Postpartum

Postpartum Fitness

POSTPARTUM FITNESS IS ABOUT MORE THAN LOSING WEIGHT

how to start postpartum weight loss and fitness journey

The following is a contribution from a friend and mentor. I asked her to write this because I wish I had known more about this topic after the birth of my first son. I was so consumed with how quickly I could lose the baby weight that I was peeing myself while working out and rushed some areas that needed more time and healing. Our society often glorifies quick weight loss (for some reason specifically for new moms) and fails to mention all of the important things that go into our recovery and well-rounded care of our incredible bodies. I know you will enjoy reading and learning from Julie.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

DISCOVERING YOUR POSTPARTUM BODY

Birth can be so beautiful and empowering. You spent months preparing yourself for your bundle of joy’s arrival and read all the pregnancy books out there. You planned the nursery, chose the perfect name and exercised throughout your pregnancy. Then it hits you… you gave birth to your sweet baby but you are left feeling confused and frustrated about your postpartum body. Nobody told you what your body was going to look like or how you might feel about your body after giving birth. At your 6 week check-up, you are told that “everything looks fine” and that you can now have sex and return to your regular exercise. Say WHAT?!

Here you are, being given the green light and not really knowing where to start. Everywhere you look someone is trying to sell you some sort of magic potion or program to lose weight. You are tired, sleep-deprived, maybe even depressed and having a hard time juggling a new demanding baby and your body that desperately needs some care. So, you get your running shoes out and start running and participating in a high intensity fitness class so that you can hopefully lose the baby weight.

RELATED: Postpartum More Than the Weight

I WISH I COULD TELL MY FIRST TIME MOM SELF:

Does this sound familiar to you? After having 3 babies of my own, I wish I could tell my first time mom self that postpartum fitness is NOT all about losing weight. YES, I said it. Weight loss should not be the main focus especially in the early postpartum months.

While it is ok to want to lose the baby weight eventually; resting, healing and bonding with baby should be top priorities. Your body went through tremendous changes in pregnancy with fluctuating hormones and a growing belly. In pregnancy, both estrogen and progesterone are high and will drastically decrease after delivery. Also, breastfeeding will produce a hormone called prolactin which will make your estrogen levels even lower.  All of these changes in your hormones make it difficult to lose fat. Not to mention that cortisol can run at a high level due to stress and lack of sleep which makes gaining fat more likely than losing fat. Please remember that your body is AMAZING and grew a tiny HUMAN. Not letting your body heal properly in postpartum could lead to some major setbacks in the future.

how soon after baby can i start working out

WE NEED MORE SUPPORT IN POSTPARTUM

Here’s the reality. Women need more support and guidance in early postpartum. They need more than a short visit at 6 week postpartum giving them the green light to exercise and have sex. One out of two moms will have incontinence (leaking urine) after birth and will be cleared to exercise without much talk about the pelvic floor, core, diastasis recti or strategies to get back into fitness appropriately.

My advice as a Pre and Postnatal Coach is to rest, rehab and retrain in those early postpartum months. Healing your body from the inside out to establish a strong foundation and to avoid problems down the road is the best way to go. Spending time reconnecting and strengthening your deep core and pelvic floor will give you so many benefits. You want to focus on regaining function of your body (including your bladder) to avoid struggling with core and pelvic floor issues for years and years. You can’t simply jump back into high intensity workouts without addressing the foundation and expect your body to follow along without injuries. If you do too much too quickly, you could set yourself up for some setbacks that could lead to incontinence, worsening of diastasis recti, back or pelvic pain or pelvic organ prolapse to name a few. Although these issues are common, they are not normal. There are a lot of resources out there to help you feel better and avoid feeling embarrassed every time you cough or sneeze. If you have been struggling with incontinence or other pelvic floor dysfunctions for years, let me tell you that it is NEVER too late to seek help from a Pelvic Floor Therapist and a knowledgeable Health and Fitness Professional.

RELATED: Postpartum Resources for All Moms

SHIFT OUR THINKING ABOUT NEW MOM HEALTH

When thinking about losing the baby weight, we need to ask ourselves the question “why”. Why is it that we feel the need to look like we never had a baby? Why do we need to erase everything our bodies went through? Most likely, there is an underlying cause of why we feel pressure to lose the baby weight so quickly. We need to shift our thinking to embracing our amazing bodies and giving ourselves grace in the postpartum period. Let’s switch the focus to giving our bodies time to rest, rehab and retrain. There is more than looking like our pre-baby self, we can seek a body that feels strong and supported and a body that can function optimally without leaking and aches and pains.

Once you have rested, spent some time bonding with your baby and given your core and pelvic floor a little TLC, then you can start enjoying higher intensity activities if that makes your heart happy.

NEED SUPPORT?

Do you have questions about postpartum fitness, core and pelvic floor rehab? If you enjoyed this article and want some guidance in your postpartum journey, grab your FREE 15 minute consultation with Julie now. Email julie@strongbodystrongmama.com with the subject “Postpartum Together” to schedule a free call.

virtual postpartum work out coach

Julie Leonard is an exercise physiologist, a pre and postnatal corrective exercise specialist with a focus on core and pelvic health and a mom of 3. She specializes in preparing women mentally and physically for birth and postpartum to achieve better birth experiences, easier postpartum recoveries and more fulfilling lives. Learn more about Julie and connect with her on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Want to be purposeful and prepared for postpartum? Download this free Postpartum Plan Checklist to get you started.

