Getting Back into Shape After Baby

It's been a long nine months of your body changing, often in ways that you may not like. Now that your baby is born, you find yourself with a mushy tummy, a few extra pounds and a whole bunch of new stretch marks. Where did your pre-pregnancy body go and will it ever come back?

Exercise can help you regain your shape, although it won't do much for your stretch marks. But how soon can you start working out after delivering a baby? And what are the best postpartum exercises? Most importantly, how long will it take to get your pre-pregnancy body back? One of the main factors in determining how soon you can regain your shape postpartum is how healthy you were during your pregnancy.

Learn to Love Your Postpartum Body

Many people were astounded when Kate Hudson lost 60 pounds in the few short months after having her son. By most people's standards, this was exceptionally fast. By Hollywood standards, this was normal. If y

ou've ever wondered why the Hollywood stars manage to lose their baby weight so quickly, it's because they exercised before and during their pregnancies. Plus, they're pretty conscious about what they eat. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that they can afford nannies to watch their children while they exercise and personal trainers to get them to the gym seven days a week for two hours each and every day (sometimes even longer).

It's All About Exercise
For us mere regular people who have to deal with families, jobs or the responsibilities of being a stay at home mom and new children, postpartum weight loss may not be so easy. While you might not have enjoyed dragging yourself to the gym throughout your pregnancy, you'll be happy that you did once you start trying to exercise after the pregnancy.

If you were fit during your pregnancy, you should start to see results sooner with your postnatal exercises. However, getting your body back to "normal" can take anywhere from three months (that would be the Hollywood stars) to nine months (that would be pretty much everyone else). For that in-between-time, you may want to use a support girdle to help your body heal and give the appearance of a flatter tummy. If you are breastfeeding, it may be a bit more difficult to lose weight simply because you have to consume more calories to make sure your milk is full of healthy nutrients for your baby.

When Can I Start Exercising?
So, when should you start working out again? Generally, it is recommended that women wait about six weeks to start exercising after they have given birth; eight weeks if they have had a cesarean. However, some women can start exercising before this. Listen to your body and wait until you feel ready. When you decide to start an exercise program, discuss it with your health care provider first.

Start Stretching Right Away
If you had a normal, uncomplicated birth, though, you can start doing little exercises as early as the day after you give birth. But these should be very simple, non-stressful exercises, like leg stretches. You should also continue with your Kegel exercises to strengthen you pelvic floor muscles. If you've had a cesarean, it is best to wait until you've stopped bleeding and your health care provider has given you the green light before you start doing any form of postnatal exercises.

Advice For Breastfeeding Moms
If you are breastfeeding, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you're exercising. First, make sure your breasts are well supported when you exercise. Some women may find that they need to wear two bras just to feel properly supported. Also, try to breastfeed your baby before you exercise. This will help you feel more comfortable since your breasts won't feel full.

Plus, some studies have found that some babies who are fed post-workout can be fussier because their mother's milk tastes sour due to an increase in the level of lactic acid in the milk. If you can't feed your baby before the workout, then consider pumping some milk into a bottle. This will help to make your breasts feel less full as well as make your baby happy with the pre-exercise milk. Also, try to keep your breasts dry and clean, which will help prevent your breast ducts from getting clogged and possibly infected.

Stick to a Routine
To make the most of your postnatal fitness, try to set up a routine that you can stick to. Establishing a schedule will help maintain regular workouts that fit into your everyday life. Also, try to workout at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. If you are determined to lose your weight quickly, then exercise more often. However, never exercise to the point of exhaustion. If your body is telling you it's tired, stop exercising immediately.

Also, if you feel faint or dizzy, have shortness of breath, experience heart palpitations, have an increase in vaginal bleeding or have troubles walking or seeing, stop exercising and contact your health care provider.

Sample Exercises
Here are some exercises that you should be sure to include in your fitness program to help get your stomach flatter, your vaginal muscles tighter and your body back to its old self.

Stomach Exercises Your tummy is probably the area of your body that you are most worried about getting back to its pre-pregnancy shape. Sit-ups are the best exercise for your abdominals to get them into shape quickly. When you are doing sit-ups, make sure you have a mat underneath you. Also, keep the small of your back (the part that arches) in contact with the floor at all times.

