Four mistakes women should avoid when working out postpartum
Here are some tips for safely and slowly recovering from childbirth, as well as workout mistakes women should avoid during postpartum recovery.
Mothers face many physical issues during recovery after giving birth. "Giving birth is a major life and medical event, and recovering from it should be addressed as seriously as recovering from trauma," says Mumbai-based gynaecologist, Dr Shilpa Bansal. Hormonal changes, like elevated levels of relaxin, a hormone that loosens ligaments and joints to aid in delivery, can cause balance issues and an overall clumsy feeling for new mothers, she says. "Gestational weight gain and increased breast size leave many women hunched over, leading to poor posture and balance and muscle aches and pains," she adds.
Plus, most new mothers, according to Dr Bansal, also suffer from weakened or damaged abdominal, lower back, and pelvic muscles, which can play a role in incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Even in the best-case scenario, a woman might face stretching, swelling, tearing, and cutting. However, "four to six weeks later she can be cleared for exercise with little to no guidance on how to properly rehabilitate postpartum," she says.
Here's a look at mistakes women should avoid during postpartum recovery.
Jumping back into intense exercise too quickly.
Some mothers return to high-impact cardio and heavy lifting without thinking about what their new bodies can handle. "New mothers who were avid runners or even gym enthusiasts pre-pregnancy are more susceptible to joint injury during these exercises due to elevated levels of relaxin," says Kabir Khan, fitness trainer and instructor at The Studio, Mumbai.
Building abdominal pressure.
Traditional crunches, planks, and intense core exercises can increase the likelihood of lower-back and bladder issues postpartum, says Khan.
"Nutrition plays a role not only in weight gain or loss, but also in energy, mood, sleep, and muscle recovery," says Khan. Too often, busy new moms go for the fast and easy food choice, without thinking about the nutritional content and consequences, he says.
Immediately after birth, your body will need time to rest and recharge before you can start an exercise regime, says Khan. However, once your medical professional has given you the go-ahead to start moving, Khan says, the right exercises and stretches will help aid in your recovery efforts and provide clear benefits over a sedentary lifestyle.
Below are a few tips for safely and slowly recovering from childbirth.
Try low-impact cardio for heart health.
When adjusting back into a heart-healthy routine, mothers should stick to low-impact cardiovascular exercise during the first few months postpartum. Walking, swimming, cycling, and elliptical trainers are generally preferred to exercises involving jumping and pounding that can lead to joint damage. "Start out with five to 10 minutes a day, and build up to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, five times a week, to keep your heart and lungs healthy," says Khan.
Be careful about your core exercise.
"Focus on simple abdominal exercises targeting your obliques, lower back, transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, and hips without increasing abdominal pressure," says Khan. Pilates and yoga-based poses will improve overall core strength and balance postpartum, he suggests.
Load up on nutrient-dense foods.
Continue a healthy diet with energy-rich foods, accompanied by plenty of fluids. According to Dr Bansal, the main nutrients that are of concern in the first year after childbirth are calcium, iron, fibre, and fluids.
Prioritize your health.
It's important for mothers to practise self-care and secure "me time" whenever possible during the postpartum period. "Don't be afraid to ask for help from family, neighbours, and friends when it comes to a support system and securing child care. With help, a couple of minutes a day for exercise can go a long way for a new mom in jump-starting the healing process," says Dr Bansal. Recent studies even show that exercise and meditation may reduce the risk of postpartum depression.