With the blessing of a baby comes the unspoken threat of never getting one’s body shape back. While some women have devised means to salvage what will be left of their bodies, others have perfected the art of looking much better than before, writes Esther Namirimu
1.Pregnancy does things to a woman’s body, most of them irreversible. One of the most difficult things for mothers is getting rid of the extra weight after childbirth.
For some, it can take between two months to a year, while others just add more weight with each successive baby and their size changes forever.
Teri Washitu, 22, a first-time mother, got back her ideal body shape within three months of giving birth.
“For any young woman, the thought of carrying a baby for nine months and the life of motherhood can be both exciting and scary. Worst of all, the fear of gaining weight and getting out of shape gets the better of you.
I, however, vowed to enjoy every minute of my motherhood from the moment the doctor gave me the great news. Weight gain during pregnancy is normal, so I was told by my midwife during the first antenatal visit. I was assured that with proper diet and exercise I would be able to gain just the ideal pregnancy weight and keep fit.
You just never realise how much weight you are gaining until you have given birth. I was shocked after my caesarean section birth to learn that I had gained over 19kg during pregnancy.
Getting back into shape after birth can be very challenging, most especially, when you have had a caesarean section birth. Unlike normal birth, I was advised not to exercise or tie my stomach until I was declared healed by my gynaecologist.
With a 4kg baby boy, my stomach was virtually a balloon and deep down, I knew getting back into shape was not going to be a walk in the park. But for someone whose flat tummy was once the envy of many, I was determined to get back into shape.
Exclusive breastfeeding has certainly helped me lose weight. Ironically, I am required to eat more calories (about 2,500 a day) to maintain my energy levels as well as provide a good flow of milk.
I also observed a proper diet by eating foods rich in protein and calcium, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. This has helped to fasten and ease my digestion. I also started taking two litres of warm water daily in between meals. This has done magic to my stomach without having to tie it.
I was advised to avoid sugary or salted snacks and caffeinated drinks. I did exercises daily and my body shape returned to normal and within three months after birth.
My husband, Gilbert Tizihwayo, was very supportive, always reminding me to exercise and accompanying me to the fitness lessons.
There are times when I suffered discomfort from the exercises. I was advised to listen to my body and to take note of that because the exercises exhausted me. So I was limited to pelvic tilts, lifts, side bends and long slow walks in the morning and evenings.
I think losing weight can be affected by emotions. I had a positive attitude and deep down I knew I would make it. This was simplified with the emotional support and patience from my husband.
I used a physical instructor only once during pregnancy. I paid sh40,000 for a whole day’s lesson on fitness and exercise during and after the birth. I was given exercise leaflets, but I also have a book on getting back into shape after pregnancy, which I followed.
I advise new mothers to keep their dream of getting back in shape. It is not easy, but eventually you get there. It has been 18 weeks since I had my baby and I am perfectly fit in all my outfits.
3.What the doctor says
Dr. Emmanuel Netuwa, a gynaecologist in private practice in Mbale, says getting back in shape is not something one should rush. If it has taken about 40 weeks for one to gain the pregnancy weight, it may take a similar length of time to lose it.
However, he says, the best way to get back in shape after giving birth is through exercising, the exercises though should be regulated. “You should not overdo it because it might stretch your body and cause complications,” he says.
“There is no specified time that you should start exercising, but do what you can handle, even if it is only 10 to 15 minutes at a time. If you exercise too hard, too soon after giving birth, your vaginal bleeding may get heavier. This is a signal to slow down,” says Dr. Netuwa.
He notes that you can start with some gentle exercises, including pelvic floor exercises and lower tummy muscles (not sit-ups) almost straightaway. Strengthening your pelvic floor will help you guard against urine leaks while you are exercising.
He also states that if you had a normal delivery you can wrap the belly with a cloth wrapper or use a corset. Any cloth will do, as long as it is long and able to wrap around the waist. Some women who have had a natural birth start to do this right after delivery.
“You can put it on for as long as you want. You can even wear it when you are out and about,” he adds.
However, a mother who has delivered through a c-section is not advised to tie the stomach, because it can disrupt the healing of the wound and might lead to major health complications.
“A mother who has had a c-section birth should consult her gynecologist on when to start exercising and how often she can do it.”