SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

August 2011

Beat the Postnatal Bulge

Supermodels pop a baby and are back on the catwalk in a couple of weeks, looking fabulous. You grunt, puff, holler and gasp a baby out, and still look like Jabba the Hutt’s younger sister three months after delivery. It’s not fair, is it? You did all the hard work, growing a baby for 40 weeks, enduring labour and tent-shaped maternity dresses and all you have to show for it is a flabby, wobbly lump of skin and blubber – oops, and a gorgeous baby too, of course.

The thing is, your body took 40 weeks to grow a baby so seriously, don’t expect it to spring back into shape just because you’ve served baby his eviction notice. As Wendy Cho, a Master Trainer at True Fitness explains, it can take up to six months to get your body back to pre-pregnancy fitness.


How should a new mum start easing into fitness again?

A new mum should ease back into her fitness routine slowly. While gentle walking and stretching are safe between two and 14 days after delivery, resuming a pre-pregnancy fitness regime would depend on whether you had a caesarean or normal birth.

If you had a C-section, you should wait three to five months before starting any exercise. It is important to wait until after your stitches have healed completely before working into the exercises gradually.

If you went through a normal birth, it is generally okay to gradually resume your pre-pregnancy routine after six weeks. However, it is important to take things slowly and avoid exercises that are too vigorous. Avoid lifting heavy weights, doing strong abdominal crunches or sit-ups or any high-impact activity.

The frequency of exercise would depend on your fitness level and of course your schedule, since you would still be adjusting to your baby’s routine. Your energy levels will vary on a day-to-day basis. Listen to your body and exercise only when you feel up to it.

As a general rule, it is important to remember not to over-exert and to only do what you physically can. It takes approximately six months for a woman’s body to fully recover from pregnancy and childbirth so it is vital to be careful of how you exercise during this period. If in doubt, consult your doctor before proceeding.

How long would it generally take to get back to pre-pregnancy fitness levels?

Generally, the time taken to get back to pre-pregnancy fitness levels may vary from two to six months depending on a several factors, but mainly (i) the rate of your recovery, (ii) the amount of weight you gained during pregnancy, and (iii) your previous fitness level.

If you recovered quickly, you will be able to get back on track with your exercise regime sooner. With your doctor’s permission, you may be able to start with walking and stretching, and gradually work up slowly to more strenuous exercises.

Your fitness level before and during pregnancy and the amount of weight you gained play an important part as well. Staying physically and emotionally healthy and fit throughout pregnancy will help you get back on track much quicker. The process of losing weight and getting in shape will be much easier if you engage in regular exercise during pregnancy. Mums who did not exercise before or during pregnancy have a much longer recovery time and a much harder time trying to get fit after the baby comes.

What are the things that the new mum should look out for?

In order to ensure safety and reduce risks of complications, you need to remember to take it easy when it comes to exercise and getting back into shape. Do not over-exert yourself before your body has had adequate time to recover. It is also important to listen to your body during exercise and call your doctor if your experiences any of the following during exercise:

Back pain
Pain in the pubic area
Trouble walking
Vaginal bleeding
Blurred vision
Feeling faint or passing out
Heart palpitations
Chest pain, pressure or tightness
Difficulty breathing

Will too much exercise affect breastfeeding?

Healthy, breastfeeding women may continue to exercise if they wish and it will not interfere with either the quantity or quality of breast milk. However, excessive and intense exercise may increase the lactic acid content in the breast milk. This can sometimes change the taste of the breast milk and may cause the baby to be less receptive to the breast. Do note that this will cause no harm to the baby and will disappear in an hour or two. Women who keep physically active while lactating are still able to offer the same levels of nutrients to her baby and provide excellent immune protection via her breast milk. It is important, however, to stay well hydrated and maintain a well-balanced diet.

What kinds of exercise would benefit a new mum in particular?

A postnatal exercise program should include exercises for aerobic endurance, muscular fitness and flexibility. It should also be fun and enjoyable to help you stay motivated and stick with the program.


