Babies are beautiful, and they have that certain charm that makes us love them at first sight. What isn’t always pretty is getting them here. From trying to conceive to pregnancy, there are a lot of moments that have us all cringing, but it is all worth it. Trouble getting back to normal is something that a lot of people must deal with when they welcome a baby into the world.
Some women handle the difficulties better than others. A lot of women struggle with image issues after giving birth, and it is not an easy journey. Their focus is normally on getting back into the shape they were in before they gave birth. This feeling is very normal, and one that should be expected from a lot of women out there. Growing a baby is not a walk in the park, and the evidence is written all over us.
A lot of medical practitioners used to advise women to wait 6-8 weeks after giving birth before getting back into their exercise routine. They are now realizing that this is not entirely true. There is no harm in light exercises following birth, and they may actually aid in both a woman’s recovery as well as her self-esteem. This is especially true if the woman stayed active throughout her pregnancy.
However, with a list of things you can (and should) do, come things that are still completely off the table. We have found 10 exercises that will help postpartum healing, both physically and mentally, and the 5 things that should not be done right after birth.
15 Do The Hut!
A lot of these exercises can be done immediately after you give birth, so they are not going to be anything strenuous. No matter how urgently you want your body back, it is still important to take it slow because your body has just been through a big event. Another exercise you can do is called “The Hut.” It sounds a little like a dance move instead of a postpartum healing exercise.
To complete the hut you will first need to sit in bed or on a chair, or you can lay on your side in bed. Either way you do it, you want to place your hands on your stomach. Take a deep breath in, and when you exhale say the word “hut” forcefully. When you say the word, you should feel the muscles of your stomach tightening. This one is a bit silly, and may make you feel slightly embarrassed but it is a good trick to help strengthen up your muscles inside.
14 Do The Bridge Now!
A lot of these exercises sound like dance moves, and this one is no different. The bridge is a great exercise to do that takes very little effort. You want to start by laying down on your back on either your bed or the floor with your knees bent. Contract your abdominal, buttock, and pelvic floor muscles and raise those hips off the floor. You want to hold that position for about 5 seconds and then relax down slowly.
If you want this to be a little more challenging then move your feet farther away from your butt. You can also start lifting one leg up while in your bridge position to make this even more challenging. A lot of women want to bounce back as fast as possible after birth. These exercises are not designed to help you lose fast, but they are designed to help you heal. Healing is always the priority. The faster you heal, the quicker you can get back into the gym.
13 Slide Those Heels
Heel sliding is almost exactly as it sounds. You want to start by laying on your back, tightening your ab muscles and doing a pelvic tilt that we talked about earlier. While in this position, you want to slowly slide out one leg at a time while trying to maintain the pelvic tilt. Once you have become a pro at this move, there are things you can do to make it a bit more challenging.
When you make things more challenging, there will be more benefits to your body. It is always important to switch things up, so your body doesn’t get too used to a certain movement. To make the heel slide a little more difficult, you can slide both of your legs out together and try and keep that pelvic tilt position. You just must remember to always bring legs back up one at a time.
12 Don’t Forget About The Arms
We have been focusing a lot on the lower body, and that is because that is what is most affected when we give birth, however we can not forget about the arms. Pregnancy and childbirth is tough, and it really does involve the whole body, so we must make sure to work our whole body. A good arm exercise does involve a small prop. You will need a weight of some kind. You can purchase pretty inexpensive dumbbells now in store and online. You can even use water bottles filled with water or sand as a cheap alternative.
You want the weight to be light, nothing more than 5 pounds is recommended. With the weight you want to do some simple exercises. You can raise your arms in the air, do some bicep curls, triceps exercises or even a low impact version of a push-up. Just remember to take it easy. Even if you feel like the exercises are not ‘healing’ your arms, you are at least gaining some muscles to carry your little one around.
11 Still Doing Kegels
When you are pregnant, you will have every person and their aunt tell you to start doing your Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises are very important when you are pregnant, and they are equally important to continue doing after the little one is born. Kegels can help a woman prevent urinary incontinence after giving birth because they help strengthen the pelvic floor. They also help support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Another good thing about Kegels is that they can be done at any time, and anywhere because no one can tell you are doing them.
To complete a Kegel, you need to work your pelvic floor muscles. To do that you want to tighten it up, imagine holding in a stream of urine. Like you are stopping urine mid-flow. Hold it like that for the count of ten and then release. You can do these for any amount of time you feel necessary. It may be important for you to take these easy after birth because it may cause some discomfort as your pelvic area will be sensitive.
10 Tilt That Pelvis
Throughout our entire pregnancy and childbirth, our pelvic muscles go through a lot. It is almost the equivalent of them running a bunch of marathons. It only stands to reason that they should get some extra attention after birth to help them get back to the best they can be. Pelvic tilts are another safe and great exercise to help those muscles rebound and to help them heal.
Here is how you do them; lie on your back with your knees bent, tilt your pelvis backward as you tighten your abs and exhale. Take it easy when you tighten your abdominal muscles, especially if you have had a C-section. Try to bring your belly button to your backbone as you push your low back into the mattress or floor. Hold for 5 seconds, inhale and then relax. You can do a few repetitions of this at one time or throughout the day.
9 Stretch, It’s As Simple As That!
Sometimes the best things you can do to help heal after delivery are the simplest things. We don’t need to overthink it, just let your body guide you. Stretching is not just for waking up, it is also something you can do to help heal after giving birth. There are a few different stretches that you can do that are purposeful and that help different areas of your body.