To work your upper abdominal muscles, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. You could also put your feet on a chair so that your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands behind your head. Slowly, inhale and lift your head and shoulders up, off the ground while you contract your abdominal muscles. Lift until you feel your muscles working; you don't need to go all the way up to a sitting position. Then slowly lower your upper body back down while you exhale.

To work your lower abdominal muscles, you can do a reverse crunch. Again, start by lying on the floor with your legs bent, but this time keep your feet close to your buttocks, slightly above the floor. Inhale while you slowly raise your hips and pelvis up towards you so that your buttocks rise up off the floor. Your knees should curl in towards you. Exhale and lower slowly back down. For both tummy exercises, you should try to do two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Kegel Exercises If you have been doing these exercises throughout your pregnancy, then keep doing what you've been doing. For those women who did not do any Kegel exercises, you will want to start because they help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. It is recommended to do them during pregnancy because it can help make labor easier.

However, there are benefits to having strong pelvic floor muscles even if you're not pregnant. Kegel exercises can help you with bladder control and can even help make your orgasms better. Plus, Kegel exercises are incredibly simple and can be done anywhere, anytime. To do them, you just need to contract your vaginal muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for a few seconds then slowly release. Aim to hold the contraction for 10 seconds (you might have to work up to this) and try to do about 25 a day.

Go For A Walk It is important to get a cardiovascular workout since this will help you burn off the baby fat. One of the best forms of exercise, especially for new moms, is walking. Walking is a great way to get some fresh air, tone your legs and improve your over-all health. In fact, it's one of the best exercises around - and it doesn't even require special equipment. All you need is a good pair of shoes, fine weather and your baby, of course!

If there are other new moms in your neighborhood, you could organize a group to go for regular walks together. This will help to keep you motivated as well as make the outing more enjoyable. Plus, walking, whether with a group or on your own, is easier to fit into your daily schedule as it allows you to take your baby with you.

Try Yoga or Aerobics If walking is not your thing, you can also sign up for some post partum yoga or aerobics classes. There are many yoga classes that are designed for new moms that you can do with your baby. Many moms enjoy doing a yoga workout from home with their babies - when you stay home, there is no need to worry about your baby's feeding and sleeping times or going out in bad weather. See Recommended Products below.

Swimming is also an excellent form of cardio exercise. However, swimming is not a weight bearing exercise. While this was helpful during your pregnancy, now you need to make sure you tone your muscles by incorporating weights into your workout. Weight bearing exercises are important in strengthening bones, which can help prevent osteoporosis later on.

The Many Benefits of Exercise
Losing your pregnancy weight is not the only benefit to exercising postpartum. Just as in your pregnancy, postnatal fitness can help ease a host of discomforts simply by increasing your circulation. Exercise can also help with any postpartum depression you might be experiencing. Plus, if you maintain your exercise, you will be providing your children with an excellent example of how to stay healthy. To maximize the benefits of your exercise, try to stick to a well-balanced, healthy diet. And remember, whenever you work out, always drink plenty of water, warm-up and cool-down properly - and never exercise to the point of exhaustion.

Recommended Links
Pregnancy Stories: Do you have a funny story to tell about losing your baby weight? Or maybe you just want to offer some encouragement to other new moms struggling to get those pounds off. At Pregnancy Stories, you can let you inner writter come out by posting your postpartum tale.


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i learned the hard way after my first pregnancy that if you don\'t work really hard early on to take off the pregnancy weight it will become near impossible to take it off. i didn\'t really try to lose wait until about a year after my daughter was born and by then it was like the fat was stuck on. i can\'t believe how hard i had to work. it took me two years of exercise and diet to finally get my body back to how it was prepregnancy. i had a postpartum body for almost 3 years. people still thought i was pregnant! i am now in my second pregnancy and i am being super careful not to gain too much pregnancy weight and i plan on exercising postpartum as soon as my doctor says it is ok. no fat mom pictures with this baby!
4 years ago