to speed. Once you get in shape, both you and your baby will be happier and healthier.

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to WiseGEEK.

Learn more...
Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to WiseGEEK.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

ElizaBennett

@Kat919 - If you are recovering well from your C-section, you should be able to start exercising after six weeks just as if you'd given birth vaginally. You'll be more limited early on. The first "exercise" after a C-section is getting out of bed. Once you prove you can do that, you can have your catheter out (a nice milestone). The nurses will encourage you to go for short "walks" around L&D, pushing your baby in his little plastic bed. They'll also encourage you to cough, which is fantastically painful after abdominal surgery.

Over the next few weeks, you'll be able to walk more and more, but be cautious. By six weeks, your incision will have healed and that won't be a concern any more, but that's not to say it won't hurt, so be easy on yourself. Good luck!

Kat919

My doctor has told me I might have to have a C-section. Can anyone give me advice about getting back into shape after a C-section? When can I exercise after one, if I do have to go that route? What are the special concerns?

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    • Dancing is a good way to burn calories.
      By: Yuri Arcurs
      Dancing is a good way to burn calories.
    • Yoga is a good way to tone and lose weight after giving birth.
      By: Deklofenak
      Yoga is a good way to tone and lose weight after giving birth.
    • Taking a baby for a walk can help lose weight.
      By: olly
      Taking a baby for a walk can help lose weight.
    • Jogging strollers allow parents to take the children along on a run or brisk walk.
      By: julief514
      Jogging strollers allow parents to take the children along on a run or brisk walk.
    • A challenging Bikram yoga class may be a good choice for people who want to lose weight.
      By: aerogondo
      A challenging Bikram yoga class may be a good choice for people who want to lose weight.
    • Breastfeeding mothers expend 500 additional calories a day.
      By: evgenyatamanenko
      Breastfeeding mothers expend 500 additional calories a day.
    • Sit-ups and crunches are good ways to lose weight in the belly area.
      By: Simone van den Berg
      Sit-ups and crunches are good ways to lose weight in the belly area.