Although many high-profile celebrity mums appear to regain their model-perfect shapes in no time, the truth is that there isn’t a quick fix! Ok, so it helps that they exercised before and during their pregnancies, plus, they're conscious about what they eat, and it also doesn't hurt that they can afford nannies to watch their children while they exercise, and personal trainers to get them to the gym seven days a week for at least two hours each and every day! In reality, however, getting your body back to "normal" can take anywhere from three to nine months. (In the meantime, you may want to use a support girdle to help your body heal and give the appearance of a flatter tummy...such as the Belly Bandit*)
Pregnancy puts a great deal of strain on both tissue and muscles, especially the womb and pelvic floor. During the first few weeks after the birth, your body will feel quite different; your tummy, no longer full and round, may appear loose and saggy. Your primary focus at this stage should be on resting, eating properly, drinking enough fluids and finding a little time to relax (we realise this might seem impossible in those early days, but it is important that you are disciplined about it!!)
It is risky to crash diet or embark on a rigorous exercise programme before the six-week check-up with your doctor, especially if you had a difficult pregnancy, a C-section, or if you are breast-feeding. "The worst thing a woman can do is try too hard to do too much too soon - if you do you're likely to find yourself exhausted and discouraged, and less likely to continue, and you'll wind up carrying that baby weight a lot longer", says fitness trainer Sue Fleming. Furthermore, "You should be eating at least 1,800-2,000 calories a day while breastfeeding, and if you eat less you will not only be short-changing yourself, you'll be short-changing your baby. You can't produce quality milk if you are not eating enough", says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy. Even if you are not breastfeeding, it is strongly recommended that you do not aim to lose more than a 0.5kg per week. You need to concentrate rather on restoring your nutritional status and your energy after your pregnancy.
A very effective aid for regaining your figure is breastfeeding because it stimulates the production of the hormone oxytocin, which in turn stimulates the recovery of the womb. Breastfeeding has another very special advantage: it assists in dispelling the extra weigh which the body gained during pregnancy. However, it is very important to eat regularly and healthily, and drink plenty of fluids during this time to ensure your own energy levels are maintained and for the growth and health of your baby.
No matter how eager you are to lose your baby fat, experts caution against any activities that put major stress on your joints such as jogging, jumping or running for at least six to eight weeks. Why? "During pregnancy you produce a hormone called relaxin, which actually makes joints loose and consequently more prone to injury, and you will still have significant amounts of this hormone in your blood for at least several weeks after childbirth", says Fleming. If you put too much stress on your joints during this time, she says, you could end up with a serious injury.
On the other hand, gentle exercise, such as walking, can also be hugely beneficial in helping you to get back into shape, increasing your energy and possibly reducing the risks of postnatal depression. If exercise is not making you feel better, then perhaps it is too energetic for you at this stage. It is crucial that you incorporate strength-training exercises in your routine, in order for you to re-build a strong pelvic core. Below are some sample exercises you may want to try, that will help get your stomach flatter, your vaginal muscles tighter and your body back to its old self.:
- To work your upper abdominal muscles, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. You could also put your feet on a chair so that your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands behind your head. Slowly, inhale and lift your head and shoulders up, off the ground while you contract your abdominal muscles. Lift until you feel your muscles working; you don't need to go all the way up to a sitting position. Then slowly lower your upper body back down while you exhale.
- To work your lower abdominal muscles, you can do a reverse crunch. Again, start by lying on the floor with your legs bent, but this time keep your feet close to your buttocks, slightly above the floor. Inhale while you slowly raise your hips and pelvis up towards you so that your buttocks rise up off the floor. Your knees should curl in towards you. Exhale and lower slowly back down.
For both of these tummy exercises, make sure you have a mat underneath you. Also, keep the small of your back (the part that arches) in contact with the floor at all times. You should try to do two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
- Kegel exercises help to strengthen your pelvic floor, but they also improve bladder control and can even help make your orgasms better. To do them, you just need to contract your vaginal muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for a few seconds then slowly release. Aim to hold the contraction for 10 seconds (you might have to work up to this) and try to do about 25 a day.
Regardless of what exercises you choose to do, pay close attention to the warning signs of trouble and seek medical attention if any of these symptoms appear:
- excessive bleeding
- pelvic or abdominal pain
- extreme shortness of breath
- exhaustion after even mild exercise
- muscle soreness that does not go away within a day or two
Special Advice For Breastfeeding Moms When Exercising
There are a few things you should keep in mind when you're exercising, the first being to ensure your breasts are well supported when you exercise. Secondly, it is adviseable to try to feed your baby before you exercise, so your breasts are less full and you feel more comfortable. Some studies have actually found that some babies who are fed post-workout can be fussier because their mother's milk tastes sour due to an increase in the level of lactic acid in the milk. If you can't feed your baby before the workout, then perhaps consider expressing, to make your breasts feel less full, as well as make your baby happy with the pre-exercise milk. Also, try to keep your breasts dry and clean, which will help prevent your breast ducts from getting clogged and possibly infected.
*Buy a Belly Bandit for Just US$80 from our Nearly New section!
The benefits of Belly Bandit include the important post-pregnancy physical and emotional issues many women experience, helping you make your way back to a flatter belly, slimmer waistline, stronger muscles and confident attitude.
By applying constant medical-grade pressure (the method of compression), not only can Belly Bandit result in body shaping, muscle memory and the reduction of stretch marks, but it also has the following benefits:
- Helps shrink the uterus faster, and therefore the belly!
- Adds support to the upper body while breastfeeding
- Comforts the mid-section after a C-section
- Helps the body lose inches faster, especially those waists and hips!
- Adds support to the back and legs
- Accelerates the healing process
- Boosts self confidence
- Decreases bloating and swelling, by expediting fluids through the body's system
- Reminds you to utilize your core muscles, whilst stablizing the pelvic floor and supporting the spine
- Helps to gently persuade muscles back together