After giving birth, some mothers believe they are very delicate. Thus they fear to engage in any exercises including house chores. Certain mothers only wait to be served by the housemaid. The only work left for them to do is to breastfeed their babies.
In addition to having little or no exercise, some mothers also consume more food than they need. While it is true that mothers who have given birth should feed well, it doesn’t mean that you consume whatever comes your way.
Eating without following dietary guidelines could make you develop health complications like obesity or other heart illnesses.
When to start exercising
Dr Peter Ntege, a general practitioner at AAR City Centre, recommends that mothers who have had a normal delivery can start walking even after a few days. Walking enhances blood circulation and physical fitness.
However, he cautions women who have had a caesarian section not to engage in strong and strenuous workout. In this case, he recommends light exercises such as walking a few metres at least three days a week.
After six weeks, all mothers are expected to have regained their normal health status. Once this period of body rest has passed, a mother can engage in more serious exercises like walking for about 200 to 300 metres per day. Other activities that a mother could engage in are jogging, skipping and sit-ups.
Nevertheless, Dr Ntege explains, it is also important to assess or observe how you feel after you have engaged in a particular exercise. In case you feel some pain, then you should stop as soon as possible and consult your doctor. He says feeling pain could be a sign that your body hasn’t recovered from labour.
Before a mother engages in any workouts according to Dr Ntege, they should set targets. “After setting goals, they should consult doctors because pregnancies come up with different health complications. At times it can become fatal if a mother involves in a workout without a doctor’s consent,” he laments.
According to Paul Lutakome, a dietician at AAR Health Service says a mother who has had spontaneous virginal delivery (SVD) can start serious exercise after two or three weeks. Such mothers can engage in workouts like rope skipping, pushups, jogging, aerobics or walking.
However, it is not advisable for women who have arthritis condition or overweight women not to engage in rope skipping he says can cause joint problems.
Episiotomy is a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during child birth. This is usually done to aid delivery and prevent tissue rapture.
“In case you feel pain around the cut area, you should stop as soon as possible. This means you haven’t healed thoroughly,” he emphasizes.
Workouts help to burn calories that bring about weight gain or obesity. Obesity is when energy intake is exceeding expenditure. Lutakome advises mothers not to hurry to engage in sit ups. This is because sit ups can cause caesarian opening or other abdominal complications.
Conditions that hinder exercise
Dr Ntege says a mother who has given birth can be barred from workouts in case she has preeclampsia a disorder described by high blood pressure.
Preeclampsia is expected to disappear after a woman has given birth. In case the disorder persists even after giving birth, such a mother is not advised to engage in strenuous activities.
Diastasis symphysis pubis is pain that results from separation of the ligaments in the pelvic region which usually happens when a mother delivers a heavy baby. According to Dr Ntege very few mothers experience ligament separation because in most cases doctors opt for an operation when they detect that a mother cannot push the baby.
Diastasis rectus abdominis is the separation of the abdominal muscles. This may happen during pregnancy or in the postpartum period. A mother with this condition should not engage in exhausting exercise.
She should seek medical advice before engaging in any activity.
If one gets Incision sepsis due to bacterial infection of the caesarian section, one may need to take wait until the incision has healed before exercising.
Real life experience
Evelyn Tugabwire, a teacher at Murchison Bay Primary School in Bukasa, a Kampala suburb, says when she was pregnant, she would engage in exercises such as walking, jogging and stretching. The intensity of workouts kept reducing as the pregnancy advanced.
“I was advised by the doctor to engage in such exercises regularly. I would train every morning and evening. The doctor said exercise would keep me fit and healthy,” she explains.
Even after giving birth, this mother of two says continued exercising. She started slowly “I started by walking a short distance of about 20 metres. I kept increasing the intensity every day. After a period of about three months, I could engage in other workouts such as running, sit ups, jogging, walking and stretching,” she says.
