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How early can women start exercising after delivery? An obstetrician answers

Exercise is certainly worth it as you will feel more energetic and a sense of wellbeing will prevail. Not only that but working out also helps reduce the chances of postpartum depression,” says Dr Aruna Muralidhar
Giving birth is an important milestone a woman crosses in her life. But it is also well-known that the body experiences a lot of changes during the nine months of pregnancy. However, did you know that these changes reverse within six weeks post-delivery? Dr Aruna Muralidhar at Fortis La Femme Hospital, Bangalore says, “The uterus shrinks back to almost the original size, the pregnancy hormones clear from the body and the blood circulation return to normal.”

But how early can one start exercising after delivery?

Dr Muralidhar says, “Women can start as early as the second week after delivery. A new mother can begin by doing gentle stretches and short walks in and around the house as per what is convenient for her.”

She adds, “Exercise is certainly worth it as you will feel more energetic and a sense of wellbeing will prevail. Not only that but working out also helps reduce the chances of postpartum depression.”

Things to keep in mind while getting back in shape

If by any chance the mother has undergone a caesarean section, the wound needs at least two weeks to completely heal. “Bending down while changing the baby’s nappies, picking the baby up and even breastfeeding may strain the back and cause long-standing back pain. However, gentle stretches and strolls are good to keep the body supple and maintain the tone of the muscles,” points out Dr Muralidhar.

Not only that but hydration too plays an imperative role in the immediate postpartum period. “Good hydration maintains circulation, avoids blood clots forming in the veins, improves breast milk production and avoids constipation and piles,” says the obstetrician.

If the woman was already exercising during pregnancy, Dr Muralidhar says that “it is safe to resume as soon as she feels up to it but the transition has to be gradual.”

If you have the energy, you can also opt for regular brisk walks as this helps you get ready for more intense exercises later. Dr Muralidhar also suggests swimming, saying that is a good exercise after delivery. “However, this can be resumed only after about 4-6 weeks of delivery, once the bleeding has stopped and the wounds have healed.”

Getting the tummy back into shape

“The tummy that has stretched during the 9 months of pregnancy to accommodate the baby will not shrink back to a flat one immediately after delivery,” says the obstetrician. In order to get back to your old shape, one needs to focus on the abdominal muscles. They require toning and strengthening. Dr Muralidhar suggests core strengthening exercises such as leg raises, pelvic bridge, crunches and heel touching etc.

In fact, make sure you happen to add pelvic floor exercises or kegel’s exercises in your routine to maintain a good pelvic tone to avoid long term problems such as uterovaginal prolapse– a condition where the uterus loses its elasticity. Not only that these exercises also help to avoid and limit urinary incontinence – a condition where there is leakage of urine when one coughs or sneezes.

Over a period of time, these exercises will help you regain your original pre-pregnancy weight and make you feel better emotionally, physically and socially. The quality of sleep will be also better. Enjoy motherhood!

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