I generally don’t like strict rules when it comes to how to health and fitness, everyone is different so things that work for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. Below are general guidelines for exercise and nutrition in the 6 months after giving birth.
The best way to use this list is to run through the list and see what you are doing already and then select one or two each week to focus on and see how you get on.
Get checked over by a women’s health physio
It’s the most reassuring thing you can do as mother going back into exercise. They perform an internal examination for your pelvic floor – I can only look at the core and feel the tummy.
Relearn to breathe
A correct breathing technique is the foundation for true core function, healing and strength. Think of your breath as the building blocks to a strong core. You can practice anywhere, anytime. Learn how here.
Eat good quality protein
Good quality protein are the building blocks of our body and will help the body to heal following your pregnancy. Ideally aim for a source of protein in every meal. Good sources include beans, tofu, nuts and seeds and if you are eating meat then ensure it is organic and grassfed.
Retrain your core
Your core includes all your muscles from your diaphragm right down to your pelvic floor and is an integral part of basically any movement we do so it is important to get it functioning fully post pregnancy by doing core exercises. Two good ones to start with are pelvic floor tilts and kegels.
Avoid exercises which use your obliques if you have a diastasis
If you are suffering from a diastasis avoid ‘twisting’ exercises that work your obliques. These can essentially pull the muscles apart further which is the opposite to what we want to be doing which is reconnecting the core to bring the abs back together.
Seek expert help if you have any concerns
If you are suffering from any problem, whether it is leaking, wounds not healing, or a diastasis (where the abs come apart), see a specialist. Whether its a women’s health expert, a postnatal personal trainer or a soft tissue therapist, you will not regret it!
Don’t stress about your weight
Right now the priority should be on embracing your new life and healing your body. The immediate postnatal period is not the right time to be cutting your calories (especially if you are breastfeeding!) and rapidly trying to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Eat well, start exercising slowly and you will gradually see the changes you want to see without having to count calories or do anything else extreme.
Stick to low impact exercises
I recommend women stick to lower impact exercises for the first 6 months after giving birth. You can still do a great full body workout sticking to high intensity, low impact exercises.
Stay active during your pregnancy
If you are reading this prior to giving birth the best thing you can do is regular workouts through your pregnancy, not only will they help you recover more quickly following giving birth but it is good for your baby and also puts you in the best position to have a problem free pregnancy and labour.
Look out for signs of pelvic organ prolapse
Pregnancy can stretch the pelvic floor, ligaments and fascia and this can lead to prolapse of the pelvic organs. Symptoms include feeling of pressure/bulging in your pelvis and difficulty with urination or defecation. It is important to note that some women don’t have symptoms until they get pregnant again so this is why it is so important to focus on core exercises to begin with and stick to low impact exercises for the first 6 months.
Make sure you are drinking enough water
This is important for muscle repair, breastfeeding and health in general. The amount each person needs varies but as a rough guide, aim for 2 litres of water per day, plus whatever you drink while you are working out and increase this if it is particularly warm.
Cut down on the ultra processed foods in your diet
Ultra-processed foods are inflammatory so we need to avoid them as much as possible and replace them with yummy, nutrient dense food. Ultra-processed foods include shop bought bread, packaged snacks, sweets, desserts, fizzy drinks, chicken nuggets and fish fingers, ready meals, fast food and alcohol.
Get enough good fats
Good fats such as avocado, nut butters, nuts and seeds, olive, sesame and coconut are so good for our skin health, nails and vital to our overall health.
Wait 3 months until you go running
If you were a runner before getting pregnant, I’m sure you are keen to get back to it. The general advice is to wait at least 3 months before you reintroduce running into your routine, but even then be very cautious and don’t push yourself to far or too fast and you can run on grass to reduce the impact.
You can start walking and doing pelvic floor exercises from as soon as you feel ready to. After a few weeks, you can introduce gentle bodyweight exercises but hold off on the higher intensity workouts until you have been signed off by your doctor, at the very earliest. As I mentioned before, stick to low impact workouts until 6 months after giving birth and then begin to build up the impact if that is what you want to do.
The best way to use this list is to run through the list and see what you are doing already and then select one or two each week to focus on and see how you get on. Let me know and if you think there are any things that I have missed send me a message and I will add them!