- When you’ve had a baby, your body has gone through many changes and exercise after delivery addresses that. Postnatal exercises are designed to get your body back to its pre-pregnancy state safely.
- Read on for exercises that safely target your major muscle groups (core muscles, pelvic floor muscles, butt, and legs).
Having been through 9 months of carrying your baby in your body, you will know that it is quite a rough ordeal. Along with the joy of having a new baby in your life, you may be shocked at how your body has changed. Ladies, our bodies are amazing. It is easy to look at men and then look at women’s bodies and see that they are clearly different.
But more so, the things that we don’t necessarily see are part of what makes us women. Our bodies are designed to carry life within them. Your ligaments and tendons soften so that your bones can move apart and your muscles can shift. Remember how often you had to go to the bathroom or couldn’t eat a lot at once because your uterus and baby were pushing against your stomach and bladder.
Your body accumulates fat to give you reserve energy and cushion your abdomen to keep your baby safe. It is easy to feel bad about your body, but first of all, be proud. You helped create a person, then you carried and kept him, her, or them safe and after being in labor for many hours, brought that little person or little people into the world. It is rough on your body.
Second, it’s only natural to want to get your body back into shape and back to a healthy weight and want to look and feel sexy again. The exercises that I will give you will help to gently get your body back into shape. Exercise after delivery will be slightly different to how you might usually exercise.
With all the changes that your body has been through, you cannot go straight into sit-ups and jogging. These postnatal exercises you can do at home, and some of them you can later modify to include your baby.
How to Reduce Your Belly with Exercise After Delivery
When it comes to exercise after delivery, once you have the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife (particularly if you had a c-section, you need to be careful) and feel strong enough to exercise, you can perform these exercise. I have recommended sets and a particular number of reps (repetitions), but remember that you will feel weak in the beginning.
Start slowly only doing what you are able to do and work your way up to the recommended amount of sets and reps. Do strength exercises 2-3 days per week. Cardio can be done 1-2 days per week.
1. Exercises For Your Stomach Muscles
When you are growing a baby in your tummy, there is a lot of intra-abdominal pressure and if you had a big baby like mine, she was 4 kg (8.8 lb), your abdominal muscles are noticeably separated after delivery. This is called diastasis recti and is the reason you shouldn’t jump straight into sit-ups. We have to first close this gap. If you do not close this gap properly, you will never ever get rid of that bulge, forever.
You need to do exercises that target the transverse abdominis, the stomach muscles underneath the ones that you see on the outside as abs. These deep abdominal muscles act like a belt and getting them back into shape will act as a zip so that your gap will close and give you a flat tummy.
- Lie down on your back, bend your knees, and put a cushion between your knees. Keep your hands at your sides.
- Take a deep breath and as you release it pull your belly button towards your spine. Lift your hips until you have formed a straight line with your thighs and torso.
- When you have raised your hips to the top, tighten your butt as if you have to hold a pencil between your butt cheeks.
- Now squeeze the cushion with your knees 5 times. You can move your feet closer together for more comfort.
- Then come back down and relax.
- When you get stronger, use Baby as a weight.
Do 3 sets
- Go down on your hands and knees.
- Take a deep breath, release it and pull your belly button to your spine and round your back.
- Hold it for a few seconds and go back to the starting position.
- When you are stronger you can bring one knee toward your chest at a time as you round your back.
- Another variation is to take that knee that you brought inward and as your return to the starting position, bring your leg back and straighten it to form a straight line with your back before going back to the initial starting position.
Do 5 reps and 2sets.
2. Exercises For Your Pelvic Area
These are the bones that form your hips. It is like a basin of bones to protect your baby. When your baby gets bigger and bigger, these bones are shifted apart to accommodate the baby and the muscles in this area get very very weak. The pelvic floor has been stretched significantly during birth and may even have been cut or torn to facilitate delivery.
How do you know that your pelvic area is weak? If you sneeze after delivering your baby, you will urinate a little bit. Older women have lots of problems due to the weaker pelvic floor. They would often wear diapers because they cannot hold the pressure of urine and would wet their pants. These exercises are good for every woman who has ever given birth, not just younger women.
- Lie on the ground on your back, hands at your sides and knees bent at 90 degrees with your feet up off the ground at a height where you can keep your back fully on the ground.
- Take a deep breath, as you release it pull your belly button to your spine. Drop your right heel to touch the floor, then bring it back up to starting position.
- Repeat on the other side. This is one rep.
Do it 12 times. 2 Sets.
Kegel exercises target the pelvic muscles that you use to stop urinating and hold up your bladder and uterus. You can locate these muscles easily by urinating and then stopping the flow, then urinating again. Here’s how to exercise them:
- Simply clench (you’ll notice they feel like they are moving up) those muscles and hold them for a few seconds before releasing them.
- As you get stronger you can hold them for longer and longer or clench them a little and hold, then clench harder to move them up further and hold, etc, and then release them little by little.
- You can also clench them when you do your other exercises.
Do 5 reps, 2 sets. Never do this when urinating, you do not want to risk leaving any urine behind to cause UTI (urinary tract infection).
3. Exercises for Your Core and Lower Body
In the last few weeks starting from month 8 of your pregnancy all the way up until 3 months after your baby is born your movement is limited. This causes your main big muscles, the abs, back, hamstrings (back of the thighs), quadriceps (front of your thighs), and glutes (your butt), to weaken.
There is one exercise that targets these muscles. Your core did a heavy job of carrying the baby, moving you around, and keeping you upright. If you were in a painful labor like I was for 22 hours, you have to work on the bigger muscles so that they can keep you strong.
- Stand with your back against the wall, your feet will be a bit further away.
- Get your core ready again by pulling your belly button to your spine and then sink down using the wall to support you until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Work your way up to 5-10.
When you are strong enough:
- Stand up straight, stomach muscles tight, feet about shoulder width apart.
- Bend at the knees and hinge at the hips pushing your butt out as if you are about to sit.
- Go until your thighs are parallel with the floor making sure that your knees never beyond your toes.
- You can squat to sit in a chair if you need to until you are stronger.
- When you are stronger, hold baby and squat or squat and then twist your torso slowly from side to side.
Do 10 of these. 2-3 sets.
4. Cardio Exercise
You will probably be able to do this before any of the strength exercises. Simply go for a walk. Most babies enjoy being pushed in their prams and you can get out and get some exercise. You can alternate between walking fast and slow so that your heart rate goes up and then you slow it back down again. This is called interval training. You can do the same if you swim, run, dance, or cycle.
If you do the interval training more intensely (HIIT- High-Intensity Interval Training), you only need 10-30 minutes 2-3 times a week and you can do it using bodyweight exercises or weights, or cardio and this will be all you need. If you prefer less intense workouts, work your way up to 45-60 minutes and alternate with resistance training.
Please share your journey with us in the comments and feel free to ask me any questions.
- During pregnancy and birth, abdominal muscles separate (diastasis recti), pelvis shifts apart, pelvic floor weakens or even tears, major muscle groups weaken (stomach, back, glutes, thighs), extra fat accumulates.
- Exercises to correct diastasis recti and strengthen core: Bridges and the cat
- Exercises to strengthen pelvic floor: Heel touches and kegel exercises
- Exercises for glutes and legs: Wall squats, squats (unweighted, weighted, or with twists)
- Cardio exercise: Walking, HIIT, any other aerobic exercise
To view all the exercise, watch my video!