By Hannah Schenker
You have been through possibly one of the most challenging physical experiences of your life, and given birth to your beautiful wee babe. Your days and nights are consumed by this tiny being – feeding, bathing, watching, nursing, sleeping, waking…it’s exhausting. It’s gruelling. You may be going through some grief for your old life, or perhaps you are blossoming in your new role, even with the lack of sleep. You marvel at the changes your body has been through, and hopefully do not feel anxious about returning to your pre-baby form, as you realise you are a completely new woman and feel respect for everything your body has done. However, after some time – it could be a week, it could be six months – you start to feel the call. The call to venture out, to breathe the fresh air, to see something other than the walls of your home. It’s time to move, to get some energy flowing, and best of all – baby can come with you.
Post-natal exercise is important for so many reasons, but of course what you decide to do and how you go about it will completely depend on your individual circumstances. You may have had a birth that went according to plan, and maybe you had a traumatic experience that requires a longer recovery period. Whatever way your child entered the world, you both will benefit from getting a little activity into your lives. Please note: while we are giving some ideas here, you should check with your health professional before you begin.
Exercise, even gentle exercise, is fantastic for both pregnancy and post-natal health – for body and mind, for recovering and resourcing. If you were active during your pregnancy, you will likely find it easier to get back into it once baby arrives. Exercise will improve your mood and sleep, decreasing the risks of depression and anxiety. It will support the return of your bladder control and abdominal strength. If you are concerned about weight gain during pregnancy, of course exercise will help you with that too. Gentle exercise such as walking, swimming and yoga are great ways to get moving again, without putting undue stress on your body.
Walking is one of the best and easiest ways to start getting active again. It’s free and easily accessible, you really only need some decent shoes and a sling or carrier. Baby will be held close and comfortable, leaving you to wander as far as you choose to. Start slow and short and build it up slowly as you regain your strength and stamina. You could invite a friend to join you, which will bring even greater benefits as you foster a little social connection you may otherwise not have had much of lately. Make sure to engage your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles when carrying your baby. After a few months of gradually increasing your activity, you could even get away somewhere beautiful for some more adventurous hiking, if you’ve got the right carrier – resourcing yourself even more with the benefits of being in nature.