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Returning to exercise: Things to think about

Women who exercise regularly, and see it as a simple part of healthy living, have reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and have greater bone density, strength and reported quality of life as they get older.

Exercise is important for a healthy and strong body that is prepared for life’s physical challenges, not only as you raise your children, but especially as you age.

There are a few things to think about before returning to exercise after having a baby.

Your exercise history

  • If you were active before and during pregnancy, be careful that you don’t do too much too soon. Your body needs some time to recover. Be steady and patient, and build up to previous levels gradually.

  • If you did little to no exercise before and during pregnancy, don’t try to jump into a vigorous exercise routine just yet. Start gently and build up.

Your birth

Women give birth in several ways.

  • Depending on how you birthed your baby, you might need to change your exercise routine.

Challenges

After pregnancy, the hormone relaxin can stay in your body for up to 4-6 months postnatally, leaving your ligaments and pelvic floor muscles more vulnerable to injury in the post-natal period.

  • You will have reduced core stability as your abdominal muscles have naturally stretched during pregnancy and require time and care to recover, particularly following a caesarean section.
  • Physical challenges may arise if you experience a separation of the abdominal muscles, this is also referred to as a diastasis rectus abdominus muscle (DRAM) and can be seen if your tummy domes or peaks when you move.
  • Other challenges arise if you have difficulty with bladder or bowel control following your birth or have back or pelvic girdle pain. If you feel pelvic floor discomfort or a sensation of something coming down in the vagina, leaking urine while exercising or your tummy muscles are still doming, you need to reduce the intensity of your exercise programme or change the exercises so that you are strengthening the pelvic floor and core at an appropriate level for you.

It is important for you to match the intensity of your exercise to the strength and control of your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to avoid worsening your physical symptoms.

In the next step, we’ll be looking at your timeline to exercise after birth.

Always listen to your body.

If you had any complications during pregnancy or while giving birth, or you have any medical problems, talk to your midwife, doctor or physiotherapist before beginning any type of exercise.

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This article is from the free online course:

Women’s Health After Motherhood

Trinity College Dublin

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