Postpartum

New Baby, Lost Identity

DEAR POSTPARTUM MOM: IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW YOUR IDENTITY RIGHT NOW.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

Hey momma- let’s take a walk together down memory lane.

LIFE AS AN ADOLESCENCE

Let’s go back a bit and revisit one of those times in life where things felt out of whack.

Ah, adolescence. “The process of developing from a child to an adult.” I’m sure there are many stories you could tell me about this time. Stories about your body changing. Stories about your emotions changing. Stories about your friendships and interests changing. You probably have something really embarrassing that happened during this time (and most likely it was in front of that first real crush and you wrote about it in your secret diary.)

don’t feel like myself anymore after baby

Our society has accepted this adolescence as a normal part of growth. Something to not only acknowledge but also, in the midst of all of its’ awkwardness, to celebrate. It’s important for us to take a minute to experience laughter and tears as we look back and see that, even when we thought that time would never end, it did. Even when we thought we were going to crumble away in a corner somewhere after our 7th-period class, we didn’t. You’re here and you aren’t the same woman you were before the hormones and mental shifts and expectations changed around you.

So here we stand today, in the present moment. You have entered this realm of motherhood and I bet if you really think hard about it, a lot of things feel similar to those distant years of transitioning from a child to an adult.
Hormones.
Emotions.
Friends.
Expectations.
Interests.

(Did I already say emotions? It’s worth saying twice.) So many things are changing and it feels outright confusing sometimes. In contrast to your teenage years, though, now you feel the pressure to keep it together. You feel the pressure to innately know how to accomplish these new tasks and expectations. You feel pressure for all of the change to come ‘naturally’ and you’re feeling down on yourself when it doesn’t. Here’s the truth, momma, just like taking care of new breasts, starting to date, having more responsibilities and handling your roller coaster emotions didn’t come without difficulties the first time, this second major transition isn’t without its’ own set of new and unique struggles. Just because society doesn’t give you as much grace doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.

MATRESCENCE

matrescence changing me as a new mom

In her anthropological studies of mothers across the world, postpartum advocate Dana Raphael coined the term “matrescence.” This term and study has been on the rise as others like reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks bring it into the light (watch her awesome Ted Talk). Sacks defines matrescence as “the developmental phase of new motherhood, (it) is like adolescence — a transition when hormones surge, bodies morph, and identity and relationships shift.”

Does that sound familiar? Hormones? Bodies? Identity? Relationships? Matrescence makes so much sense, even if t it is still not a widely adopted and acknowledge part of our society.

RELATED: Emotions of Postpartum

FINDING YOURSELF AS A NEW MOM

Momma, today you are in the midst of your matrescence. Whether you became a mother a day, a week, a month or a year ago, you are in your transition. You look different. You feel different. You think differently (both intentionally and unintentionally.) The things that once defined you may or may not be relevant right now.

  • Sometimes it feels like you swapped bodies with a stranger.

  • Sometimes your hormones cause you to think and feel and act differently than you intend to.

  • The top things that make you YOU may be shifting.

  • You have probably lost some friendships, gained some friendships, and seen dynamic changes across relationships.

  • Sometimes you wonder what happened to the doting and attention you were getting as a pregnant woman and how it so fleetingly disappeared as the baby took the whole stage. (Yes, we love the baby too, but momma is still here and still needs help!)

trying to find myself after baby

When you sit down at the end of a long day, you may feel like you just don’t know who you are. In the midst of taking on new roles and putting aside old roles, you might feel lost in a shuffle. A shuffle that is your life and yet sometimes it feels like it is operating outside of you and you are just an onlooker. You might have an argument with a loved one and afterward think “Who am I? Why did I say that?” You might try to keep work or social things in order only to find them jumbled. You might look day after day at your postpartum body and wonder if it’s ever going to be “back to normal.” Maybe you flip flop back and forth in thinking about who you want to be known as and what would make you feel “accomplished” day after day. Maybe you know you love your kids, but you also miss the things that gave you life before you were a mother.

You will probably think and feel variations of these things, and you should. It can be uncomfortable. The growing pains- they still suck sometimes. For some women, their experience includes postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis (click here to see the warning signs of these very valid and treatable conditions). May you don’t qualify with something diagnosable, and so your feelings in this transition are often dismissed.

But you need not be dismissed, you still need space to grow and learn and process. You are still in the midst of something that needs to be recognized, validated and dare I say- celebrated even when it feels like a mess. You need spaces to grieve and celebrate because your life, it has changed in one of the biggest ways possible. It is not silly for you to struggle. It is not dramatic for you to feel so intensely. It is not wrong for you to not know your identity in this time. It is a normal part of the transition, but as we know, normal does not equal easy and just because we all go through it doesn’t mean any of us should go through it alone.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

Postpartum mom- it’s okay to not know your identity right now.

finding myself again after having a baby