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Saturday, November 20, 2010

POSTPARTUM CHANGES V: EXERCISE

Exercise is an important part of your body’s return to normal after pregnancy and childbirth. Moving around soon after delivery will not only make you feel better, it will also keep blood clots from forming in your legs or pelvis. Very light exercise, such as gentle leg or tummy lifts, is a good way to stimulate healing and get you on the road to regaining your pre-pregnant strength. Try to keep good posture while walking, standing, or sitting. This will stretch your muscles and help you feel better. Movement may be difficult at first, but keep trying. The results will be worth it!
Consider the following:

·         Walk and move around a little as soon as you are able.
·         Practice good posture: stand up straight; gently contract your tummy as you move to take pressure off your back muscles; and concentrate on relaxing your neck and shoulder muscles—good posture shouldn’t make you stiff!
·         Be conscious of how you place your legs when sitting or in bed. To keep your blood flowing, try not to cross your legs, flex them too tightly, or position them with pressure against the back of the knees.
·         You can try leg exercises in bed. Bend and straighten your knees, pressing the back of your knees into the bed and then relaxing in gentle rhythm.
·          Performing Kegel exercises will help return muscle tone to an area stretched during childbirth. Try to squeeze the muscles you use to control the flow of urine. Simply tighten and relax ten times, for about ten seconds each time, and then rest. You will improve bladder control and help your perineum heal faster by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the tissue. You may even improve sexual intercourse with this muscle control, since you are also exercising your vaginal muscles!

If you gave birth vaginally, you may be recovered enough after two weeks or so to be able to exercise a little more. You will probably need more time to rest and recover after a caesarean birth or after a labour and birth with complications.

·         Continue, and maybe increase, your Kegel exercises.
·         Exercise your pelvic muscles. Lie on your back and tighten your lower belly while supporting your lower back. Gently lift your hips for five seconds, release for two seconds, and repeat. This exercise will help to firm your loosened abdominal muscles.
·         Exercise your legs: first, tuck your hips forward and firm your abdominal muscles and buttocks. Keeping your back straight and your arms stretched in front for balance, slowly and smoothly bend your knees and squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, hold for two to five seconds, and then slowly and smoothly stand up. Be careful not to lock your knees or bend them too far.
·         Have your health care provider help you plan a light exercise program as you recover. Plan to increase your activities once you’re able. Swimming (six or more weeks after childbirth) and walking are good choices for getting back in shape after a pregnancy, since they put less strain on joints.
·          Don’t forget the three most important companions to exercise: warm-up, stretching, and cool-down!

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