How to get started with post pregnancy fitness

Post pregnancy fitness is a topic gets a lot of attention.  Social media is full of before and after posts.  Unfortunately, as a woman, it is pretty common to get asked when or how you will get your body back after birth.  Post pregnancy fitness is very important but it is important for reasons other than what you look like on the outside.  We spoke with Chana Balk, a fitness expert about fitness right after birth.

What are the most important goals to have in postnatal fitness? What is the real reason we should care?

The most important goals in postnatal fitness are to nourish your body as much as you can to heal from birth, to begin to feel like yourself a little bit, and to do so in a safe and functional way.  

So many women do not know what they can and what they should not do after birth and unfortunately, we typically do not get adequate guidance about this from our OB’s as their main focus is delivering a healthy baby and once that happens, care for the mom is not a high priority.  

We absolutely should care a lot about our bodies post-birth. 

For many, birth is a traumatic experience and leaves us with tears, scars, weakened or damaged pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.  In the first 12 weeks after birth, moms are already dealing with extreme sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations, so feeling pain and discomfort in your body just makes this period harder.  By engaging in self care — whether that means beginning to practice deep breathing exercises to heal your abdominals or visiting a postpartum therapist to help with your pain down there or taking walks with your baby — it allows us to begin the process of feeling better in our bodies and eases that oh-so crazy transition to new motherhood.  

What do you typically recommend that parents practice during 1-3 months post birth?

Depending on your particular birth experience and what your body feels like in the initial weeks after giving birth, you may be able to start up a fitness routine once you get the green light to do so, but I would caution even moms who ready to move at 6 weeks postpartum to take it slow and do not go from zero to sixty because that is a recipe for injury.  

Take it slow and do not go from zero to sixty because that is a recipe for injury.

If you have pain or discomfort or think you might have diastasis or pelvic floor issues, it is highly advisable to first seek out a certified postpartum trainer or physical therapist who can guide you as to what your body needs and what you should avoid.  Even moms who have issues that may prohibit some activities or movements can usually begin with very basic breathing and pelvic floor work during those first weeks postpartum.

When should a parent avoid exercise? What are the signs that it is better to rest?

If certain movements feels uncomfortable or painful, that is a clear sign that something is amiss and you should get professional help to know what to avoid and what to do to alleviate that pain.  If you are not sure whether your pain is “normal” or whether your stomach should look as it does, ask questions and get help. Also, remember that it took 9 months to grow that human inside of you and it can take that long to feel like your pre-baby self.  

It is ok to just heal and rest during those first 1-3 months postpartum.

It is ok to just rest and heal during those first 1-3 months postpartum.  Try your best to nourish your body during these hard months — with good nutrition, sleep (try to nap once a day with your baby), and movement that feels good and healing.  For many, that is taking walks pushing your baby in the stroller. (It is amazing what fresh air can do). For some, that is gentle stretching. And for some, who may be blessed with having had an easy birth (and yes, especially for 1st time moms, if you had a relatively easy birth, consider yourself blessed and lucky), getting back into a more challenging fitness routine is appropriate.

What do you wish all parents know about postnatal fitness while still pregnant?

When you are pregnant with your first child, you just have no way of knowing how hard those first few months will be and no matter what people tell you, you just have to live it to understand.  That said, I wish more moms were armed with more information — about taking time to get back into a workout regime, about maybe not planking those last several weeks before birth, about the various issues that may happen after birth, about what they can do to avoid diastasis while pregnant, and perhaps most importantly, about the birthing industry and how birth is indeed a business and sometimes, mommy’s future pelvic floor integrity is second to the hospital getting you quickly through your birth.  (p.s. I strongly urge every couple to watch the movie “The Business of Being Born,” which empowers moms with knowledge so that they can better advocate for themselves during their birth experiences).

there is a direct correlation between your birth and how you feel postpartum in your body.

Clearly, regardless of your birth experience, the outcome of a healthy baby is primary, but that said, there is a direct correlation between your birth and how you feel postpartum in your body so I do think it matters and I want more moms to be informed and empowered so that they feel better in their bodies after birth, and can begin to heal and get stronger after they become new moms.

About Chana Balk

Chana Balk is a former attorney turned fitness professional who runs Move It Momma, a Brooklyn based business that offers personal training and group fitness for moms.  Chana is a pre and postpartum expert, and lectures regularly on women’s health issues and postpartum recovery.  In addition, she is an SLT instructor and last but not least, a mom of three.  Her mission is to provide moms with the tools they need to live healthier and happier lives.

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