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Getting back in shape after pregnancy

Published by cheree
Published on 21 July 2009

Find out what you should be doing over the weeks following the birth of your baby to help you get back on form and in shape.

Diet
- A healthy diet is an essential part of your post-natal programme. Your diet should include protein for repairing tissue, fat and carbohydrate for energy, fibre to aid bowel movements, mineral salts and trace elements. A balanced diet contains essential elements that will help you overcome tiredness too.

- Even if you don’t have time to cook, make sure you eat healthily. You should be eating fruit and vegetables, starchy foods, meat, fish and dairy products on a daily basis.

- It will take about 6 months for your weight to return to normal and about a year before your waist is back to normal.

Beauty
- Make time for yourself, even if it’s just a quarter of an hour.

- Carry on with the fight against stretch marks even after you’ve given birth. Although creams won’t make stretch marks disappear, they will reduce their appearance. Just massaging your stomach, thighs and hips will also help your body bounce back into shape. Moisturise your breasts (except for the area around the nipple if you’re breastfeeding) to prevent sagging.

- Hormone-related pigmentation (the mask of pregnancy, brown lines on your stomach etc) will last for a few months yet. Use total sun block when you go out in the sun.

Pelvic floor exercises
- During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor (the group of muscles, ligaments and extremely solid membranes that support the vagina, bladder and rectum) takes a battering, so pelvic floor exercises are strongly recommended for all women who have given birth vaginally, if only to help you experience a satisfying sex life once again.

- Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles and make the reflex contractions of the pelvic floor functional again. They help to prevent incontinence and prolapse (slipping down of the vagina).

- Once your pelvic floor muscles are back in shape, you can start thinking about your abdominal muscles.

Exercise
- Some women recover from pregnancy more quickly than others but as a general rule, you need to wait at least two months before taking up exercise again (at a mild intensity at first). If you’ve had a Caesarean or an episiotomy, you’ll need to wait a bit longer. In any case, ask your doctor for the green light first.

- Like during pregnancy, walking is highly recommended: it’s also an opportunity to get out in the fresh air with your baby. When you resume exercise, make sure it’s moderate (such as low-impact aerobics, swimming) and start off gently. Vigorous exercise that involves running and jumping should be avoided.

- You can also do some simple exercises at home to help you tone the muscles which have been weakened during pregnancy and slim down slowly but surely.

- Although you might want to dedicate all your time to your baby, give yourself breathing space. Take a nap when baby is sleeping and accept help from your family and friends. Your baby needs you on top form!

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