So, you’ve just spent the better part of 9 months growing a little human – your body has, undeniably, been through so many hormonal and physical changes. And now, after giving birth to your gorgeous bundle of joy, you might find you are shaming yourself and feeling repulsed by your own postpartum body.
Did you experience this post birth? It’s surprisingly common.
I always say that having a baby is not for the faint-hearted, and after just having my second child, I know that statement it is as true as ever. My darling girl was born with congenital pneumonia and went straight into NICU for 2 weeks. This was probably the most stressful time in my life to date. The constant worry and anxiety, the panic when your phone rings, sleepless nights, expressing as much breast milk as possible, trips back and forth to the hospital… it was all very traumatic. However, what concerned me is that I still had time to be bothered by my post partum body…. my ever-present mom pouch.
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Your body after having a baby
You may experience lots of different emotions post birth, and these are largely due to the fluctuating hormones in your body. These hormones affect your physical and emotional state. It is normal to feel like a bit of a basketcase post delivery: one day, you may feel overjoyed, and the next you may have a case of the baby blues.
Many women become ashamed of their body during this time. With a C- section comes an unpleasant scar that may not look aesthetically pleasing. You may also still have a bit of a belly. Natural birth mamas may have experienced unpleasant tearing or prolapses. You may have loose skin in your abdominal area. Some ladies have what we call “the mom pouch.” The list goes on….
My advice is to embrace your postpartum body. Praise it for growing and nurturing a tiny human. How incredible that your body was able to support another life? Wow! You are a magnificent being. So what you may have a bit of a belly, as long as your baby is healthy and strong. What more can you ask for?
You have time to get back the body that you want, but you will never get back the time you have now with your baby, so enjoy it, use it and love it! Be present in this beautiful moment.
And when you do want to feel ready to start exercising again (and this should be as much for mental and emotional reasons as physical), here are some tips for helping to navigate those first few weeks postpartum, combat the baby blues and returning to exercise.
Ask for help when you need it
There really is no need to try and do everything yourself – and, honestly, you CAN’T do it all yourself right now!
Take some time out for YOU!
Whether that’s having a bath or shower, reading a book, listening to some music, having a cup of tea, going for a gentle walk, or doing some light exercise when you can. All of these can help to reduce stress and anxiety and lift your mood.
Get some rest
It might sound impossible to prioritise rest when you have a newborn but it’s so important. Make sure you take time to relax because sleep deprivation is a trigger for anxiety and depression.
Practice good habits
It might be the last thing you feel like but sticking to healthy eating and lifestyle habits will provide benefits – both physical and mental – in the long term.
Do some deep breathing
Science has proven that deep breathing promotes the release of endorphins, which help to calm the mind and body.
Go gently mama
I can’t emphasise this enough: start slowly! Exercise is important as it helps to release those endorphins “happy hormones” but your body has been through a lot, and it is extremely important to allow your body to heal before returning into exercise. It is recommended that you wait at least 2-4 weeks post a natural (uncomplicated) birth and at least 6 weeks post c-section before you start exercising again.
A c-section is a major abdominal surgery, and the rest period is essential for tissue healing to take place. When you feel ready, we recommend starting with very gentle exercise such as walking and light core strengthening exercises, and you can progress to more intense exercise as you get stronger and fitter. If you need some inspiration, there are plenty of options on the Fit4Two app.
Listen to your body
Your body is the best measure of whether your workout is too intense or just right. If after your workout you are feeling exhausted and in pain, then it is a good indication that you have done too much.
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. This is very important, especially if you are breast feeding.
Wear appropriate clothing
Wear a supportive bra especially as your breasts may be larger if you’re breastfeeding or expressing breast milk.
Ensure that you are actually enjoying the exercise that you are doing and that it isn’t simply adding to your stress. Exercise should leave you feeling energised, happy and calmer.
You are allowed (and are encouraged!) to rest, recover and reflect. You don’t have to constantly be working or busy to be a good mother. Self care is not selfish – it’s a necessity!
Written by Kayla Murphy