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[Patient Adviser]

Exercising After You Have Your Baby

Erika N. Ringdahl, MD


You may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for a newborn, but now is a great time to start or resume an exercise program. Regular exercise will:

  • Help you lose weight you gained while you were pregnant,
  • Increase your energy level to help you cope with new responsibilities,
  • Decrease your stress level, and
  • Help you return to your prepregnant shape faster.

Your doctor will help you decide what you need to do and how soon you can safely begin.

Q. How can I exercise if I don't have child care?

A. Joining a gym that provides child care is a good motivator. If that isn't possible, try watching another mother's children while she works out, then trade places.

Buying a baby-carrier backpack or jogging stroller lets you take your child with you. When your child is older, you can get a child carrier or trailer for your bicycle. You can usually find these items at a reasonable cost if you shop at stores that sell used sporting goods or used baby equipment. Garage sales, community bulletin boards, and want ads can also be good sources.

Renting or buying exercise tapes or home exercise equipment lets you work out while the kids nap or play in the same room. Safety first! Keep babies and toddlers away from the moving parts of treadmills and stationary bikes, and store your free weights where you won't trip over them.

Q. I'm nursing. Will exercise burn calories that I need for breast milk production? Will my baby get enough nutrition?

A. Moderate exercise will not affect your ability to make breast milk or the quality of the milk. Because exercising with full breasts may feel uncomfortable, nurse or pump right before you exercise. If wearing one sports bra for support isn't enough, try wearing two. And be sure to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

Q. I leak urine if I run or jump. How can I avoid this?

A. This is a common problem, especially if you've had several babies, so don't be embarrassed to discuss it with your doctor. If running is a problem, consider walking, biking, swimming, or low-impact aerobics until your pelvic floor muscles get stronger.

One simple tip is to go to the bathroom right before you exercise. You can also try wearing a tampon while you exercise. The tampon helps support your bladder.

Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages for 2 hours before you exercise.

Your doctor can show you how to do exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These exercises are easy to do, and you can do them while you watch TV, talk on the phone, or wait for a stoplight to change. Pelvic floor exercises work best if they are done regularly.

A New Beginning

Your new baby will bring lots of changes into your life. Exercise will help you cope with the challenges, prevent extra pounds from sticking around, and start you on the path to a healthy future.

Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.