Exercise is a wonderful thing to fit into your day, it can be something as simple as a leisurely walk in the evening or as challenging as a good long run. I love it purely to unwind after a day spent meeting the demands of four small children. I find it’s a great way to process my thoughts and give me some much needed headspace which in turn leads to a better night’s sleep. Regardless of the type of exercise you go back to after having a baby there are a few things you should check before you whip out the runners and stretchy pants. After my fourth baby I went back running a few months after she was born but my whole body was weak. I ended up damaging my knee in just one run which took a frustratingly long time to sort out.
The most important thing to check before you go back to any form of exercise is that your pelvic floor is in good working order. Do not underestimate the importance of doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly and frequently during and after pregnancy. Make those exercises a habit by incorporating them into parts of your day, it might be that you have to wait in the car at the school gate or you’re sitting in front of the tv or the computer, take those moments and make them count. If you do experience leaking and are not seeing any improvements after doing your exercises you should go a see a women’s health physio. Leaking is not something you have to learn to live with, nor is it something that should hinder you, very often it can be sorted easily with exercise and without surgical intervention.
Another part of your body that requires the utmost attention is your core. This is something I feel is not given enough attention when we are pregnant, I don’t believe I ever heard the words Diastasis Recti uttered during or after having any of my four babies. Diastasis recti is the (common!) separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy and while it corrects itself in some women, a lot of women need to actively fix it through a series of gentle, specific exercises. Lying down and starting into abdominal crunches is literally the worst thing you could do. Pilates is one of the best ways of strengthening not just your core, but your whole body after childbirth. However, make be sure to let your instructor know your situation as there are still some movements that can cause damage, particularly if you have had a c section.Many women experience low iron during pregnancy with a lot of women having to take iron tablets and some more extreme cases requiring iron injections or iron infusions. In my experience there is a huge focus on iron levels before the baby arrives but once the baby is born there is no further mention or check to see how our iron levels recover. For many, they will recover to a healthy level with the correct food intake but for some women, like those who experience heavy bleeding during menstruation, it is harder to raise iron levels through diet alone. On my fourth pregnancy I had to get iron and B12 injections as my iron was very low, 18 months after she was born I had my iron rechecked and it was lower than ever (my B12 was fine). I was back running at this stage but felt with each run it was getting tougher instead of easier. Pushing yourself in exercise if your iron is low is dangerous so if you experience symptoms of low iron get yourself checked out. As women, we should all ensure we have a diet with plenty of iron and vitamin c including things like leafy greens, red meat, black pudding, tomatoes and oranges to counteract the effects of blood loss each month.The final piece of the puzzle is making sure you look after yourself so that when it comes to exercising it is as enjoyable and rewarding as possible. It is important to take the time to eat well throughout the day, to make sure you get as much rest and sleep as possible and to drink lots of water. Water is hugely important regardless of whether you exercise or not and a lack of water in your diet can leave you feeling tired, give you headaches and lead to other negative side effects. If you are even mildly dehydrated it can make a run or a training session feel harder than usual so staying well hydrated for exercise, and for our general wellbeing, is always a good idea.