The first six weeks after giving birth is when the body undergoes the most dramatic changes because it begins to readjust back to its pre-pregnancy state. In this article we explore all the aspects to keep in mind so that future or new mothers can have an ideal postpartum recovery and return to their exercise routine without danger.
The postpartum recovery process begins immediately after childbirth when the uterus begins to contract repeatedly. Loquios (which contains blood, mucus, and placental tissue) also begins to deflate and discharge little by little for about four to six weeks.
The pelvic floor also begins to gradually regain its strength during this period. Breast size also increases and they feel much heavier as the milk accumulates due to increased hormone levels which, in turn, increase the blood supply to the milk production area.
In addition to this, you may also experience back pain, postpartum depression, anaemia and urinary disorders, as well as physical fatigue due to the demands of motherhood or lack of sleep caused by the new family member.
Returning to exercise after childbirth
A gradual recovery is essential for a smooth transition to motherhood, with the goal set on achieving maximum well-being rather than on increasing aerobic fitness fitness or losing weight.
In fact, muscles stretched during pregnancy may require up to nine months more to return to their original shape and be completely renewed and with a certain degree of functional strength. In addition, it should not be forgotten that breastfeeding requires adequate rest and a good diet, so that goals should never go short term towards aesthetics.
However, the benefits of long-term postnatal exercise will be very important for these aspects, to the point that all postnatal mothers should be aware of the advantages and establish a regular exercise routine of some kind as soon as they feel prepared both physically and mentally.
Some of these benefits are:
- Faster healing and energy recovery to cope with the demands of motherhood
- Reduction of stress and depression (postpartum sadness) through a greater sense of well-being
- Return to pre-pregnancy shape and strength levels in a shorter time.
- Weight loss and reduction of body fat.
- Increased strength and endurance.
- Improved posture and flexibility.
- Stop osteoporosis and increase bone density.
- Strengthening of the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles.
- Develop a new social circle of friends and healthy, sporting people who will benefit you and your baby.
- Reinforce self-esteem and the idea that you are a healthy woman.
- Improve self-confidence.
Cases not recommended for postpartum exercise
It should be borne in mind that there are several cases in which returning to exercise after childbirth is not recommended. For example, when the levels of fatigue or exhaustion are high, when the perineum remains unhealed, in the case of persistent vaginal bleeding, if you have anemia, or if you have developed mastitis, ie inflammation and infection of the sinuses.
There are a number of considerations that must be addressed when determining the right time to return to a regular exercise routine. Whether or not you are a first-time mother, being ready for exercise will depend on several individual factors, which should be determined in conjunction with the gynecologist or obstetrician.
Many mothers are advised to wait until six weeks before starting an exercise program and getting approval from their midwife. However, some mothers, especially those who have exercised regularly before and during their pregnancy, may be allowed to exercise again 1 to 2 weeks after the baby’s arrival.
The type of delivery can affect the return to the exercise routine.
The type of delivery, either by vaginal section or by cesarean section, will affect the rate of recovery. A mother who gives birth through a cesarean section will be recommended to have much more supervision before she is allowed to return to any form of exercise.
In most of these cases, any type of exercise should be avoided at all during the first three days, as well as no heavy lifting movements during the first six weeks. Your doctor may suggest several exercises to help your recovery and reduce the risk of blood clots, which can be done during this period.
On the other hand, in a vaginal delivery in which an episiotomy is performed, it may be necessary to put some stitches so that the wound can be sutured and avoid small losses. These stitches may be uncomfortable and painful even while the wound is healing and may interfere with the baby’s care.
Although certain pain medications are available, it is important to take short walks and have frequent breaks to help the recovery process. On the other hand, starting pelvic floor strengthening exercises 24 hours after childbirth can help reduce discomfort and pain.
However, before returning to exercise, you should make sure that the stitches are largely or fully healed and that you are not experiencing any significant pain.