As a personal trainer and pre-post natal exercise specialist, a large part of my job scope involves working with postpartum clients here in Singapore - helping them to re-gain their pre-pregnancy figures, re-condition their Core and to re-build their fitness levels.
Journeying along with my female clients through this process, I can honestly say that it is both a rewarding and heartening experience for all involved, especially when we get to see - first-hand - the physical transformation of our clients gradually taking place right before our eyes.
At the same time, via my interaction with the postpartum population through the years, it is also apparent that many myths and concerns that women have with regards to a Post Natal Fitness Programme still exist.
Some of the more common ones are as follow:
1) I Must Wait At Least A MONTH Before I Can Do Any Sort Of Exercise!
This is absolutely NOT true! And the sad thing is that there are still pockets of medical professionals out there actively promoting this misconception to post-natal mums!
Putting aside any medical complication or valid medical reason, a postpartum lady can (and should) resume light re-conditioning and rehabilitative exercises, especially for their core and pelvic floor muscles, as soon as possible.
This is a classic case where the longer you wait, the longer you actually DELAY your recovery!
2) I Can Jump Straight Back To My Pre-Pregnancy Exercise Routine If I Feel Ready!
At the other end of the spectrum, there are also some (albeit, a smaller minority) of post-natal clients who simply can't wait to resume their pre-pregnancy exercise routine and intensity without a second thought. These ladies usually belong to the category of avid exercisers and/or competitive sportswomen who have no qualms pushing themselves hard - the sooner, the better - they rationalize!
My take on the above approach is this: Too Much Too Soon is also BAD for the body!
Do remember that pregnancy does take a toil on a woman's body - physically and physiologically. Like it or not, the body does need time to recover, re-align and re-condition itself. As a result, any exercise programming has to take the above into account and has to proceed slowly and progressively.
Also, the presence of the hormone - Relaxin - still lingering within the body for a few months post-partum, does increase the risk of training injuries, if one is not careful.
Always aim to ease yourself back into your exercise routine gradually, and don't be afraid to slow down or even take a step back, if things just don't seem right.
3) I Must Do Lots Of Crunches To Flatten My Belly!
Crunches are OVER-RATED. Period.
And they should NOT be part of your immediate post-natal exercise arsenal.
Bearing in mind that many postpartum mums experience some form of abdominal laxity and separation (Diastasis Recti), doing crunches (which actually only stress the superficial abdominal muscles that have already been weakened and over-stretched during pregnancy) would only greatly aggravate the above condition - leading to other possible medical complications such as tissue tearing and hernias.
And also, in case you are wondering, crunches do LITTLE, if ANY, to help you burn belly fat off!
You'll be far better off doing specific core activation drills which target the deep underlying core musculature of your body, and other complementary strengthening and conditioning exercises to help you regain overall muscle tone, boost your metabolism and to help you burn body fat.
4) I Am Breast-Feeding So I Shouldn't Workout!
Barring any medical issue, you CAN and SHOULD work out even if you are breast-feeding.
Just make sure that you are taking in sufficient calories and drinking enough fluids through the day; and always put on a good support bra when working-out.
And in case you are wondering whether your exercise regime is going to have an effect on your breast milk in any way; the GOOD news is this: research has proven - without a single doubt - that light-to-moderate exercise does NOT affect the quality nor quantity of your milk production at all.
So take heart, go ahead, and feel free to enjoy your physical activities once again.
For more information on your post-partum exercise options, do also check out our Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs) Page On Post-Natal Fitness Training.