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Activity and Exercise

Most women find that full recovery from childbirth takes from six to eight weeks. You may notice that you tire easily and that you welcome household help for a few days. Try to nap and rest as much as you can. This is a time to pamper yourself.

Because sitting cuts the circulation to your legs, you shouldn't sit for too long. When you do sit, put your feet up.

As your recovery progresses, you can incorporate increasing levels of activity and exercise into your daily routine. Exercise helps restore muscle tone needed to protect your bones and joints, and it will help you lose weight gained during pregnancy.

You can start these simple strengthening exercises on your first postpartum day or as soon as you feel comfortable.

  • Lie on your tummy with a pillow under your hips to relieve back strain and relax abdominals. Don't let your back sag.
  • Tighten and release the perineal muscles (Kegel exercises) to tone muscles that were stretched during the birth process. Repeat 10 times at least twice daily.
  • Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Raise your head so that your chin touches your chest. Slowly lower your head. (Raising your head strengthens abdominal muscles.) Repeat 10 times, four times daily.
  • You can begin other exercises, such as those illustrated on the following page, in 10 to 14 days if you feel strong enough. Feel free to make minor changes in the movements. Yoga or stretching exercises are fine if they aren't too strenuous.

Most doctors recommend waiting six weeks before gradually resuming strenuous exercise. Walking is usually a good exercise for new mothers. Ask your doctor about specific activities you want to undertake. Remember to listen to your body. You'll know you're overdoing it if your bleeding increases or if your abdomen or back begin to hurt during an activity.