Your baby was up all night, and all that crying and screaming made sure that you were, too. Tired and exhausted, you drag yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn and wonder if you’ll ever find a semblance of who you were before you had children.
For some postnatal women, getting up and out of bed is actually a good start to their day. For others, it may be one of the most difficult things to do, especially when those baby blues haven’t gone away and you are left feeling overwhelmed, resentful, sad, or depressed. It is common to have the baby blues up to a few weeks after the birth of your baby – after all, having a baby can take a lot from your body and a lot happens in the healing process post-birth. However, when that feeling continues past about a month or if you begin having darker thoughts, it may be a good time to consult your doctor.
Baby Blues versus Postnatal Depression
Baby blues are common, and most mothers will have this from a couple of weeks up to a month post-birth – whether it’s their first, third, or fifth child. Your hormone levels drop, you are sleep-deprived, and you are now responsible for a tiny human who cannot communicate in any way other than cry, scream, poop, and puke. There is an abundance of new challenges and, with every baby, the challenges will be different. Know that this is normal and okay.
If, however, you find yourself not feeling any better, and your mood continues to be low or your thoughts darken, it’s possible that you have postnatal depression (PND). PND is likely if you have had depression before having a child or if it runs in your family. If you find yourself swinging wildly from happy to sad, struggling to get simple tasks like showering and getting dressed done, feeling anxious for most of the day, or experiencing a loss of appetite, then I highly recommend you reach out and speak to a healthcare professional.
Exercise and Postnatal Depression
I’ve always been ‘sporty’, so I continued to train through both my pregnancies. However, it wasn’t until after having my boys that I realised how important exercise was for me mentally. Until then, I always saw exercise as ‘keeping fit’ and helping my body look and feel good. Now, having completed Personal Training certifications and specialising in pre- and post-natal fitness, combined with my degree in psychology and background in coaching, I cannot begin to stress how important it is for new mums.
There have been numerous studies illustrating that making time for exercise can help improve depressive symptoms in new mums. Exercise can help you in the following ways:
- Increase the feel-good hormones in your brain. By bringing in more oxygen, it helps stimulate endorphins that help increase your sense of well-being.
- Aid in your postnatal recovery by helping strengthen your body.
- Reduce some of the baby weight.
- Help you focus. When exercising – be it for 30 minutes or an hour – you are concentrating on yourself and not the other hundreds of other things you would normally have going on.
Increasing endorphins and giving yourself a sense of well-being sets you up for the day, so if you can, exercise in the morning. When you feel good about yourself, it will cascade – like a ripple in a pond – to others around you, including your baby, partner, and friends. The tasks that were once challenging may not seem as challenging, and you will likely feel more upbeat and positive.
Don’t get me wrong, with postnatal depression, it can be really difficult to get up out of bed – let alone exercise. This is not to negate how you feel, rather simply encourage you to try. Try to get up and do something for yourself – even for just 10 to 20 minutes – as you are worth the effort.
Exercise with Your Baby
If you want to include your baby, that’s completely doable! Here are a few small exercises you can do with your baby to help both of you feel good.
- Lay your baby on the floor. Get yourself in a push-up position and, with each push-up, come down and kiss your baby. Babies absolutely love this – you will get the giggles galore!
- Squat with your baby facing outwards and, if you have a mirror, do it in front of the mirror. Babies love to see themselves! As you squat, try to make some funny noises or sounds.
- Squat to press while holding your baby under their arms and facing you. Squat then as you come up from the squat, press them above your head with a “woosh” sound. They usually love the rush and you will get a few giggles from them. Plus, it will help you get some strength and toning in your arms and shoulders – win-win!
Find a Postnatal Class or Trainer
There are several amazing companies and personal trainers who can assist you with your journey, especially here in Dubai. Check out UrbanEnergy – I trained with them pre- and post-natal. The trainers I had actually inspired me to become the trainer and coach I am today. There is also LeFitmom, which has bespoke programmes for all stages of motherhood.
There are trainers who can come to you so that you can keep within the comforts of your own home. On the other hand, if you feel like you want to get out and really embrace time for yourself, there are many postnatal training groups that you can join. Not only will you get to work out, but you’ll also connect with other mums. What better way than to do it with other mums who are all experiencing similar things? Some of my best friendships today, 12 years on, were formed with my trainer and the other mums who I trained with!
If you’re a mum in Muscat and looking for fitness advice, feel free to reach out to Sharee Hendry by clicking here.