Congratulations! You’ve made it through labor and delivery and welcomed your new baby into the world. Whether this is your first son or daughter or a highly anticipated sibling, the postpartum period can be pretty intense. No one warns you about the hormone changes, the mood swings, the tears, the bleeding—you know, all the fun stuff. And on top of it all, you have a noisy, messy, and utterly helpless little human requiring round-the-clock care. Even with the most supportive partner and helpful grandparents in the world, it can feel overwhelming. With so much happening, it’s easy to forget that postpartum exercise is important too.
That said, making a thirty- to sixty-minute workout part of your post-pregnancy routine can do wonders for your body and mind. While I wouldn’t advocate popping out of your hospital bed to do planks twenty-four hours after delivery, I do recommend making time for exercise. Here, I’ll tell you why this is and how you can ease into a beneficial low-impact workout routine.
- When Can I Begin Exercising After Baby?
- The Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
- Find a Postpartum Workout Plan That Works For You
- Be Kind to Yourself!
When Can I Begin Exercising After Baby?
You might be wondering how soon after delivery you can pick up your old workout routine. Right now, the best person to ask is your OB/GYN. Your doctor has seen you through the past nine months, and he or she is the ideal source of guidance as you recover. You’ll have several follow-up appointments in the postpartum period, so be sure to ask when you’re cleared for exercise. If you had a relatively easy pregnancy and vaginal delivery, your doc may say it’s okay to start working out after just a few days. If you had a more complicated delivery and/or a C-section, you may need to wait six weeks to fully heal. No two pregnancies, deliveries, or postpartum mothers are alike, so take your cues from someone who knows your health history.
Make a list of exercise questions to ask before your next checkup. Be sure to let your doctor know how your postpartum recovery at home is going.
The Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
It Staves Off Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Postpartum mood disorders are no joke, and regular exercise may help you to avoid them. Working out can provide relief from stress and anxiety, two common symptoms of PPD. (Note: if you think you may have a postpartum mood issue, you must contact your healthcare provider immediately.)
It Helps You Sleep Better
Sleep deprivation during the end of pregnancy and during the postpartum period is brutal. First, you toss and turn all night because there’s a little baby partying in your midsection. Then, you give birth to said little baby and he or she squawks for food every forty-five minutes. Daily exercise can help you to get some shut-eye when it’s available to you. That helps prevent all those late-night feedings from turning you into a complete “mombie.” (You may also like this Luxome Premium Adult weighted blanket for better, more comforting sleep.)
You’ll Lose the Pregnancy Pounds
You probably lost a significant amount of your pregnancy weight by the time you left the hospital. The baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid can weigh thirteen pounds or more! You’ll find that several more come off in the weeks that follow as you eliminate more fluid. Eating sensible portions of nutritious foods and moving your body every day will help you to lose any remaining unwanted pounds.
You’ll Feel Like You Again
Now that you’ve evicted that cute little guy or gal, your body is all yours again. When you exercise postpartum, you won’t have those telltale sore joints or achy back, and your body will start to feel like it used to. And, after months of stretchy maternity wear, it’ll feel great to slip into your favorite jeans. Making time for physical activity is an important part of postpartum self-care, as it helps you to feel more like your old self.
Note that it will take some time for that postpartum belly to flatten, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re still lumpy. It takes about six weeks for your uterus to return to its pre-baby size.
Find a Postpartum Exercise Plan That Works For You
Are you ready to begin working out? Great! Here are a few smart tips for getting started.
- Start slow, with lots of stretching and low-impact cardio, like yoga. Your body has been through a lot in the past year, so be gentle with yourself.
- If you’re breastfeeding (or are simply feeling a little swollen and tender), be sure to wear a supportive sports bra.
- Bring your baby along for the fun! You’re a busy mom now, and finding a workout that’s sufficiently kid-friendly will help you stick to it. Try a brisk walk with your baby in the stroller. (Note that you shouldn’t jog with your baby until he or she is six to eight months old.)
- Exercise with a friend, especially another mom of a baby or young child. Going for long walks will allow you to enjoy some fresh air and much-needed adult conversation.
Do you want to work out while your baby naps? Try virtual workouts, available on apps like OpenFit. Try yoga, barre, or Pilates to increase your strength and flexibility.
Be Kind to Yourself!
As you ease back into your fitness routine, remember that your body just spent the past nine months making a whole new person. You won’t be back to your pre-pregnancy self the first time you work out—and probably not the tenth either. The truth is, your body may never be exactly the same as you remember it, and that’s okay. It’s not damaged or ruined, just different, and you can be proud of it as it is now. It was your beautiful baby’s first home, and that’s amazing.
Take your postpartum recovery period one day at a time, and when you see an opportunity for self-care and exercise, take advantage of it. Even fifteen minutes of stretching and deep breathing can improve your day. Before long, you’ll be feeling more like the old you—but you’ll be the new you: a happy, healthy, beautiful mom.
Be well, and enjoy that sweet new addition to your family!