Why you should embrace your post-baby body
Vicky Warr - The Parenting Chapter's Pregnancy and Postnatal Fitness and Nutrition Expert, explains why you shouldn’t feel rushed into ‘getting your body back’ after having a baby and offers some top tips on how to ease yourself back in to exercise.
You enter a whole new world when you become a mum and it’s truly a time to celebrate what you have produced. You created, grew and delivered a gift – your baby. The female body is designed to have babies and what is goes through is amazing. It is also pretty good at recovering and getting stronger, if you let it.
After having my second child, my belly looked and felt really squidgy. The skin was wrinkled and saggy, and I had a very weak pelvic floor, as well as abdominal separation. Yet it didn’t matter. The last part of my pregnancy had been traumatic, with frequent hospital visits, and my bump was so large people thought I was having triplets! There was only the one baby in there, but I had a lot of fluid. I’d also had a scare, as one of the scans at around 30 weeks had suggested my baby might have one short leg. When my daughter was born with equal-sized legs (!) I didn’t care too much about my saggy tummy.
During the weeks after giving birth, regaining strength and fitness was important to me. I had suffered from postnatal depression after having my first child and I knew that exercise would help me mentally. It makes you feel so much better and the endorphins you release spark feelings of happiness and boost your confidence. As someone who works in the fitness industry helping mums-to-be and new mums, I can’t emphasise enough that there is no need to see exercise as something you must rush straight into just to ‘get your body back’. This is a message you hear a lot in the media, but going head first into the wrong kind of exercises too quickly can do more harm than good. Not only that, setting unrealistic goals can have a negative impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. A new mum who wants to return to her pre-pregnancy weight is also challenged with childcare, less rest and sleep, household chores and the possibility of returning to work at some point.
So, being patient with your body after birth, accepting the complete unknown and seeking support from friends or family to help you through the first few months are the three things I advise you to do when it comes to ‘getting your body back’. Not what you expected me to say, I know.
The first stage, just after you’ve had your baby, is to just accept the changes. Look to restoring your body and aiming, at some point, to get things back to somewhere close to where you were before. In the first few weeks, get out of the house or just into the garden for fresh air, vitamin D, movement and walking. Just go with the flow and do not stress about how your tummy or body looks and feels.
The next stage, which may be after a few months or a few weeks (everyone is different and has different levels of support or childcare around them), is to create a few healthy habits with your nutrition. Eating more vegetables and lean protein, as well as aiming for 10 to 20 minutes of exercise every day, will help to address a pregnancy pouch and regain your muscle memory.
Then, as you emerge through the first few months, you’ll want to feel fit, strong and more body confident. A post-birth body can repair itself. Exercise and good eating are the tools to get you there and pastany plateaus you experience with your weight. Progressing your exercise programme and including more total body strength exercises for just 30 minutes, three times a week, will help you to feel stronger.
Just like your baby taking his or her first small steps, think of this same process when it comes to healing your body and regaining fitness. During the process, stay relaxed, move each day and be active, eat well, drink plenty of water and be grateful to your beautiful body. If you want a little help to kick start your exercise regime, sign up for my free, five-day Mummy Tummy Kick Start programme. It consists of expertly instructed 10-minute video workouts that you can do anywhere and at any time, plus a delicious daily recipe your whole family will love – and so will your tummy. For more information, visit: www.beezkneezhive.com
About the Author: Vicky Warr is a pre and postnatal fitness specialist and creator of The Beez Kneez, healthy eating and exercise for new mamas and mamas to be. She has contributed to BBC Radio and is the fitness consultant to Mothercare and Gurgle magazine.