When and how to take up sport again?
Good for your health and morale, sport also tones up your figure more quickly. But any new mother’s body also needs to be taken care of... So take your time and choose the right activities!
First, complete your perineal rehabilitation
Gently does it! Even if you cannot wait to get back into your running shoes or don your basket ball top, get things in the right order: before toning your body, first tone up your perineum. This large muscle that has carried the weight of your baby throughout the pregnancy and been under considerable stress during the birth must be rehabilitated first in order to prevent yourself facing incontinence problems later on.
No sport can work this internal muscle. The only way to get it back into shape is to scrupulously follow the perineal rehabilitation exercises that you have been prescribed six to eight weeks after the birth of your little one. Only once this rehabilitation is complete (about a month) can you take up a sport again without making this muscle which supports the vagina, bladder and rectum suffer. However, once postpartum bleeding has stopped, do not hesitate to regularly go for a 20 or 30 minute walk!
Start again with gentle activities
Once your perineum is toned, opt for gentleness over performance! Two sessions per week of a gentle activity for 20 to 40 minutes will be amply sufficient for the first two months.
- Preferably opt for dynamic walking, cycling or swimming that will enable you to gradually return to sport without damaging this famous muscle that supports the abdominopelvic sphere.
- Do not think of conventional abdominal sessions just after your perineal rehabilitation as the pressure cause could again damage the muscles of your perineum. If your stomach is very relaxed, your doctor will no doubt prescribe abdominal physiotherapy. If not, opt for a few weeks to do breathing exercises (pull in the stomach while breathing out deeply) before (re)discovering the virtues of Pilates, gentle gym ideal for a flat, toned stomach.
- With your doctor’s consent, wait three to six months before taking up an activity that could put too much pressure on your perineum. This is the case for all sports with impact on the ground: zumba, tennis, jogging, volleyball, skipping, etc.
Adapt your activity for your own circumstances
Like any new mother, your background is yours alone. So above all it is up to you to know the right time to take up sport again. And it is up to you to adapt this return to suit your state of health, the way your delivery evolved and also your decision to nurse your baby.
If you have put on a lot of weight during the pregnancy: Even if you are in a hurry to recuperate your figure, be gentle and treat yourself with respect. Give priority to activities in which the bodyweight is not borne by the joints. Swimming, aquagym, aquabiking: aquatic sports will be your greatest allies! Supported by the water, your weight will be reduced by a factor of four, you will perform your movements without injury and without difficulty. Once the first kilos have been lost, you can then increase the intensity of your muscular work on solid ground.
If you are breastfeeding: sport is not incompatible with breastfeeding. Simply be sure to choose relaxing activities (yoga) or supported activities (swimming) that do not require excessive muscular effort. Do not forget that night feeding will impinge upon your quota of restorative sleep and that you are therefore not yet ready to run a marathon! Remember also to buy a good bra and protect your nipples with a specific cream as they may become irritated by repeated rubbing against the fabric.
If you have had an episiotomy: before starting any activity, you must wait until you are properly healed and your cervix has closed. Always ask your doctor for advice. And if you are thinking of getting back to cycling, pay attention to the comfort of the saddle. Under no circumstances should it hurt you.
If you gave birth by caesarean section: even more than in the case of a vaginal birth, after a caesarean, you must still rule out abdominal sessions or activities that put too great a strain on them. Your muscles must first return to their place naturally. Generally, walking and swimming may be considered, four months after the birth and sometimes even before perineal rehabilitation. But your doctor or midwife will advise you, after an examination, of the best activities for your case.
Do not hesitate to take exercise at home
If you are not keen on swimming, jogging or cycling, you can always benefit from physical activity without even leaving home. Here are five exercises to practice daily to tone your figure and soothe those niggling aches and pains.
For back problems (starting as of the first month)
- Lying on your back, with your knees up, heels close to your gluteal muscles, hands on your stomach, head on the floor, chin down, tilt your pelvis forward so that your back is against the floor.
- When you breathe out, lift the pelvis, and when you breathe in, rest it on the floor.
- Maintain this position for 10 minutes while breathing through your mouth.
To tone your stomach (after strengthening your pelvic floor)
- Lying on the floor, chin down, knees bent, feet in the air, put your hands on your knees.
- Without moving, push your hands towards your knees and your knees towards your hands for 20 seconds.
- Repeat the exercise six times, resting 30 seconds between each round.
To firm your thighs and develop your shoulder muscles
- Sitting on a chair, feet spread the width of your hips, place your hands on your knees.
- With your hands, push your knees as if to close them while your knees resist.
- Maintain this position for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the exercise four times, resting 20-30 seconds between each round.
To firm the bust
- Lift the arms to horizontal in front of your chest, elbows wide open.
- Make a fist and cover it with the palm of the other hand.
- Next, press the hands against each other.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds then relax while breathing out and repeat the exercise 10 times before reversing the hand position and working the other side.
To firm the gluteal muscles
- Lie on your back, legs flexed, feet on the floor, place a resistance band around your calves, just below the knees.
- Back and arms on the floor, lift the pelvis as high as possible then push your knees outwards while breathing out. Work like this against the strength of the elastic.
- Return to the floor, knees together then begin again five times consecutively. Take a little rest and repeat three to four series.