You want to Build up arm power or upper body strength (to carry baby!)
Do Bicep Curls
What These easy bicep curls will help to strengthen a new mother’s arms to carry her baby. These will also help shape the front of the upper arms for that toned appearance.
• Stand with your feet hip distance apart, knees slightly bent. With arms at your sides hold a dumbbell (or a bottle of water) in each hand.
• Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest open. Breathe out and curl the weights up towards your shoulders.
• Keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Lower the weights back to the start position slowly.
• Keep your wrists straight as you do the curls and don’t arch your lower back.
• Keep your stomach muscles tight and do 3 sets of 15.

You want to Prevent south-bound boobs (after all that breastfeeding)
Do The Front Palm Press
What Pregnancy and breastfeeding can stretch the ligaments in the breasts, causing your breasts to droop and sag. To firm up, you need to exercise the pectoral muscles that support the breasts. The benefits of doing breast exercises aren’t limited to enhancing the breasts themselves. Doing them on a regular basis will firm, lift and tone your breasts, increase blood circulation and strengthen and condition the pectoral muscles.
• Press the palms of your hands firmly together in front of your chest
• Once your palms are pressed together, hold the pose for seven seconds and release
• Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

You want to Get rid of that baby belly
Do Simple postnatal abdominal crunches
What For the first six weeks after delivery, make sure that any abdominal exercises performed are very gentle. Don’t push yourself too hard, and stick with light exercises.
• Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
• Slowly lift only your head off the floor, pulling your abs towards your spine and exhaling as you do so.
• Do this at least 20 times a day every day, and soon you will begin to feel your abdominals getting stronger.
• Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

You want to Restore muscle tone down there (for better bed action, of course)
Do Pelvic Floor Exercises or Kegels
What Your pelvic floor muscles become significantly weaker as it has been stretched and pulled during the process of carrying and delivering your baby. After birth, your bladder may still be recovering from the weight of your baby. The pelvic floor is in its “recovery phase” for about a year after giving birth. 1 in 3 women who have had children will experience some form of bladder weakness. It is important to continue Pelvic Floor Exercises which strengthen the core muscles that are likely to have been affected by the weight of the baby. Through repetition, you will strengthen your muscles to help prevent any slight leaks which may occur due to the pressure placed on your bladder during your pregnancy.
• Lie on your back with your legs slightly apart with the muscles in your thighs, buttocks and abdomen relaxed.
• Pull in tightly with your vaginal and anal areas. Imagine you are trying to stop the flow of your urine.
• Hold this tightening for 5 to 7 seconds, and then relax. Repeat this about 10 times.
• Pelvic floor exercises should be done at least three times a day.

While doing the pelvic floor exercises:
– Do not hold your breath.
– Do not push down. Squeeze and lift up instead.
¬- Do not tighten your stomach, bottom or thigh muscles
– Do not go overboard on your first attempt. Gradually increase your exercises as you go along.

You want to Get that perky pre-pregnancy butt back
Do Gentle Squats
What Weight gained during pregnancy can cause a saggy posterior. Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your hips, butt and thighs and they’re also a functional exercise, helping us build strength for a variety of daily activities such as carrying your baby.
• Stand with feet hip-width apart. If you feel up to it and your doctor has given the go-ahead to get back into your pre-pregnancy fitness regime, hold light weights at shoulder level or at your sides.
• Bend the knees, and lower into a squat, keeping the knees behind the toes. Imagine that you’re sticking your butt out behind you, but keep the torso upright and contracted.
• Press into the heels to stand up.
• Repeat for 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

You want to Strengthen your back (those muscles will come in handy when you carry baby!)
Do Bridge exercises
What After you have had a baby, it’s important to take care of your back. Back pain is very common among new mums. Here is a great exercise to keep yourself healthy and allow your back to get stronger.
• Lie face up with knees bent and hands at your sides.
• Slowly, lift your backside and uncurl your spine off the floor, one vertebrae at a time until you’re in a bridge position, with your body in a straight line from knees to head.
• Arch up as high as you can, squeezing the back, then lower back down by slowly uncurling the spine onto the mat.
• Repeat for 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions.

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Beat the Postnatal Bulge