Rest is an essential part of Chinese postpartum confinement. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t start doing simple postpartum exercises.
I was surprised when I was discharged from hospital that the various Chinese brochures I was given did not include postpartum exercises. In Australia, I was reminded to do pelvic tilts and kegels regularly and given a set of exercises that I could do together with baby. And then my hospitals held low-impact postpartum exercise classes that mother and baby could attend together. But my hospital did not give me any information about exercise at all.
This does not mean, however, that women are discouraged from doing exercise after childbirth. Many confinement centers stage regular exercise classes to help ‘spicy mummies’ get back into shape quickly. And a simple search on the internet revealed a wealth of information about exercises, including these simple exercises that I found from the website ‘King Net’, which promotes itself as an online hospital website.
Of course, I am not qualified fitness expert but the exercises look like they are low-intensity so hopefully they are okay. My confinement nanny says she has seen postpartum mothers doing several, and recommended I ditch one of them because it is probably too advanced for three week’s after pregnancy. Hopefully my DIY approach will work until my confinement ends and I can get back into shape at one of the postpartum fitness workshops at Parents’ Place.
In terms of the exercises recommended by the King Net website, they are:
Suitable to begin from three days’ after birth.
Lie on the bed. Extend your arms out straight and flat, in-line with your shoulders. Slowly bring your hands together, and then very slowly return the hands to their original position. Complete five times.
Can begin seven days after birth.
Lie on the bed, with your body completely flat with arms and legs straight and palms slightly attached to your sides. Raise your head, making sure that it does not bend to either side and tuck it in so that your chin is close to your chest. Repeat ten times. Note: when doing this exercise you should not move any other part of your body.
Can begin ten days after birth, unless your perineum is still healing, in which case wait two weeks before beginning.
Lay flat on the bed, with your arms and legs in alignment. Raise up one leg at a time, making sure to keep your knees and toes straight. Complete five times on each leg. Then repeat lifting both feet up together. Make sure to use your abdominal muscles rather than rely on your arms as you do these exercises.
Buttock exercises (similar to leg exercises)
Lie flat on the bed with both arms straight and hands slightly turned into your side. Raise one leg, and bring your foot in close to the buttocks with your thigh close to your abdomen. Then straighten and lay the leg back to the bed. Repeat with the other leg for a total of five times each leg.
Vaginal contraction exercises
Can begin within half a month after birth.
Lie on the bed, with both arms flat beside you. Bend your knees, which should be shoulder width apart, and ensure that your heels are behind your knees. Lift your buttocks up off the bed. Is is important that the knees and hip muscles be in sync. Maintain this position for one to two minutes.
Uterus contraction exercises
Can begin within half a month after birth
From a sitting up position, separate your two knees so that they are shoulder width apart and lower your head down on the bed. Keep your chest and shoulders as close as possible to the bed, your waist straight, and your hips raised high. Squeeze your anal canal. At first only maintain this exercise for one minute each day, but gradually increase to up to five minutes.
Simple. Well, sort of. I should add that up until now my main exercise has been 20 to 30 minutes of meditation each day. It is not physical as such, although it is helping me to sleep better during the short bursts that I must get. But the good thing about the meditation is that it helps me block out those ‘angry bird’ baby crying moments, or painful breastfeeding issues, and focus instead on the joys of motherhood. I find it amazingly soothing.