All too often new mothers are told what they need to do to get back to their “pre-pregnancy body”.
We see images of celebrity mothers in the media that have managed to completely regain the superstar physique they had before being pregnant, and that leaves us feeling a little… glum.
All these messages, unfortunately, suggest one thing – that the body of a mother after pregnancy is inherently bad and that the woman should, as quickly as possible, revert back to her previous body-type.
At Healthy Mummy, we believe these sorts of messages are at best unhelpful, and at worst can be dangerous.
The fact is, that as a new mother, you have just gone through a 9-month process that has, in all likelihood, changed your body permanently.
That’s not to say there aren’t things you can do to improve your health and fitness. However, the goal should not be to revert back to how you were before pregnancy. Such a goal may be unrealistic and setting you up for failure.
Rather, the goal is to accept that your body has changed and to have the right nutrition and exercise plan that works with your current body, while seeking to improve your wellbeing one step at a time.
These four strategies will help you improve your health and fitness at a pace that’s right for you:
Pregnancy and labour are traumatic for the body. You need to ensure you’re giving yourself ample time to heal and rest. This is absolutely essential. If you do not give yourself enough time, you may end up causing yourself an injury.
How long will you need to heal? Well, that depends on each individual. It may be weeks, or it may be months. The time frame will depend on your age, your fitness level before pregnancy, and whether you need to recover from surgery.
Yet, while resting is vitally important, you can make use of this time for gentle stretching. Be wary that you don’t push yourself too hard or spend too much time on your feet.
A strength training program that focuses on your core and pelvic floor should be your first priority once you start training again.
If you jump straight back into high-intensity training or lifting heavy weights, there’s a high risk that you’ll injure yourself.
We understand that you’re keen to lose weight and fit back into your favourite old clothes as quickly as possible, but trust us when we say going too hard, too fast, will increase the likelihood of experiencing a setback that will derail your exercise routine.
Unless your core and pelvic floor are strengthened as a first priority, you could experience a range of health problems including back pain or pelvic floor problems such as incontinence, flatulence or pelvic organ prolapse.
Following years of experience and having helped thousands of other mothers build up their strength and fitness after pregnancy, we believe the best strategy is to strengthen the core and pelvic floor first, before moving on to more challenging workouts.
Food plays a huge part in improving your health and fitness after pregnancy.
Your body needs the right mix of macros including proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You also need the right mix of vitamins and minerals.
In the aftermath of pregnancy, your hormones are in a state of re-adjustment. Even your metabolic rate has likely changed. Expelling blood, fluids, a placenta, and, of course, your baby, are all significant processes for your body to go through.
On top of all that, you need nourishment to give you the energy you require to look after a new baby. Breastfeeding is another physical demand, while sleep deprivation will sap your energy levels.
Fuelling your body with the right nutrients is crucially important.
It’s important not to restrict calories or carbohydrates at this time. You’ll be far better off losing the weight slowly, rather than embarking on a crash diet.
If you cut your food intake too quickly, you risk stressing your body. That won’t do you any good. A healthy diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, will satisfy your hunger.
Breastfeeding is also likely to increase your hunger levels. This is perfectly normal as your body needs additional calories to produce breast milk.
Try eating smaller meals more often. By choosing well-balanced meals and snacks, you’ll have the energy you need to look after yourself and your new baby.
Looking after a new-born is mentally exhausting.
While tremendous joy comes from the birth of a new baby, let’s not mince words – a baby can wear down even the strongest mother.
You’ll need a lot of energy to cope with the stress. Not getting enough sleep can make you feel even worse. The whole experience can really impact your hormones.
Don’t add to your stress levels by worrying about strict dieting or intense exercise. While getting back to an active lifestyle if fantastic, it needs to happen at the right time, when your body has healed from the experience of pregnancy and labour.
Take time after giving birth to restore your mental health.
This may require prioritising some “you-time” once or twice a week. Don’t hesitate to ask a relative to babysit for a few hours, a couple times a week, while you get out of the house and pamper yourself.
Go for a massage or a facial. Make the effort to go to the hairdresser. A little pampering will go a long way to improving your mental well-being.
Another important strategy for ensuring good mental health is to surround yourself with other new mums who are going through the same challenges as you. Having someone to talk to will make you realise you’re not alone in experiencing the challenges of a new baby.
Join our amazing community of mums, just like you, for support and begin your journey back to good health and fitness!
If you need some more professional mental care, don’t feel ashamed to seek the services of a counsellor. Professional counselling for post-natal women is a great way to talk through your feelings and achieve peace of mind.
Ensuring you take care of your mental health will help you regain your physical strength and fitness, and ultimately that will also be good for your baby.
At Healthy Mummy, we are committed to helping new mums, just like you, get back to being strong and fit.
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