Although exercise is important at any stage in life, studies have shown that exercise can truly enhance both pregnancy and postpartum health.
The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
It is important to note that most pregnant women can safely maintain an exercise program that was already in practice prior to pregnancy. Women should consult their doctor before starting a new, rigorous exercise program during pregnancy.
Preparing for Postpartum Exercise
How soon can you safely start exercising after you have the baby? Although you may be able to do some mild exercises within a few days after delivery, talk to your doctor about when it is fine to return to extended physical activity. Women who have had a cesarean section might be advised by their doctor not to begin exercising for at least 6 weeks after delivery. However, this refers to abdominal muscle exercise, and it is possible to do other exercise for brief periods and gradually increase the time. Go slow, and listen to your body. The most important guiding factors will be how you feel and your energy level.
Pregnancy and delivery cause unique physical changes. For example, during birth, the pelvic floor muscles are stretched. Having strong pelvic floor muscles is important throughout life to prevent incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. This is a condition in which the pelvic organs lose suspension and fall through the vagina. Kegel exercises—the rhythmic tightening and releasing of pelvic muscles—are the best way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. They can be done anytime, anywhere—even shortly after giving birth.
When you begin exercising, remember the following safety tips:
Tips for Fitting Exercise In
Although you may feel psychologically motivated to get back in shape, the reality of taking care of a newborn may hinder your best intentions. Here are some tips that will help you fit exercise into your daily routine and improve your workouts:
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Council on Exercise
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
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Last reviewed May 2012 by Brian Randall, MD