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How to get back into shape

Getting Back into Shape

Here's how to get back into shape after having a baby

With our advice, there will be nothing in your way when it comes to getting back your pre-pregnancy body.

Getting started

Although pulling up your pelvic floor muscles and taking gentle walks are recommended as soon as you can face exercising after the birth of your baby, anything more strenuous is usually not suggested until after your postnatal check.

However, if you have always been very fit and you exercised right up to the end of your pregnancy and your birth was uncomplicated, your doctor may be happy for you to gradually return to your pregnancy workout – or some light exercise and stretching – before this.

You should always check with them before starting any new exercise programme – this is especially important if you suffered back or pelvic pain during your pregnancy.

Pelvic floor exercises

These are the exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the womb, bladder and bowel. These muscles become stretched during pregnancy and this can lead to you losing small amounts of urine when you laugh, cough or sneeze.

You will have been doing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and it's really important to continue these after the birth. In fact, some health professionals say you should do them forever!

Exercise while breastfeeding

Although there is no reason not to exercise while you are breastfeeding it makes sense to avoid any form of exercise that could make your breasts tender and sore.

Always try to feed your baby first as this will mean that your breasts will be more comfortable when you exercise. A supportive bra is essential and you may find that breast pads are useful, too.

Taking care

Avoid swimming before your postnatal check because of the risk of infection. Your doctor will be able to tell you when you can start swimming again.

It's also best to avoid too much physical activity while you are still losing lochia - the vaginal discharge which occurs after delivery - as it can cause an increase in the flow. If you've had a Caesarean you will need to follow a very gentle routine until your incision has had time to heal.

Exercise classes

There are a number of postnatal exercises classes run by specially trained teachers, or physiotherapists. Ask your doctor if she knows of any in your area.

If you return to a gym or regular exercise class, make sure that the instructor knows that you've just had a baby.

Losing weight

Although magazines are full of celebrity mums who have lost their post-baby weight in six weeks, do remember that these women are the exception. For most of us, weight doesn't drop off and if you consider that it took nine months to put on any weight you've gained it seems more reasonable to aim to get back to your pre-baby shape within the first year rather than in a few weeks.

Anyway, it's not a good idea to start dieting immediately after the birth, especially if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding uses up at least an extra 500 calories a day so many mums find that they lose weight simply through breastfeeding.

Healthy living

The best way to get back into shape and to stay that way is to combine healthy eating with regular exercise. Aim for a steady weight loss of around 1lb or nearly half a kilo a week – losing weight slowly means that it is much more likely to stay off.

Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes between three and five times a week and as well as aerobic exercise such as running, tennis or fast walking, work on the muscles most affected by pregnancy by doing specific exercises, such as sit-ups.

Even if you are finding it hard now, it will get easier. And remember, if you can't face the gym or an exercise class, a brisk walk in the fresh air pushing your baby in his pram is great way to start getting back into shape.

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