Towards the end of pregnancy, you may start feeling very huge indeed. No matter how many people tell you how 'beautiful' 'glowing' 'perfect' you look, your thoughts inevitably wander towards your 'pre-pregnancy body'. Will you ever see it again or is it gone forever? You start making promises to your old body (if you come back I promise I will never curse you again!).
Unfortunately, no amount of pleading is going to get your old body back. It's going to take work. If you are serious about getting back in shape after pregnancy, you really should start exercising immediately after giving birth – yes, even if you've had a Caesarean or stitches.
You can start doing these exercises from day one. Of course, always be guided by your body -- don't ever exert yourself. Take it slow and easy. These exercises are more about healing your body rather than weight loss. You need to get your body back into a normal state before you can start pushing it.PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES
If you're the only woman reading this who has never heard how to do them, you squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as if you are trying to stop yourself from weeing and passing wind at the same time. Tighten them and hold for 10 seconds or tighten and release them as many times as you can in a row. Do them when you are lying down, when you are feeding, when you are watching TV. Whenever and wherever you remember to do them, do them.
You may find them very difficult to do over the first few days, but persist. They will reduce the chance of you getting urinary incontinence, they will help with healing your perineum and, eventually (yes, I know it's too soon to be thinking this way, but...) they will help you get back to a satisfying sex life.
Even if you've had a Caesarean, you need to do these exercises as the weight of your baby inside you put enormous amounts of strain on these muscles. If you are still in hospital and have a catheter, you may need to wait until it is removed to start these. Ask your nurse or doctor.
ON YOUR STOMACH
NOTE: If you've had a Caesarean, you shouldn't do this exercise unless your midwife, health visitor or doctor has said it's OK.
After what seems like forever, you can finally lie on your stomach again. Try it. It's bliss. If your milk has come in, you may feel more comfortable doing this with a pillow under your ribs and stomach. You can do this in bed or on the floor, wherever you want. Just lie there for a while and do some pelvic floor exercises. Pay attention to how amazing it feels to be on your stomach again...
ON YOUR BACK
NOTE: If you've had a Caesarean, you can do these exercises, but be guided by your own body and discontinue if you feel pain.
Again, after ages of just lying on your damned left side all the time, this is heavenly.
Lie on your back, on your bed, on the floor, anywhere you feel like. Doesn't it feel amazing? Do some pelvic floor exercises while you're there... then...
1. Keep one leg straightened and bend the other. On your straightened leg, point and flex your toes 10 times, then rotate your ankle in a clockwise, then counter clockwise direction. Repeat on your other leg.
2. With both legs straightened, move one heel up as close to your bottom as you can, bending at the knee. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
3. Straighten out both legs. Press the back of one knee into the bed and tighten your thigh muscle. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
4. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Tighten your stomach muscles. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Relax.
5. With both of your knees bent, tighten your stomach muscles and press your lower back into the bed or the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Relax. From day 3, you can lift your head and shoulders up slightly after pressing your lower back down, hold for 5 seconds. Obviously, don't start doing this if your abdominal muscles have become separated during pregnancy. Ask your midwife to check you.
You should try and take your baby out for a slow and gentle walk for about 20 minutes every day. Not only will you get a bit of exercise which will help (a little) with weight loss, but this, I think, more than any other exercise you can do right after birth, will help alleviate the symptoms of postnatal depression.
As the weeks go by, depending on how you feel, you can lengthen the amount of time and the speed at which you walk. Don't overdo it though.
You should NOT start swimming until you have been lochia-free for a week.
Do not do any exercises on your hands and knees for the first 6 weeks.
Do not start doing full sit-ups for at least 6 weeks.
As your baby gets bigger and able to hold his head up himself, you can start incorporating him into your exercise routine. Use him as a weight to exercise your arms, do press-ups over him, kissing him each time. Be creative and have fun... and, most importantly, don't give up.