Postpartum exercise is ultra-important after you've had your baby. By taking the time to care for yourself, you'll set yourself up to be the best mother you can!
The Body Postpartum
If you just had a baby, you might be wondering if you will ever regain your pre-pregnancy figure! You'll be happy to know that postpartum exercise does wonders to get your "old" body back: and it tones you up much faster than just dieting.
One of the biggest surprises for most women just after giving birth is the way her tummy looks. The baby is out, but there it is, right around the navel: a big, round, squishy puffball, making you look like you're still six months pregnant! It is also common to have a dark line visible on the abdomen called the 'linea negra.' An accompanying web of stretch marks is more common than not. These are actually little scars caused by excessive stretching of the skin. If you've had a c-section, you have surgical scars to contend with as well.
The reason you still look pregnant right after giving birth is that it takes time for your body to completely recover from delivery. Your abdomen acts like a stretchy balloon as it slowly inflates while the baby grows. Childbirth isn't as dramatic as "popping" the balloon - most women experience a slow but steady "leak" in the size of the stomach after giving birth. The good news is that, from the moment your baby is born, hormonal changes cause your midsection to start shrinking back to its pre-pregnancy state. It normally takes four weeks for the uterus to contract back to its regular size. All the cells in your body that swelled during pregnancy will begin releasing their fluids in the form of urine, vaginal secretions, and sweat. The extra fat you put on to nourish the baby will also start burning off (especially if you're nursing and exercising). The fat loss part is a relatively slow process, but most see noticeable results after a few weeks. Stretch marks and the line on your abdomen will likely stick around even longer. It can take several months for the redness of stretch marks to lighten and a year or more before they turn white and shiny. Unfortunately, stretch marks never completely disappear. The dark color of the linea negra will gradually fade over the course of a year, but that too may never completely go away. Creams and lotions designed to reduce or eliminate stretch marks might make them appear lighter, but cannot make them completely disappear. If there is an event for which you would like to look your best, you might consider using one of these products. Otherwise, you're just wasting your money, because they are only a temporary solution.
Do you know someone who had a baby and promptly returned to having a flat, tight tummy immediately after giving birth? This does happen, but it's extremely rare. Some of these women don't even engage in postpartum exercise: they simply were born lucky! For most women it takes months to get rid of the "pregnancy pouch:" and sometimes it never completely goes away. Every woman can make improvements in her appearance, however. Patience is key - it took nine months for your abdomen to stretch enough to accommodate a full-term baby, and it takes many women that long (or longer) to tighten back up all the way.