An expert, Dr Manjiri Kaba, busts one of the biggest myths about motherhood. Read on to find out the truth.
Of the many myths attached to breastfeeding, one of the most common is that exercise can affect the taste of a lactating mother’s milk. It may have some basis in truth as some sporadic studies have shown that strenuous exercise may increase the lactic acid build-up in the body which enters the milk and may make it bitter and salty. However, the important thing to note here is that it does not impact the quantity of milk or apply to moderate exercise. In our experience, we have seen that most babies will tolerate breast milk and not reject it.
When done in moderation, exercise has psychological benefits and helps improve the cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength and flexibility of a new mother. It not only benefits her physically but also helps her deal with post-pregnancy depression. It is equally important for pregnant women as it helps in dealing with their aches and pains caused by musculoskeletal discomfort. It eases pregnancy-related pain, such as lower back pain, lumbar pain and pelvic girdle pain. Exercises like stretching help the muscles to relax.
Other forms of exercises such as pelvic floor exercise i.e. Kegel; are highly recommended during pregnancy to ease delivery and avoid urinary incontinence. Moderate forms of exercise may keep the birthweight of the baby in control. It may also help in regulating pregnancy-induced hypertension and diabetes. Choosing the right kind of exercise is mandatory and knowing the correct technique is important to avoid exercise-induced trauma especially for pregnant women. We recommend high-risk mothers to avoid exercising. This includes those with a high risk of preterm labour or those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, pulmonary disease or seizure disorders.
In the absence of contraindications, pregnant and postpartum women are encouraged to engage in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity for approximately 150 minutes per week.
Too much exercising can also be harmful. Exercising beyond a few stretches is not recommended immediate postpartum or up to 40 days after birth. The body is still healing and it takes at least 40 days for the mother’s body to come back to its pre-pregnancy state. In case of a caesarian birth, we may ask mothers to avoid exercising for 3 months as it takes about 90-120 days for the abdominal fascia to regain its tensile strength. However, each patient’s body is different and it would be prudent to recommend exercise to each woman on a case to case basis.
It is important to ensure that the new mother’s workout is moderate. If she’s experiencing palpitations, then it’s an indication that she should slow down. Usually, palpitations occur when the heartbeat goes above 120-130, which is not recommended. Each person has her own tolerance towards exercise, so it’s important to listen to your own body. It can vary from woman to woman and even with the type of exercise.
Swimming is held to be the best form of exercise as the water supports the weight and decreases the strain on the joints. However, access to a clean swimming pool is difficult for the common lady. Hence, alternatives like walking, yoga and stretches are preferred. If required, she can also seek professional help from a qualified physiotherapist.
About the author: Dr Manjiri Kaba, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Saifee Hospital
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