However, she says she sought advice from doctors before she began engaging exercising. “The doctor said exercise would help boost my mood and relieve pregnancy stress. I would train for 10 to 30 minutes depending on the intensity of the exercise,” Ms Tugabwire explains.
Although her child has grown up, she still makes sure she does some sit-ups or stretches before going to bed.
Types of exercise
Henry Mukasa, a fitness expert at Lord’s Fitness Centre at Jokers Hotel in Bweyogere says after giving birth, a mother can start with a low pace aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, walking in a swimming pool, skipping and stable bicycle. As you regain strength, you can increase the length or number of walks.
Mukasa says walking enhances blood circulation, relieves psychology and improves the physical fitness of the mother. Jogging is running a slow pace. It helps to restore muscle strength and contributes to weight loss. Mukasa says women who have given birth should first seek advice from doctors before they engaged in any workout.
He advises mothers who have undergone an operation not to engage in weight lifting because it may exert pressure on the abdomen which may result into giving way to the caesarian section.
Aerobics is a type of physical workout with low to high intensity such as stretching. Aerobics help to build strength of muscle, fitness and flexibility of the body.
Besides, aerobic exercises fuel the heart and breathing rate to rise in a way that can be constant for the exercise session. Aerobics can be done at home by following instructions on a CD.
Jogging is a form of running that is usually done at a slow pace. This form of exercise helps a person to build strong bones and muscles, keep the body fit and maintain a healthy weight.
Walking is the best workout for starters. Exercises should be conducted for 30 minutes or one hour.
Wading in pool
Wading in a swimming pool keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the stress off your body. It builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness and helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs.
Yoga after birth
While you may have worried about putting on a minimum amount of weight during your pregnancy, after giving birth, most women worry about getting back into shape.
Due to the rigours of the birth process, and caring for a newborn baby, new mothers tend to be physically exhausted and emotionally stressed. Increasing weight, sagging muscles, backache and general fatigue are common.
The extra weight piled on around the waist can add strain to both the back and the legs. It is important to take a little time off for yourself from the stress to reconnect with your body and the best way to do this is through yoga.
Yoga is a spiritual, mental and physical discipline which includes meditation and adaptation of specific body postures. It is widely practiced for health and relaxation purposes.
If you were physically active before and during your pregnancy then it should not be hard for you to get your body attuned to the yoga postures again.
Anna Erlandsdotter of AnnaE’s Studio in Bukoto, a suburb of Kampala, says a new mother’s ability to practice yoga varies from individual to individual.
“If there were no birth complications or postpartum disorders and if the new mother is not on any form of medication they can begin six weeks after they have given birth.”
If it was a vaginal birth, as long as one has stopped bleeding, there is no need to present a doctor’s certificate of consent. Erlandsdotter says that professional yoga instructors can assess on sight if someone is ready for the strenuous yoga manoeuvers but if she is not sure, she demands a certificate.
“We have particular brands of yoga to fit different groups of people and new mothers have their specific brand,” says Erlandsdotter. “Yoga can be tailored to fit whatever situation the physical body is in.”
New mothers who have undergone a caesarean birth initially have medical complications attached to them and need to be monitored by their doctors to ensure quick recovery.
“In cases where the mother is still recovering from a C-section, we definitely have to work with their doctor to get his approval. It may take longer for such mothers to begin any form of physical exercise.”
For breastfeeding mothers, although there is no scientific reason why they should not do yoga, some postures can be uncomfortable. For instance, one would not be comfortable with postures that require them to lie flat on their stomachs.
Excess milk leaking through a mother’s blouse can be a hindrance and they are encouraged to stick to shorter sessions that allow them time to breastfeed.
“We encourage them to come two to three times a week depending on how they are recovering from the birth process,” says Erlandsdotter.
If you did yoga before you gave birth, ease your body into the new routine slowly; getting back into shape will take time.
At AnnaE’s Studio private yoga classes are offered of not more than five people.