September 25, 2018

Perfect Figure After Childbirth - Tips & Exercises

You can look fantastic and regain your pre-pregnancy figure if you spare a few minutes every day for your body. With a little effort a woman can look beautiful at any time of her life.

Motherhood is a unique experience in every woman’s life, her very special dream. But in the age of “figure-consciousness” retaining a good figure after childbirth becomes a definite problem for many a young mother.

pregnant woman worried about putting on weight after childbirth
In this age of “figure consciousness” retention of a graceful and slim body after childbirth warrants a regular regimen.



Ending up with a pot-belly, flabby breasts, huge hips and thighs and ugly stretch marks is one of the worst nightmares of most young mothers-to-be.  Post-delivery, many women complain that they don’t like the way their lower bodies look.

However, there are no magic diets. But there are some methods which when followed meticulously, will keep a woman’s body as attractive as it was before the birth of a baby.



Do moderate exercise When You Are Pregnant

Exercising during pregnancy can help a woman and the child in the womb stay healthy.  By gently stretching and doing mild exercises, you can stay as flexible as possible. This can also help you maintain proper posture, decrease common discomforts such as backaches, fatigue etc and also improve your moods caused due to hormonal upheaval.  All in all, a comfortable and reasonable fitness routine during pregnancy can make a huge difference in the quality of your delivery and post-partum recovery. [Source]

Exercise is not recommended only if there is some medical and pregnancy related complication. Only after your obstetrician / gynaecologist has given you the green signal should you embark on an exercise regimen during pregnancy.

However, exercise performed during pregnancy is different than your exercise at other times.  Never do any strenuous activity during your pregnancy.  You should be extra-sensitive and pay heed to the signals that your body sends.

Walking, swimming and other low-intensity exercises are suitable for pregnancy. Walk in the morning at dawn for best results or if this is not possible go for walks late in the evening.  Avoid travelling in bumpy 3-wheeler auto-rickshaws or even riding bikes, considering the condition of roads in our country.  

pregnant women doing yoga


Some yoga poses are also highly recommended during pregnancy but you should do that only under the instruction of an experienced yoga practitioner.  Read about prenatal yoga and yoga poses suitable for each trimester here and here.

Exercise during pregnancy is meant to benefit you and your unborn baby and as such it should be moderate and regulated and performed with utmost care. Better to be safe than sorry.

Eat sensibly during pregnancy

Along with exercise, nutrition also plays a major role in yours as well as your baby’s health. Try and eat a well balanced diet throughout your pregnancy. You should be eating at least 300 extra calories a day for the baby. In the earlier stages, vomiting and nausea may make this a bit difficult but as your pregnancy progresses and you feel better focus on getting enough food. Eat foods with lots of fibre in them. This also helps prevent constipation. Read these home remedies for tackling constipation during pregnancy.

However, overeating during pregnancy leads to excessive weight gain. Forget the old saying “Eating for two” during pregnancy. Eat fresh, home-cooked food. Choose foods rich in calcium, folate, potassium, vitamin C, Vitamin B6, vitamin D etc. Also read the posts foods to eat during pregnancy & Top 10 foods to avoid during pregnancy. This WebMDarticle provides more details about ideal pregnancy diet.

Sleep, Rest & Relaxation

Rest is of great importance, 8 hours of sleep and a short afternoon nap are a must during pregnancy.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, one tends to feel sleepy due to excessive production of progesterone hormone. 



And it’s perfectly alright to have more sleep than usual. It’s only in later, particularly in the third trimester that a woman may have trouble getting deep, uninterrupted sleep.

If you have trouble falling asleep during pregnancy, do not take tranquilisers or over-the-counter pills or for that matter even try herbal remedies. Try to relax your mind with some relaxation techniques, like doing meditation, certain breathing exercises or pranayama  like anuloma viloma and bhramari; however avoid holding your breath during any kind of breathing exercise. Bhramari pranayam, in particular, has been found to be beneficial for pregnant women.


pregnant woman sleeping
Rest & sleep is very important during pregnancy.



As far as possible pregnant women should take afternoon naps to fight fatigue and feel refreshed. Afternoon naps have additional benefits also; according to recent studies, pregnant women who took afternoon naps for one to one and a half hours every day for at least 5 times a week had 22% less likely to have a baby with low birth weight. Afternoon naps are beneficial to all and not just for pregnant women. Do read about the benefits of afternoon naps  and contrary to popular belief noon-time naps do not ruin your night’s sleep.

Also one should pay attention to sleep positions early in the pregnancy and get into the habit of sleeping on one’s side, preferably the left side.  Lying on your left side ensures proper blood circulation to the heart and allows the best blood flow to foetus, uterus and kidneys.  Shifting sides once in a while during nights is natural but strictly avoid sleeping on the back or on your stomach.   Also read how one woman wished she knew about these 5 things during her pregnancy.

