As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we are talking about exercising after giving birth. Many people ask the question ‘When Can I Start Exercising After Giving Birth?’ We have some advice to answer that question.
After giving birth, you may feel overwhelmed with tiredness, and exercising may be the last thing on your mind. However, regular activity can help you relax, start you back on your fitness journey and help you feel more energised. It can also help your body recover after childbirth. One of the main benefits is that it helps to prevent postnatal depression.
Exercising for your mental health
It is recommended for the average adult to do around 30 minutes of exercise a day. This doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym for a hard core HIIT class. A gentle stroll is enough, especially after just giving birth.
Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on our mood. This can include feeling more content, more awake and calmer following exercise compared to after periods of inactivity.
During exercise, your body releases chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins in your brain that make you feel happy. Not only is your brain producing feel-good chemicals, but exercise also helps your brain get rid of chemicals that make you feel stressed and anxious.
When can I start exercising after giving birth?
If your birth was straight forward, you can start gentle exercise as soon as you feel ready. This could include walking, gentle stretches, pelvic floor and stomach exercises. It’s usually a good idea to wait until after your 6-week postnatal check before you start anything too high-impact. If you exercised regularly during your pregnancy and feel fit and well, you may be able to start earlier. Discuss this with your midwife, health visitor or GP.
If you had a more complicated birth or a C-section, your recovery time will be longer. Definitely discuss when to begin exercising with your midwife, health visitor or GP before starting anything too strenuous.Things to think about before starting exercising
Your lower back and core abdominal muscles may be weaker than they used to be. So these could be areas you could make a start with. Simple exercises can be started at home for the back and abdominal muscles.
Your pelvic floor has taken a real bashing! You can do pelvic floor muscle exercises anytime of the day while doing your usual daily activities.
Don’t over do it to begin with.Your ligaments and joints are more supple and flexible for a few months after birth, so there’s an increased risk of injury if you are stretching or twisting too much.
You may need to invest in some new sportswear. Your bra cup size will almost definitely have changed! Don’t overdo exercise after having a baby?
If your postnatal bleeding gets heavier or changes colour (becomes pink or red) after activity, you may be overdoing it. You’re also likely to feel very tired. Just listen to your own body, everyone is different. Ensure you get plenty of rest too.
- Think about joining a postnatal exercise class. You’ll probably be able to take your baby with you too
- If you do get back to the gym to join a class, let the instructor know that you have just given birth, they will be able to give you some lower impact suggestions throughout the class
- A good walk with your baby in their pushchair is ideal for getting some exercise, and baby may sleep too!
- If you have older children, play some games with them that involve gentle exercise.
- Swimming is great exercise and can be relaxing. Don’t start swimming until your postnatal bleeding has completely stopped
- Check out some YouTube videos for gentle exercise. You can do these at home with your baby by your side
Look after your mental health
It’s important to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. About 1 in 10 women become depressed in the year after having a baby.
Doing some gentle exercise can help to boost your mood. Remember, everyone is different and you should also ensure you get plenty of rest.
Don’t try to be a super mum, they don’t exist. Social media plays a huge part in making us mums feel imperfect. Do your best but don’t worry if things don’t get done. Ask your family and friends for help around the house, or even just pop round for a coffee and some adult conversation.
Finally, talk to an expert should you start to feel low or you think you may be depressed. Talking always helps, we promise.
We wish you all the best on your journey back to feeling fitter and getting back into shape!