SHAPING UP AFTER DELIVERY

Every woman who's ever had a baby knows how difficult it is to take off that extra weight. Though it is tough but it is possible with little patience and regular workouts. This is no small task, but by starting your fitness regimen and starting a modified exercise program for the first time, you can improve the tone of your body and get back your previous figure. However before you decide to begin, you should check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

It is necessary to know that during pregnancy:

  • A woman's waist expands 50 inches
  • Her skin is stretched by 400%
  • Her hips widen half a foot
  • Her fat cells grow to 125% their original size -- all 30 billion of them!


Despite these challenges, it is possible to lose post-pregnancy weight without losing your mind.

How early can you start your postpregnancy exercise program?
The big question is how soon can you start? It all depends on the type of delivery that you had, your condition and whether your body is ready for it. If you exercised regularly throughout your pregnancy and had a vaginal birth, you'll have a much easier time getting back to start your exercise program. You may feel ready to start exercising in as little as two to four weeks after delivery. However women who didn't stick with a fitness regimen throughout their pregnancy, had a caesarian birth or an episiotomy (a cut made between the vagina and rectum in order to enlarge the vaginal opening to prevent tearing) will take longer to build up your strength.

Your Postpregnancy Exercise Program
Both fit and unfit new moms should ease into an exercise routine by taking 20-minute walks three days a week, for example. You should slowly increase the duration or distance of your regimen each week. Initially you can begin walking and working on exercises for your abdomen, lower back and pelvic muscles. During the first six weeks, you can start walking to increase your circulation and get some general exercise. Do what you can handle, even if it's only for 10 to 15 minutes. Increase the time duration as you get stronger. After you've received your doctor's approval, move on to 50 to 60 minutes of continuous walking, for four to five days a week. Of course, you can take your baby along in a pram/a stroller if you have to. Once you can walk comfortably for 20 minutes, begin to increase your speed.

Include the following exercises in your daily fitness programme:

Pelvic floor exercise:
Weakening of the pelvic floor is common after childbirth. The pelvic floor is a hammock shape of muscles slung between your coccyx bone and your pubic bone. The muscles support your bladder and bowel. The effect of a weakened pelvic floor is that you tend to leak urine especially when you jump, cough or sneeze. Therefore you need to do regular pelvic floor exercises to cure the problem. Start pelvic floor exercises as soon as you can after the birth. They may feel weak at first but the more you do, the stronger the muscles will get. It also has the added advantage of improving your love life later on.

Steps to do pelvic floor exercise:

To practice pelvic floor exercises imagine that you need to stop yourself from going to the toilet, you are desperate not to let go, pull the muscles up and in. Hold the position for five counts, then release back to the starting position. Repeat that as many times as you can until you feel the muscles being to tire. Try to breathe normally.

Another exercise is to pull the muscles up and in as before, but to lift, squeeze and tighten the muscles quite quickly, as in the beat of a pulse and then release. Repeat five times. Again breathing normally.

Some handy tips:

  • Weigh yourself only once a week to keep the stress of slow weight loss to a minimum. Losing about a pound per week is safe.

  • If you're new to the joy of exercising, start slowly and increase your intensity and duration over time. If you exercise too hard too soon after your delivery, your vaginal flow may increase. Thus increase your exercises gradually allowing yourself time to build up over a number of weeks.

  • Praise yourself for small goals and achievements, such as exercising three times per week.

  • This isn't the time to diet to lose weight. If you're nursing, you will need to eat about 500 calories more per day as compared to when you became pregnant, including 65 grams of protein. Though milk production is largely independent of nutritional intake during the first few months of nursing (the fat accumulated during pregnancy provides a ready supply of calories), if your diet isn't adequate you're more likely to experience fatigue and listlessness.

  • When it comes to the abdominal work, ensure your rectus abdominal muscles have come back together before going on to more advanced exercises. (You can ask your doctor, physiotherapist or your postnatal exercise teacher to show you how to check on these muscles.)

  • Remember to keep the abdominal muscles as 'flat' as possible (drawing them towards the spine as you work). Try to do this in everyday life but especially when working out.

  • Cut down your exercise routine by half in hot weather or when you feel under the weather.

  • Try and keep the body in good alignment - hips and shoulders kept square, and when doing knee bends allow the knees to follow the line of the toes.

  • Try to exercise early in the morning or late in the evening when it's cooler. Wear light clothing.

  • Pain is a warning signal that should never be ignored. Make adaptations or stop altogether (always stop exercising when you feel your body has had enough).

  • Drink plenty of water both before and after you exercise, so that you don't get dehydrated. If you're out and about, carry a water bottle in your baby's changing bag to remind yourself to replace those fluids during the day.


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