It’s a looming question weighing in the minds of many women who are pregnant or have recently delivered their bundle of joy; when can they begin to shed some of that pregnancy weight safely and effectively once they have delivered their baby? To help answer this, HEALTHmet with Natasha Fiona Coutinsho, a Fitness Trainer at Body& Soul Health Club at Qanat Al Qasba who also provided tips and advice for all new moms.
Sue from Sharjah had her first baby just two months back by an emergency C-section. Yet still, she says she looks frumpy and even a few months pregnant. She narrates, “I knew I would not look like my old self immediately after the baby but my stomach is so flabby and loose. I can barely zip up my jeans. In fact I would rather just resort to my maternity clothes to hide the fat…It’s so depressing; when can I work on getting my old body back?” Anyone that has recently had a baby can relate to Sue. As despite the fact that most women lose at least five kilos or more immediately after delivering their baby, unfortunately most still look almost as pregnant as when they waddled in to deliver. And while most of us don’t expect our postpartum body to suddenly transform back into your pregnancy state, we never expected we would still be begrudgingly wearing elastic waisted pants and loose flowing maternity tops either. So how do you best work in diet and exercise after pregnancy?
To start, Natasha explains that after her delivery, a woman can start exercising two weeks later. “Two weeks is good enough time for her body to rest and recover and in fact most cases a woman is up on her feet just a day after delivery day,” she says. However for women who have undergone a C-section, Natasha reminds us that for this procedure, the body’s abdominal muscle has been cut through and damaged. “As a result, the recovery for this woman is slow, gradual and takes about three months for the muscle fibers to form and rejoin,” she says therefore a low intensity workout program of a minimum of three months after the C-section is the best option for this new mom.
Nutrition should strongly be considered by the new mother and Natasha suggests, “Of course, she would have to be strict with regards to nutrition, in order to compensate for the lost blood and nutrients as well as in the case of breast feeding.” Breastfeeding is an important aspect to motherhood and through this; the newborn baby is fed and delivered the essential nutrients. “Breast milk contains the maximum amount of nutrition including fat that a woman can provide for her baby,” she explains and in fact, besides all of the goodness that breastfeeding provides the baby, Natasha points out that breast feeding is the key to post pregnancy weight loss and works as an advantage to the lactating mother. “A well balanced diet is very important for a mother who is breastfeeding her baby and especially from that point of post pregnancy and delivery,” she tells. And while the notion of eating for two should not be based on its literal meaning, Natasha urges that post-delivery, a woman should consider all essential nutrients in her diet as she is delivering the same through breast feeding to the baby. Through her own diet and nutrition, Natasha recommends that the new mother has to ensure baby gets its adequate nutrition for good health and that the body that is free from infection and disease.
Undoubtedly being a mother is the most rewarding job there is albeit very exhausting for new mothers, with the multiple feedings, multiple diaper changes, bathing and irregular sleep patterns. Natasha adds that motherhood actually calls for great responsibility and affection by any woman. “Right from the time of the delivery, the mother has to respond and attend to the baby as she knows best for her child; from breast feeding to putting the baby the baby to sleep, a mother has to make time and that leaves no time for a workout for herself,” she says, and it’s not uncommon to see many new mothers looking tired, haggard and understandably out of shape.
The Most Difficult
Even a decade after having children, many women still have a leftover telltale pouch of flab that sits on their stomach. And without a doubt, Natasha says that the hardest area to tone down after delivery is the abdominal area or where the fetus was initially formed. “Due to excessive expansion of the layers of skin tissue as well as muscles of the layers of skin tissue, the lowest part of the abdomen gets stretched and leaves loose muscle tissue and cellulite,” she says.
Perfect for the New Mom Exercises
Reverse Crunches (lower abdomen)
For this, we lie down on the mat, facing upwards with both hands under your hips to cushion the tailbone. Let both knees swing backward and forward to cause a stretching of the lower abdomen. Natasha instructs to complete this exercise as 2 sets of 20 repetitions each.
Lying down, facing upwards, keeping both knees bent and one hand behind the head, bring the elbow of that hand to move towards opposite knee. Be sure to maintain shoulders and head off the mat throughout the exercise. For this exercise, Natasha advises to complete 2 sets of 15 repetitions for both sides.
Lying down on the mat, facing upwards and keeping both hands to support tailbone behind your hips, raise your lower abdomen muscles from the ground to the ceiling. For this, she advises to complete 2 sets of 2 repetitions each.
Facing down on a mat, with both hands and knees raise up right hand with a 1 kilo dumbbell and left leg kept straight off the floor; holding for 10seconds; repeat similarly with the opposite hand and leg. Natasha advises to complete this core stabilizing exercise in 4 to 5 sets
Spine Flexion and extension
This is a classic and easy exercise to help strengthen the back muscles. Natasha instructs us to lie down on both hands and knees, face the ceiling and causing flexion (inward facing ) of the spine exhaling out and then stick chin into your chest and extend the spine outwards, focusing on all core muscles.
These exercises, points out Natasha, can be done at home in any box space. For crunches, you will be required to purchase an exercise mat and a pair of one kilo dumbbells. “Lie down facing the ceiling on a mat with shoulders raised hands behind your head attempt to move chest upward towards ceiling and bring back to start making 1 repetition complete the exercise with 2 sets of 20 repetitions.
Most new mothers try to do too much in too little time. Experts advise not to go overboard with your workouts—as this can lead to burnout. Remember that baby steps are the best path to progress. Some simple “me” time can also help, just going for a walk or having a chat with friends can help you recharge and inspire you to work out.
Other Workout Suggestions For New Mothers:
• Make a date for a stroller walk with a friend who is also a new mom—having a workout partner will help keep you accountable.
• Set goals for how often you’d like to exercise, and reward yourself when you achieve them.
• You can also work out with your baby: Blow bubbles while you’re in a squat, sing while you’re in lunges—be joyful in your exercise!
• It can also be helpful to set out your workout clothes the night before. Even if you’re not exercising first thing in the morning, they’ll remind you of your commitment to get in shape.
• Lastly, be mindful of what you’re eating. Focusing on healthy food can synergistically motivate you to exercise.