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Exercise After Delivery

What are the benefits of a postpartum exercise program?

Now that your baby is here, you may want to get rid of added pregnancy pounds and get back into shape. Along with losing weight, an exercise program can help you:

  • Reduce stress.
  • Tighten stretched abdominal and pelvic muscles.
  • Give you more energy.
  • Lessen the feelings of depression that can happen after childbirth.
  • Prepare you for the physical demands of parenthood.

When can I start exercising?

It can take up to 1 year to recover from the changes that happen during pregnancy and childbirth. Once you have received the OK from your healthcare provider AND you feel ready, you can begin a gentle exercise program. Walking and gentle stretching and strengthening exercises are the best exercises to start with. You should avoid any rigorous exercise such as running or jumping for at least 6 weeks after the birth of your baby. If you had a C-section, you might also need to wait 6 weeks before you begin any abdominal strengthening exercises.

What exercises should I do?

Walking is one of the best exercises to start with because it is gentle, you do not need special equipment, and you can bring your baby with you. Begin with 15 minutes of walking at least 3 times a week. Try to increase this time 5 minutes each week. Once you are up to walking continuously for 45 minutes, increase the intensity of your workout by walking faster or walking up hills. After 6 weeks you may be able to begin a jogging program if that is your goal.

Bicycling and swimming are also good choices. Yoga and Pilates classes for new mothers can also be helpful. Usually these can be started 1 to 2 weeks after a vaginal delivery.

When your healthcare provider gives you the okay, you can begin doing exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Kegel exercises can help strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles help support the urethra, bladder, vagina, uterus, and rectum. They are used when you urinate, have bowel movements and during sex. Your healthcare provider can teach you how to do Kegel exercises.

How often should I exercise?

When you exercise, listen to your body. Don't push yourself too hard or too fast. Try to exercise at least 3 days each week, with a goal of 5 days a week. If you have to, exercise for short periods of time during the day. Two 15-minute sessions can be just as good as one 30-minute workout.

How can I make the most of my exercise program?

  • Warm up and cool down with light stretches before and after your workout.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after you exercise to avoid getting dehydrated.
  • Try to eat a healthy diet to keep your energy level up.
  • Nurse your baby or pump before exercising if you are breastfeeding.
  • Wear a sports bra that fits properly.
  • Make sure that your exercises are enjoyable, not stressful
  • Remember to be patient. It may take several months before you are as fit as you were before your pregnancy.
  • If you have any increased pain, bleeding, or dizziness, stop exercising right away and contact your healthcare provider.
Written by Phyllis Clapis, PT, DHSc, OCS.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-30
Last reviewed: 2010-06-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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