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Getting Active After a Baby

By Rebecca Russell, CNM

While trying to stay active during pregnancy, women face many challenges both physically and mentally. The good news is that now that the baby has arrived, you can focus on getting back to your pre-pregnancy activity level or work toward a new goal to help you feel your best.
The Benefits of Being Active
• Regular exercise after pregnancy has many physical and mental benefits, including:
• Promotes weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
• Improves your cardiovascular fitness
• Strengthens and tone abdominal muscles
• Boosts your energy level
• Relieves stress
• Promotes better sleep
• Reduces symptoms of postpartum depression
How to Start

No matter what, it’s very important to listen to your body and ease back into an active lifestyle. Every person recovers from birth at a different rate, and you shouldn’t start a routine without talking to your doctor. In many cases, you can start exercising safely just days after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. However, if you’ve had a C-section or even minor complications during delivery, you may need to wait a few weeks.

It’s best to start slow and set incremental goals. Consider some of the following low-impact exercises to get you started:

Walking – Start out with a casual pace and go for time, 15 to 30 minutes, not distance. Work your way up to a quicker pace and longer distances. Use this as an opportunity to spend some time with baby by taking them along in a stroller which adds a light strength-training element to the walk.

Floor bridges – Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms by your sides. Contract your core and squeeze butt to lift off the floor, pressing heels into the ground. This helps engage and tone your core.

Kegel exercises – Sit with feet shoulder-width apart, with your hands on your hips. Contract your pelvic muscles, as if you’re trying to stop from urinating, and stand. These exercises help strengthen the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, and bowels, and promote perineal healing, regain bladder control, and strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Knee pushups – Kneel with your hands on the floor in front of you, wider than your shoulders. Lower your torso to the floor and back up to starting position. Babies grow quickly and pushups help build the upper body strength you’ll appreciate for the countless hours you’ll spend carrying and picking up your baby.

Yoga – If you did prenatal yoga, you probably learned a thing or two about listening to your body and not pushing yourself too hard. Ease yourself back into your yoga practice. Look for yoga classes geared toward new moms as they consider your physical state in addition to providing an opportunity to incorporate baby.
Breastfeeding and Exercise

It is also important to remember, if you are exercising and breastfeeding you need to make sure you are eating enough calories. Breastfeeding alone can burn an extra 400-500 calories a day, on top of exercise. Make up the calories with healthy snacks throughout the day.

Most importantly, stay hydrated. Busy moms often forget to drink water throughout the day. If you are dehydrated your energy can dip and you may not be able to produce enough milk for your newborn.
Take Time for You

Many new mothers find themselves tired from sleep and feeding schedules, and stress from the strain of balancing other family duties and work schedules. Don’t let your new life get in the way of your personal health and wellness. One of the biggest challenges for mothers is to take time to focus on yourself, but it is essential in order to be the best you for your baby and your family.

Rebecca Russell is a certified nurse midwife with UPMC. She sees patients at UPMC OB/GYN, 740 High St., Suite 1004, Williamsport. For more information or to make an appointment, call 570-321-3300.

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