Get Your Body Back After Pregnancy
Dedication and patience are the keys to losing postpartum baby weight and looking like your pre-baby self again.
January 21st, 2014 by: Touro Infirmary Hospital
Originally from Lafayette, Touro Infirmary physical therapist Claire Melebeck considered going into medicine before she found physical therapy. She’s always wanted to work one-on-one with people, and physical therapy was a great fit. “Somehow you find exactly where you’re supposed to be,” she says.
Melebeck specializes in manual therapy and pain management at Touro. She’s also interested in women’s health issues, especially in the ways that physical therapists can work hand-in-hand with doctors and other healthcare professionals to help women build healthy bodies after pregnancy.
“Before you hit the ground running, have someone do a little screen or assessment and make sure things are good.”
Post-Delivery Fitness: Where to Begin
Melebeck recommends that women seek a professional evaluation before beginning a postpartum fitness regimen. “Before you hit the ground running, have someone do a little screen or assessment and make sure things are good,” she says.
It’s important to start slow, and remain patient and realistic.
Rebuild Core Strength
A woman’s first post-pregnancy fitness concern should be strengthening her pelvic floor, as these muscles are traumatized during vaginal delivery. Melebeck recommends doing Kegel exercises, which can be started as soon as the first day after delivery.
Benefits of building a strong pelvic floor:
Help restore abdominal and core strength
Ameliorate back pain, sciatica and other posture - related issues
Cut down on urinary incontinence, a common postpartum issue
Work Off the Pregnancy Pounds
After developing a strong core through pelvic-floor exercises and abdominal work, new mothers can begin to amp up their workouts. Melebeck suggests starting simply with a daily walk. “Walking is probably the most beneficial thing, cardiovascular-wise, for all of us,” she says. Start with a relaxed 10-minute stroll; gradually work up to walking 20 minutes per day
- Start with a relaxed 10-minute stroll; gradually work up to walking 20 minutes per day
- Once you’re comfortable walking for about 20 minutes, increase your walking speed
Exercise that builds on core strength, like yoga and Pilates, is a safe bet for women of all fitness levels. Other ways to work out post-pregnancy include:
- Joining a stroller-based Meetup group for new moms
- Doing a DVD fitness routine at home
Post-Pregnancy Workout Benefits
- Weight loss
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Muscle tone
- More energy
- Improved mood
It’s important to be patient with your body and not push too hard after delivering a baby. “We want things now, right away, and it just doesn’t work like that,” Melebeck says. “It may not take three to four months. But in two years, you will get that pre-pregnancy body back, and you’ll feel stronger and set yourself up for a better outcome at that point.”
Fitness Tips to Build a Stronger Pelvic Floor
- KEGELS: This exercise, invented by Dr. Arnold Kegel, involves repeated contraction of the pubococcygeal (pelvic) muscle. Strengthening this muscle aids in preventing urinary incontinence.
- DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING: Breathe deeply into the bottom of your lungs. Notice if your shoulders lift up; you’re aiming for a lower breath, which will cause your belly to swell without raising your shoulders.
- PELVIC TILT: Pretend like you’re tucking in a T-shirt. Contract your belly slightly, and imagine doing a reverse crunch; instead of lifting your shoulders up and inward, curl your butt in and lift your pelvis. Practice this movement while breathing deeply from the diaphragm.