Exercise has a lot of benefits for both pregnant women and new moms — energy boosts and the magic of endorphins to name a couple. Many moms are eager to get back into their routines after having a baby, but everyone's timeline is different. After nine months of working out, Khloé Kardashian "can not wait" to workout like she did pre-pregnancy, after giving birth. Given her passion for fitness, this is not all that surprising. However, her words bring up an important issue for new moms. The pressure to "bounce back" after baby can be a dangerous thing.
Kardashian and boyfriend Tristan Thompson are expecting their first child together, a little girl, very soon. The mom-to-be has mostly kept up her workout routine thus far, but at the nine month mark she has had to slow things down to exercises like walking on a treadmill. In a tweet on Friday, she said “Random thoughts but I can NOT WAIT to f— up the gym when it’s time lol BEAST MODE is dying to return!!” Her personal preference to get back to her life as normal is totally understandable, but "bouncing back" shouldn't be a new mom's primary focus.
Janice Min, new mom and editor of Us Weekly, recently discussed the pressure on moms to "get their bodies back" after having a baby in an editorial published in the New York Times and she makes a lot of great points. She explained that the image modern culture has concocted is simply not the reality:
One of our greatest virtues as humans is our desire to constantly improve. But in the same way that women can have it all, the notion that instantly stick-thin figures after birth are normal is untrue. Sometimes, in my sleep-deprived nights, I ponder our ideal of this near-emaciated, sexy and well-dressed Frankenmom we’ve created and wonder how to undo her. Even just a little bit.
Part of this un-doing process is increased awareness of what postpartum weight loss really looks like. In the weeks following giving birth, it is completely normal for a new mom to still look pregnant. That "bump" will remain while the uterus shrinks back to its normal size, organs move back into place, and abdominal muscles come back together, according to Babble. How long this process takes varies greatly from one woman to the next, but generally takes four to eight weeks or more. During this time, exercising to slim down is not only ineffective, it is not recommended.
Additionally, post-pregnancy weight loss in general varies greatly. The amount of weight lost during childbirth between the baby, placenta, and fluids differs, as does how much — if any — weight is lost during breastfeeding. Overall, each experience is unique according to Babble:
There are many factors: pre-pregnancy weight, pregnancy weight gain, activity levels, genetics, amount of breastfeeding, difficulty of birth, temperament of newborn, quantity of sleep, amount of support, how your body/brain responds to stress and whether you had a c-section.
Anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months after giving birth, your doctor will give you the green light to return to exercising. If you and your physician both decide that you are ready to begin working out again, remember not to push yourself too hard. Lisa Corsello, certified personal trainer, founder of Burn fitness studios in California told Women's Health that this is a common mistake that new moms make. Along with potential for injury, doing so can have other negative consequences:
Many women are understandably eager to return to their pre-baby fitness routine. There is a lot of focus on ‘I used to be able to do this, so I should be able to do it now,’ which can lead to lots of frustration and, in some cases, setbacks.
Exercising can have a number of benefits for a new mom, including staving off postpartum depression, and it is completely understandable for new moms to want to feel and look like themselves again after having their baby. Working out can help make that possible. But rushing yourself and your body to meet unrealistic expectations of what postpartum bodies look like doesn't benefit anyone.