If you look at Instagram you may start to believe that 6 weeks post- partum you should fit into your old skinny leg jeans and have a 6 pack. Instagram is lying – I say this as a GP who sees many post-partum mums in the clinic and as a woman who has lived the post- partum period.
Exercise is important in the post-partum period but not so you can fit into your old jeans. The top reasons I prescribe exercise to post-partum mothers:
- Mental health benefits – just an hour of exercise per week has been shown in studies to prevent depression. I often tell mums a little bit of activity may work towards preventing post-partum depression. Exercise is also very helpful for mothers with anxiety – any exercise can help burn off cortisol which is the hormone that goes up when we feel anxious; it makes us feel fidgety and shaky.
- Post-partum weight loss – whilst this should not be a big focus it is still something worth considering. Obesity rates in women of reproductive age are increasing (and hence, illnesses like type 2 diabetes and fatty liver). Losing some of the excess weight in the post- partum period is actually good for you – and exercise is a great way to help that.
- A sense of purpose – it is not uncommon for a new mum to feel slightly lost at home; I remember the feeling! Often at the 6 week check my patients will admit they feel the days drag on a bit and they miss the structure in their life – I often use a prescribed walk to not only reap the health benefits but to give a job for the day and a sense of purpose!
- Vitamin D exposure – a walk in sunlight is a wonderful way for mother and baby to be exposed to some Vitamin D! Vitamin D is crucial for bone health.