Having recently had a baby myself, I thought I would give some insight into what types of exercise, as well as when one can start exercising following giving birth. Of course, post-pregnancy exercise depends on whether you have had a natural birth or a Caesarean section, and also the level of fitness you managed to maintain during your pregnancy. These are only guidelines – always check with your doctor before starting any exercise programme following giving birth, especially if you had any complications during pregnancy or birth.
Regardless of whether you had a natural birth or a Caesar, the body takes about six weeks to heal from the labour and/or surgery and so one must use this time to rest and recover and focus on your new born baby. Your body has undergone many changes over a period of nine months, so it will take time to get back to what it was before. However, one can start very gentle pelvic floor exercises the day after delivery, and light walking within your pain limits can begin one week later and is good for both your body and mind. Use pain as a guide – if you experience any discomfort, stop whatever you are doing immediately.
About six weeks post-delivery, your body should start to feel a little more normal again. You can increase your pelvic floor exercises and walking as you feel comfortable. Provided your surgical wound has healed without any complications and your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can start swimming. After 12 weeks, gentle cardio, as well as light resistance exercises can be started, again provided your doctor has cleared you for this. Again, use pain as your guide and stop immediately if you experience any discomfort. Start slowly with whatever it is you are doing and increase gradually within your pain-free limits. Remember: even if you kept fit during pregnancy, your body has undergone a huge amount of trauma, whether it be from labour or surgery or both. If you laboured and still had a Caesar, the trauma to the body is even greater and so you will take a little longer to recover. Always listen to your body!
If you feel like you need some company or a little guidance, consider joining group classes, such as a Pilates class, or consult a biokineticist who will provide you with an appropriate exercise programme.
Exercise is like medicine for your body and mind and will help you to feel like yourself again after a long process of many changes. Embrace your new body and work within its limits. Take your baby for walks with you and enjoy the special time together.
The Pregnancy and Baby Book; DK Publishers