Care of breasts and abdomen - prevent stretch marks

Wear properly fitted bra all time; you might even have to wear them at night.  A well-fitted bra helps relieve any chance of back aches and pains. Also get your breasts and nipples checked by your gynaecologist.  Wash the nipples with water (don’t use soap) and while bathing,  gently draw them out with your forefinger and thumb to prepare them for lactation.

pregnant woman sitting
Application of oils on breasts, abdomen & buttocks during pregnancy will help prevent stretch marks to some extent

Since you are likely to get pregnancy stretch marks as a result of the skin around the abdomen stretching to accommodate a growing belly, you need to act early during the pregnancy. Proper nutrition, eating a skin-nourishing diet full of vitamin E and other essential nutrients, adequate hydration, proper exercise regimen and maintaining proper weight during pregnancy will lessen the formation of ugly stretch marks. Do read How to maintain your ideal weight during pregnancy. 

Also you may practice dry brushing. Exfoliating your skin with a dry brush improves blood circulation and keeps your skin healthy. It can also reduce the appearance of stretch marks that have already formed. Use a dry brush made from natural bristles such as this.  Focus on areas such as buttocks and abdomen. Better avoid dry brushing on your breasts as they are sensitive during that period. Follow dry brushing with a shower to wash of dead skin cells.

You can start moisturizing and massaging the areas on your body most likely to be affected by stretch marks such as breasts, buttocks and abdomen with natural oils like coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, argan oil, lavender oil etc. Use gentle motions while massaging. 

Vitamin E oil is also used by many as massage oil for stretch marks. However, studies have found that high consumption of vitamin E during pregnancy results in an increased risk of infant congenital heart disease. Although external application is less likely to cause trouble, still to be on the safer side, it’s better to avoid vitamin E oil application during pregnancy.  

Some women also use body butter (this one’s quite good) to moisturize their skin, tackle dry skin and itchiness and for stretch marks.  However if you concerned about the safety of body butters or stretch mark oils such as bio-oil during pregnancy, don’t use them.

[Also read: Beautiful and Pregnant: How to Manage Stretch Marks and Maintain Healthy Skin]
 
Post-delivery, a tummy /abdominal binder or a maternity belt such as this is a must to avoid a pot-belly. It has to be worn for at least 3 months. This also helps the organs that are loose to get back to their original positions.  If you have had a normal delivery, you can start wearing it within a week of giving birth but if you had to go through a C-section, they you might have to wait for a 3-4 weeks to do this. In any case, you need to consult your doctor regarding your belly wrapping.



There is a notion among young women that breast-feeding causes sagging of breasts. As long as the young mother wears a comfortable and well-fitting maternity bra throughout, this problem will not arise. Women should start wearing a maternity bra such as this from 34th week itself.

Post natal exercises

Gentle post-natal exercise recommended and supervised by the doctor or physiotherapist help not only in the strengthening of muscles but in reducing excess flab. Needless to say these exercises should be performed carefully and not be overdone.

Initially, the mother is taught a breathing exercise and leg movement lying in bed up to 2 days after delivery till she feels stronger. Read all the details about it here.

Post partum exercises

Normally it is recommended that a woman start an exercise regimen 5-6 weeks after giving birth and after 8 weeks if she had to go through a c-section. But in any case, listen to your body and start only if you feel you are fit enough.

Each pound of fat that you carry is a receipt of 3500 excess calories that you have had during your pregnancy. Unless you exercise, these excess calories will be almost impossible to take off.

Resuming exercise at the earliest also is good for your overall health and reduces your risk of post-partum depression. However do consult your doctor before you embark upon any exercise regimen and stop immediately if you experience symptoms like bleeding, headache, uneasiness, giddiness etc. Do check some of the exercise here and here. Also you may try post partum yoga under the guidance of an expert. Check this.

Relaxation is very important after all these exercises.  Lie on the bed on the right side. Take a deep breath and see how at ease you feel. Take one or two deep breaths so that the uterus gets support without any pressure.  Relax in a sleeping position for 20 to 30 minutes. Hear some soothing music, to calm your jaded nerves.

Conclusion

All these exercises and relaxation routine will make a big difference to your mental and physical being. You can do these exercises for 3 months and also continue with it all your life.

By following all these pregnancy and post-pregnancy tips and advice on diet, exercise, massage etc, you’ll become svelte within a short time. And that perfect figure that you had aspired for after child-birth will be yours! And you can experience the joys of having a supple body that moves with grace and agility even after going through the arduousness of child birth.

So what exercises did you try to shed your post partum body weight?  Which types of exercises helped you? Did you face challenges and issues while exercising? And for those who are pregnant,  do go over the tips and suggestions mentioned here as it will be of tremendous help to you in getting back to a fit and toned body after pregnancy.  All of you do share your views in the comments.
(Contributed by Jyoti)


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