You can lay on your back with your arms and legs out straight, palms up. Bend at the ankles so the toes are aimed at the ceiling. Then you want to tighten your thigh muscles and push knees into the bed. Another great one to try is to squeeze your shoulder blades together and elongate your neck. We put a lot of strain on our upper back and neck when pushing, so they will probably be a bit sore after birth, by giving them some stretches will help them get back into shape.
8 Work That Posture
Even without having given birth, a lot of people have really bad posture. This can lead to some serious issues that affect your body; specifically, your back. When you add on to that labour and delivery, it is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, it is more important than ever for us to be aware of our posture. To make sure our posture is fine, we need to do a self-check to make sure we know how to stand properly.
When you are standing, tuck your chin in to elongate your neck. Then pull your shoulders down and back, tighten your abdominal muscles while pulling your belly into your backbone. Tighten that pelvic floor, keep knees soft and increase the arch in your foot. It seems complicated, but practice makes perfect. If you have had a C-section, you should speak to your doctor before doing anything that involves your abdominal muscles.
7 Breathing Does A Lot Of Good
Sometimes the best exercises are the easiest, and who knew that breathing was an exercise? We often just breathe without really realizing that we are doing it, our bodies just do it in order to keep us alive. However, purposeful breathing can be very beneficial. It proved beneficial when you were on the delivery bed trying to get through those contractions and pushing.
The type of breathing you want to be doing is called Diaphragmatic Breathing; which means you are tightening your abdomen when you breathe out. Lay on your back, place your hands on your abdomen to begin. Then inhale and allow your stomach to rise as the air goes in. When you are ready to breathe out, tighten your abs like you are pulling them in towards your spine. This means that when you exhale, your stomach should flatten not bulge.
6 Some For The Abs!
The abdominal muscles go through the most when it comes to carrying a child. They are stretched and abused when they grow during the nine months of pregnancy, and then the act of pushing the baby out all take a toll on the muscles and can weaken them. The human body is a wonderful thing, and ours have a great ability to go back to ‘normal’ after giving birth. However, they do need some help at times. Exercises for the abdominal muscles are a bit tricky. You want to make sure you have clearance from your medical team before doing anything that may cause more harm than good.
One of the best exercises for the ab muscles is simply taking a walk. By getting up and walking around you will help those muscles. It is also beneficial to get out in the fresh air for just a little while.
5 DON’T: Forget To Modify
A woman’s body is a miraculous thing. It is strong and resilient and has the great ability to bounce back after going through something like pregnancy and childbirth. When we want to give our bodies a little helping hand, we have to be mindful. There are things that we should make sure we DON’T do because the slightest error can cause damage, something no woman needs after giving birth.
A lot of women are active beings before getting pregnant and even throughout their pregnancy, so a big mistake they make when getting back into a routine after birth is forgetting to modify. They go immediately back to doing things that they did before. Don’t do this. You must always modify your exercises based on your level of healing. Let your body guide you and don’t push it past what it can do in that moment.
4 DON’T: Strain
For a lot of moms out there it is very important to get their body back, they don’t want to mess around with anything and they want their body back immediately. Unfortunately, this mindset causes a lot of injuries to an already injured body. It is important to never strain when exercising. When a ‘normal’ woman works out, it is important to push herself and to strain in order to see results. However, she is not already recovering from going through childbirth.
As we have mentioned earlier, immediately following childbirth is the time to heal, recover and take it slowly. Exercises done immediately following birth should be focused on healing, and not on losing weight. Exercises that aim at dropping the pounds should be held off until your 6-8-week check-up and should be discussed with your doctor.
3 DON’T: Do The Crunches
One exercise that should never be done immediately following childbirth is crunches or sit-ups. Even during pregnancy, this is the one exercise that women are told to avoid at all costs. Your abdominal muscles are very important, and they need time to get back to normal. They need the most healing time in order to return to their before-status.
A lot of women are shocked to hear that sometimes, crunches are not recommended until 12 months post-partum. Jumping, lifting and running are also in that category. This goes to show how much our body goes though after we give birth and how much time we need to heal. No one would suggest a person with a broken leg to go for a run, it is no different for a woman who has given birth. You have just gone through a big event, and you need to give yourself a break. Eating healthy and walking is sometimes all you need to do after birth.
2 DON’T: Lift Weights
Lifting weights is another no-no. We mentioned earlier in the section on exercises for the arms that weights will be needed. However, note that the weights you are using are only 3-5-pound weights. Nowhere near the weight of your new baby. When you lift heavy weights, it is very easy to strain yourself which is not good. Lifting is strictly off-limits for any mom who has a C-section. You are confined to nothing heavier than your baby.
We often focus a lot on working out our body and getting everything back to normal that we often neglect the mind. It is a mental and emotional journey to get a baby here, and we need to remember that is sometimes more important to heal. When you just give birth, you are thrown into this new world where you must care for this little baby. You are also very sleep-deprived, and it is important to take care of your mind and emotional well-being as well.
1 DON’T: Do Anything You Didn’t Do Before Pregnancy!
Some women don’t become fitness gurus until after they have given birth and they want to make a change to how they now look. That is great, but it is not to be taken lightly. Women who want to exercise during pregnancy are told that is fine as long as they are exercises that they are used to doing. When you are pregnant is not the time to take up running or hiking.
It works the same way for postpartum. Three weeks after you have your baby is not the time for you to take up kick-boxing or even yoga. It is not something your body is used too, and it can cause it to go into overdrive as it tries to heal and learn new fitness moves at the same time. It is best to wait until you are fully healed and have a conversation with your doctor before taking up any new fitness hobbies.
References: huffingtonpost.com, thepregnancycentre.com.au, sparkpeople.com
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