Working in a busy maternity hospital is such a great job; I get to meet so many young women who are going through such an exciting time of their lives. It’s no secret though that having a baby is a life changing event! It can certainly take time for mums to settle in at home with their new baby and to tackle challenges of parenthood such as sleep deprivation and breastfeeding. And so, it’s absolutely no surprise that participation in exercise programs decreases after childbirth.
While families are transitioning to life with a new baby in the house, new mums have also experienced significant changes in their body over the course of their pregnancy, and these changes keep happening in the weeks after their baby is born. While I find many women are so motivated to be fit and healthy for their own wellbeing and for their families, many aren’t sure about the safety of exercising after giving birth. Plus, day-to-day life can be hard enough!
So, I just wanted to try to get a bit of information out there for the women of Australia, in the hope that we can improve the health of our mums! Please be reassured ladies that it is safe for exercise to be continued (if you exercised during your pregnancy) or resumed gradually after pregnancy. Also, for women who are breastfeeding, regular exercise does not affect milk production or the growth of your baby.
The timing and speed of returning to exercise will depend on the type of delivery you had and whether there were any complications. The main thing is to listen to your body, and if you’re not sure, seek advice from your GP or a physiotherapist. But remember, exercising after pregnancy is actually advised for your best possible health! The Australian Government's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) for pregnant and post-natal women.
There is a world of benefit in getting outside and going for a brisk walk. Physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for early death worldwide, so let’s tackle that! Exercise is associated with heaps of health benefits, like reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, and death!
We all know that having a new baby can be a big change in lifestyle, some women don’t have the same social contact that they used to because of this change, and some women find the experience overwhelming at times. Even though it may feel difficult to add a work-out to the mix, exercising may actually decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It might be an opportunity to put you in touch with other people too.
If all of that isn’t enough, this month, there’s another inspiring reason to hit the pavement with your bub. Mercy Health Foundation has launched its inaugural Pram Jam - a new fundraising initiative to help prevent stillbirth and complications from babies being born prematurely.
With complications from premature birth being the number one killer of children under five, Pram Jam will raise awareness and much-needed funding through a community walkathon.
You can push a pram, walk or run any distance from Monday 21 November to Sunday 27 November, and ask friends, family and colleagues to sponsor you online to help raise funds for the Mercy Health Foundation.
AUTHOR: Dr Teresa MacDonald, Obstetrics and Gynaecology registrar at Mercy Hospital for Women.