Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting Fit After A Baby

You’re back home again. You’re happy, but maybe not physically fit. That’s perfectly normal, since your body has gone through significant changes during pregnancy and has worked very hard during the birth of your baby.

When you give birth, you lose around 6 kilos (13 pounds) immediately. When you return home again, you continue to lose water and, once your uterus returns to its original size, you will lose another two to three kilos (four to seven pounds). If you are breastfeeding, you will get back to your normal weight more quickly because producing milk uses fat stores in your body and burns up lots of energy.

It is important to allow your weight to come off slowly. This process should happen naturally as long as excess kilojoules are not consumed. Aim to give yourself around six months to get your figure back naturally before resorting to a restricted eating plan. The early days of motherhood are not a good time to restrict your diet. Your body needs some additional energy and nutrients to meet the extra requirements of feeding and generally looking after your baby. As a guide:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods (including breads, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables, legumes, fruits, milk, cheese, yogurt, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds).
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast.
  • Take the time to have a nutritious lunch and dinner.
  • Have your meals at regular intervals.
  • Have balanced meals and snacks, without too much fat or sugar.

Getting a flat stomach again
Your stomach muscles and skin need toning up as they become distended and stretched during your pregnancy. A few gentle toning exercises will help you get your stomach firm again.

Before giving your stomach muscles a workout, you must first ensure that any physical damage as a result of giving birth has healed and is back to normal again. Speak with your doctor to find out what is best for you and when you can start.

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles
During pregnancy and during the act of giving birth, significant demands are made on the muscles that make up your "pelvic floor". Relaxation of these muscles is responsible for poor bladder control, which some women suffer from after giving birth.

Pelvic floor exercises after childbirth can help the muscles to recover more quickly.

Speak to your doctor or physiotherapist for information on pelvic floor muscle exercises that are suitable for you.

Keeping regular
Some women experience poor bowel habits after childbirth. This inconvenience can be resolved by eating a fibre-rich diet, drinking plenty of fluids and including some gentle exercise like walking.

To help improve your bowel movements, eat a variety of fibre-rich foods like:

  • Wholemeal bread
  • Fibre-rich breakfast cereals
  • Fruits (fresh, canned and dried)
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes (lentils, split peas, chick peas, red kidney beans, baked beans, four bean mix)

If you would like more specific information on how to lose weight safely and effectively, consult your doctor or an accredited practising dietitian, who will provide tailored dietary advice based on your lifestyle and your physical condition.