Exercise Recommendations Post Pregnancy
At the outset, let’s define the postpartum period and things to bear in mind specific to this phase while planning an exercise program.
What is the postpartum period?
A postpartum (or postnatal) period begins immediately after the child’s birth. This period is distinct in three phases:
The initial or acute period involves the first 6–12 hours postpartum.
The second phase is the subacute postpartum period, which lasts 2–6 weeks. During this phase, the body undergoes major changes.
The third phase is the delayed postpartum period, which can last up to 6 months, This is the time of restoration of muscle tone and connective tissue to the pre pregnant state.
Commonly seen *musculoskeletal issues* in new mothers are as follows :
1. Back pain
2. Decreased bone density
3. Urinary incontinence
4. Decreased Muscle strength
5. Increased laxity of ligaments which can predispose a new mother to injury
6. Diastasis Recti ( longer than normal abdominal separation )
7. Pelvic organ prolapse
8. Faulty posture
Additional weight, poor posture, stress and control of the centre of gravity are interdependent. A change in the centre of gravity affects posture which causes the muscles to work harder.
How does exercise help?
- Strength training exercises improve muscle tone as well as bone density.
- Aerobic training improves endurance.
- Postural correction training prepares the mother for physically demanding events post-childbirth such as holding, lifting and caring for her baby.
- Supervised exercises and customised nutritional plan helps to maintain postpartum weight within normal limits, ensuring health through the lactation period.
Nowadays everyone desires to have a flat tummy as soon as possible after delivery. It is a trend and women may directly start exercises without proper guidance.
Points to be kept in mind while starting exercise programs:
- Activating pelvic floor muscles through Kegel’s exercises before doing crunches.
- Due to several bodily changes, postpartum women are considered *special population* who require special attention during the workout.
- Clearance by the gynaecologist and detailed screening by a qualified physiotherapist well versed with postnatal exercise programs are required before starting any program. This provides information on indications, contraindications, exercise type and intensity while planning the exercise program.
- The exercise plan will depend on current muscle strength, physical activity and complications during pregnancy.
- A structured exercise program post pregnancy under supervision for at least 3 months is recommended.
– Anuja Mhatre, Consultant Physiotherapist, Mind Your Fitness!
Anuja specialises in cardiac rehab, ante and postnatal care.