Postpartum Exercise: Transitioning from Baby Back to the Gym, Part 1

Making the transition from having a baby to getting back into an exercise routine is no easy task and, more often than not, women are given very little direction from from anyone as to how to make that transition safely.  Besides getting the go ahead from their healthcare provider, most women have no idea where to start.  As my friends over at BirthFit put so well, just because you got the green light from your doc doesn’t mean you body is ready or able to just jump right back into things.  Your body when through nine months of changes culminating in the intense experience that is birth so it’s going to take more than a couple weeks of rest to get back to where you were.

There are so many external pressures to lose the baby weight.  Look at the tabloids at any grocery checkout stand and you will see headlines about celebrities’ post-baby-bods.  And it’s certainly not just celebrities that feel the pressure to get back to shape quickly after birth.  Sometimes the pressure women put on themselves can be just as bad if not worse than societal pressures.  This seems to be especially true, from my experience, with CrossFitters.  I have seen a number of women jump right back into CrossFit group classes as soon as their doc’s give them permission and they expect to go right back to where they were pre-pregnancy.

No matter what your postpartum exercise program of choice is, there are major risks to trying to do too much too soon.  These risks include anemia, uterine and pelvic prolapse, scaring, life-long incontinence, infection, incision rupture, and muscle strain just to name a few.  And that’s not even mentioning the emotional side of postpartum recovery.  Suffice it to say that taking the time to rest and recover properly and then easing back into things will be much better for you in the long run.

I am going to do a series of posts about transitioning into postpartum exercise including some specific exercises you can do to progress safely from having a baby back into your normal routine.  But for now, I am going to give you guys a list of symptoms to watch out for when starting a postpartum exercise routine.

Postpartum Exercise Symptoms to Watch Out For:

Bright Red Bleeding or Increase in Bleeding:  Right after birth, bleeding will usually be bright red and heavy but it tapers off as time goes on changing to pink and then brown.  If you suddenly see a change back to bright red or notice an increase in bleeding then you are doing too much and need to back off.

Exhaustion: It is normal to be very tired when you have a newborn therefore it’s important not to add too much to you plate that will make you even more fatigued.  Exercise should be a nice outlet: some you time, if you will.  If your exercise routine leaves you completely exhausted and unable to function for the rest of the day, perhaps you should slow down.

Trouble Sleeping: Yes , the early stages of life with a newborn mean a lack of sleep for mom but if you find yourself having a difficult time catching some shut-eye when you do get the chance it could be because you are not getting enough rest and are overtired. Postpartum exercise can help with sleep but it can also have a negative effect if you are trying to do too much too soon.  Sometimes, it may be more beneficial to take a nap than it is to hit the gym.

Difficulties Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding take s lots of hard work and dedication.  If you have decided that breastfeeding is right for you and your baby, then take the time to establish a good breastfeeding relationship during those early weeks.  This is not something you can easily go back and fix later.  On another note, troubles with milk supply could also be a sign that your exercise program is too much if you are not also getting the calories that you need to support milk production.

Thirst: The change in blood volume, hormones, breastfeeding, and exercising make staying hydrated very important.  If you are thirsty, this is a sign that your body is dehydrated so drink up!

Baby Blues:  It’s true that exercise can help with feelings of depression but if you schedule is too full with activities then making time to take care of yourself may be more important than getting a workout in.  During the postpartum period, exercise should help relieve stress and anxiety, not contribute to it.  And, as always, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if your baby blues turn into something much more insidious.


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