Getting Back In Shape

At some point after the baby is born, a new mother will take a tentative hand and place it on her stomach. Feeling the slackness of the postpartum flesh in this area can be a dismaying experience, but then again, that first glance in the mirror is also upsetting. The baby is out—why do you still have a huge pregnant-looking belly?

Recovery Time

You may feel quite eager to reclaim your body and get it back to its svelte, pre-pregnant state. But intensive dieting and exercising are out for now. Your body needs time to recover. In fact, excessive exercise at this time when your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor are still weak may result in urinary incontinence and chronic back pain.

Exercise is fine, but everything in moderation for now. You can start exercising even a day after the delivery, as long as you do the right kind of exercise and don't exercise to excess. Here are some exercises you can do in the early postpartum days:

Kegels: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles as if you are holding back a stream of urine. Hold for a count of five. Do ten repetitions. This exercise can be done several times daily.

Diaphragmatic breathing: Lie on your back and place your hands over your abdomen. Inhale and allow your abdomen to rise as it fills with air. Exhale through your mouth while tightening your abdomen. Pull it in almost to your spine. Your stomach should flatten as you breathe out.

Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back with bent knees. Press your pelvis to the floor while you pull in your stomach and exhale. Imagine that you are pressing your navel into your spine. Hold for a count of five, inhale and relax.

Stretching: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms face up. Point your toes to the ceiling, contract your thigh muscles as you push your knees into the mattress. Pull your stomach in and flatten your back. Squeeze your shoulder blades while you stretch your neck as far as possible. Press your palms into the bed. Hold for 3 seconds, and then relax.

Posture Perfect

Correcting Your Posture: Stand and tuck in your chin while you lengthen your neck. Bring your shoulders down and back. Pull in your stomach toward your spine. Tighten the pelvic floor while making sure your knees stay relaxed. Arch your feet.

After 48 hours you can add these exercises:

Bridges: Lie on your back with knees bent, and pull in your stomach, buttocks, and pelvic floor muscles as you lift your hips. Hold for a count of five and then gradually release. As this exercise becomes easier, you can make it more of a challenge by moving your feet farther away from your buttocks. Once you have no trouble keeping your hips level, you can also attempt this exercise with one leg raised. 

Heel slide: Lie on your back and clench your stomach muscles as you tilt your pelvic floor. Lower each leg, one leg at a time as you keep your pelvis tilted. As this becomes easier, make it more difficult by sliding your two legs out together but bring them back in separately.