Weight Loss After Pregnancy: Get Your Body Back (cont.)

To this end, many groups, including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have not only significantly loosened the reins on the number of activities a new mom can safely do but have also begun promoting exercise as a key factor in the health of new moms.

"There used to be many more 'don'ts' about exercising after pregnancy, now there are many more 'dos,'" says Fleming.

But how do you know if you're ready to begin an exercise program? ACOG recommends that you check with your doctor before starting, especially if you had a complicated pregnancy or delivery. That said, most experts agree you are free to begin a mild workout as soon as you feel up to it -- and you can keep up with the activity level.

"That's key, being able to keep up with whatever program you start. If you can't then either the program is too rigorous, or you're just not ready. Exercise should make you feel better, not worse," says Riley.

Post-Pregnancy Workouts: What Works!

Whether it's within six days or six weeks of delivering, ACOG experts say one of the easiest ways to begin a postpartum exercise routine is by walking. And you can even get baby in on the fun! Indeed, one of the more popular forms of organized new-mommy exercise involves walking stroller workouts.

"The idea is to use the stroller as a piece of fitness equipment and doing exercises that actually rely on the stroller, or workouts that can be done while your baby is in the stroller," says Lisa Druxman, founder of San Diego-based Stroller Strides, one of several nationwide programs devoted to helping new moms get back in shape.

If you think you're up for a more-challenging activity, Fleming says begin to add in the exercises you did in your third trimester of pregnancy - and then work backwards.

"You can start with what you did in the third trimester, then gradually add what you did in the second trimester, then the first, until you are back to doing what you did before pregnancy," says Fleming, who says the process should take between four and six months.

The one area where you might want to start on sooner rather than later, however, involves strength-training exercises to build a strong core, an area that Riley says many women neglect during pregnancy as well as during the postpartum.

"Even if you had strong core muscles before pregnancy, you really lose that strength during pregnancy because the muscles are all attenuated and stretched out - plus you've spent nine months carrying extra weight in that area," says Riley.

What's the best way to build a strong core?
"You can start simple and slow with a pelvic tilt, a modified sit-up (if you didn't have a C-section), squeeze and tighten your butt then relax, put a pillow between your knees and squeeze and relax. This can start to build your core and strengthen your back," says Fleming.

A Final Word of Caution

No matter how eager you are to lose your baby fat, experts caution against any activities that put major stress on your joints -- such as jogging, jumping, or running -- for at least six to eight weeks. Why?

"During pregnancy you produce a hormone called relaxin, which actually makes joints loose and consequently more prone to injury, and you will still have significant amounts of this hormone in your blood for at least several weeks after childbirth," says Fleming.

Put too much stress on joints during this time, she says, and you could end up sidelined for months with a serous injury.

Moreover, regardless of what exercises you do, pay close attention to the warning signs of trouble and seek medical attention if any of these symptoms appear:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Extreme shortness of breath
  • Exhaustion after even mild exercise
  • Muscle soreness that does not go away within a day or 2

Published June 1, 2007.

SOURCES: Laura Riley, MD, high-risk-pregnancy obstetrician, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; spokeswoman, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; author, You and Your Baby: Pregnancy and You and Your Baby: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy. Sue Fleming, personal trainer, founder, and creator, Buff line of fitness DVDs and books; creator, Buff New Moms fitness program and DVD. Elizabeth Somer, MS, RD, author, Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy. Lisa Druxman, founder, Stroller Strides, San Diego. ACOG Patient Education Pamphlet: "Getting in Shape After Your Baby Is Born" (AP131). Daley, A. Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, 2007; vol 52(1): pp 56-62. Gilberto, K. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2004; vol 79: pp 487-493. Bouchez, C. Your Perfectly Pampered Pregnancy: Health, Beauty and Lifestyle Advice for the Modern Mother to Be. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsweb site.

Last Editorial Review: 5/30/2007

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