People around the world are celebrating the much-anticipated birth of the heir to the British throne. Now that the little prince has come, Duchess Kate will no doubt feel the pressure to regain her pre-baby body. Most women feel that they are expected to quickly drop the baby weight, after all, celebrity mothers do. But those of us without live-in chefs and personal trainers have a little tougher time of it.
Pregnancy dramatically alters a woman’s body; however, regular exercise before, during and after pregnancy has great benefits for mother and baby.
Studies show that women who were physically active before their pregnancy can continue with their normal routines without added risk, provided that they modify exercises appropriately. Yet, you should still consult with your physician before engaging in an exercise program while pregnant.
Women who were in good shape before their pregnancy and who maintained their fitness levels during pregnancy generally have fewer complications during pregnancy and an easier delivery than women who did not. A less stressful birth for the mother means a less stressful birth for the baby.
Postpartum, it is generally recommended that you not perform any strenuous activity for at least six weeks—and for good reason! Your body has just gone through a very traumatic process, and you need to give yourself time to rest and recover.
After I had my sons, I was told not to lift anything heavier than my baby, and after three weeks, I could begin some moderately-paced walking. Once you have your doctor’s permission and your body tells you it is ready, you should begin walking and performing gentle core exercises, such as pelvic tilts.
When pregnant, your abdominals are stretched and it takes a while for them to return to their normal length and tone. Performing strenuous core exercises at this point after your pregnancy can lead to injuries, especially in the low back because your abdominals are not able to contract properly.
Once your doctor gives you the all-clear, usually six weeks post-vaginal delivery and eight weeks post c-section, you can resume your normal exercise activity.
As your body continues to heal, and especially if you are breastfeeding, you have to make sure that you are taking in enough calories and that your calories are coming from nutrient-dense foods.
Breastfeeding combined with a highly-restrictive diet is not a good combination for the mom or the baby. The production of breast milk will come first, and your body will sacrifice its lean muscle tissue for the task if it is not getting enough food to fuel production. A reduction in lean muscle tissue means a decrease in your metabolism, which will leave you feeling more tired and sluggish than you already are.
Strength training is one of the most effective ways to re-shape your body after your pregnancy.
My recommendations for regaining your pre-baby figure:
1. GLUTE BRIDGES
- Lay on the floor on your back with your knees bent and arms down by your side.
- Tighten up the abdominals and tuck your pelvis so that your low back is flat against the floor.
- Squeeze your bottom tight and lift your hips off of the ground.
- Give an extra squeeze with your glutes at the top of the movement then slowly lower back to the floor.
- Repeat for a set of 25.
2. CLAM SHELLS
- Lay on the floor on your side and bend your knees to bring them in towards your chest. You will be in almost a fetal position.
- Keeping your feet together and without rocking backwards, open the top leg, squeezing with your bottom. Your legs will look like an open clam shell.
- Return the top leg to the starting/closed position.
- Repeat for a set of 25.
- Position yourself standing with hips shoulder-width apart. Begin the movement by pushing the hips back, as if you are going to sit back into a chair.
- Bend the knees and lower down into a squat position. You should work to maintain a tall spine and proud chest as you lower down.
- Push through the feet, straighten the knees and squeeze the glutes to return to standing.
- Repeat for a set of 25.
4. SCAPULAR WALL SLIDES
- This exercise is great for opening up the chest and correcting the rounded shoulder posture that many new mothers assume from cradling babies.
- Stand with your back against the wall and feet about a foot away from the wall. You will be leaning back into the wall.
- Tighten up the abdominals and flatten your low back against the wall. Tuck your chin so that the back of your head is against the wall.
- Bring the arms up against the wall in the shape of a field goal post. Slide the arms up the wall in a diagonal, forming a ‘V’ with the arms.
- Draw the shoulder blades and drive the elbows towards your hip pockets, forming a ‘W’ with the arms.
- Do not let the low back arch as you drive the elbows.
- Repeat for a set of 15-20.
- Begin by lying on your stomach on the floor and position yourself on your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders and your legs extended straight.
- Lift your body up off of the floor, onto your forearms and toes.
- Tighten the abdominals by tucking your pelvis under, as if trying to touch your hip bones to the bottom of your ribs.
- Your leg muscles should all be engaged; your chin should be tucked, and your back should be flat.
- Hold this position without letting your low back sag or your bottom stick up in the air.
- Try to hold for 15 seconds and progress to holding for longer.
For all of these exercises, try and rest as little as possible between each. Progress from doing just one set of each exercise to performing two and then three sets. No equipment is required and you can easily fit these in during the baby’s nap.