Your little cherub is now here and I know that life already is different! And although exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do while adjusting to life as a mum, it does have benefits.
There are SO many unfounded chitty chats about exercise, - can you do it? Is it wrong to exercise after pregnancy? In actual fact, it's fine for you to take some light activity, such as walking, as long as it's gentle, in the first few weeks after having your baby (RCOG 2006). Light activity is known to:
Boost your mood by increasing the levels of feel-good chemicals (endorphins) in your brain (RCOG 2006).
Protects you from aches and pains.
Gives you more energy, if you are feeling tired (ACPWCH 2010, NHS 2011).
Improves your strength and stamina, which will make looking after your new-born easier.
Helps regain your pre-baby figure (RCOG 2006), if you eat sensibly (Amorim et al 2007).
The most important exercises in the first few weeks after birth are your pelvic floor exercises. Start doing them as soon as you can (ACPWCH 2010). Strengthening your pelvic floor will help to protect you against having accidental urine leaks (NCCPC 2006: 110, RCOG 2006, Castro et al 2008, Dinc et al 2009, Wagg and Bunn 2007). You may find for the first few days or weeks that you can't feel your pelvic floor muscles working or that nothing is happening. Keep going, as the feeling in your pelvic floor will return after a few days and it will be working even if you can't feel it. As soon as you feel up to it, try to get out and about, ideally whilst pushing the pram! This can not only increase your physical activity but it can also improve your core and lung capacity and, if you get to walk along with another mum and baby, you can talk through issues and you get keep up to date with the gossip!
The only thing I must insist on (as I do with all Baby Bod Mother mamas) is make sure that the pram handles are the right height for you. You will know you have the right height if you don't have to bend forwards or reach upwards. As one of the top exercises to do are for your pelvis, here’s a wee guide on how to work the floor muscles (also great for those that have a weak pelvic floor even years post pregnancy!)
An ideal exercise for pelvis
Pelvic tilts are useful exercises that gently move and stretch your back and exercise your tummy muscles. They can also help to alleviate back pain. You can do pelvic tilts lying down, sitting or while balancing on an exercise ball. Here's how to do pelvic tilts while lying down: 1. Lie on the floor or on your bed. Place a pillow under your head. Bend your knees by sliding your feet up towards your bottom. 2. Tighten your pelvic floor and pull in your lower tummy muscles, before squashing the small of your back down into the floor or bed. Hold this for a count to three and then arch your back away from the floor or bed. Repeat this 10 times. Try not to hold your breath!
Here's how to do pelvic tilts while sitting: 1. Sit on a chair or stool with your feet on the floor. 2. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and pull in your lower tummy muscles. Slump your back and then arch it so you stick your chest and bottom out. Keep the exercise flowing smoothly so you stretch your back one way and then the other. Here's how to do pelvic tilts while using an exercise ball: 1. Sit on an exercise ball with both feet on the floor, preferably on a carpet to ensure the ball does not slide around. 2. Move the ball backwards and forwards with your bottom, allowing your pelvis to move with it. Try to keep your shoulders still. You can also move the ball from side to side to exercise your waist muscles.
You'll be adjusting to all sorts of new routines now. It'll help you to keep up the exercise habit if you make gentle exercise one of your routines (Cramp & Bray 2011) and if you are unsure about what you should be doing, talk to your doctor or midwife