Getting fit after pregnancy
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
Getting fit is at the top of many New Year's resolutions lists, but new moms may be more concerned with just getting through another day. Spending those first early months with a new baby sleepless, stressed and exhausted can wreak havoc on moms' fitness routines.
In addition, new moms often ignore their own health needs or feel guilty if they are spending time on themselves rather than devoting every waking minute to baby.
Cheryl Albright, an associate professor at the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i, said that in a 2005 study of postpartum women in the Islands, 64 percent were inactive after having a baby.
The Cancer Research Center's Nā Mikimiki program (which means "the active ones" in Hawaiian) was created to help new moms become more active.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
National guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists identify six to eight weeks after giving birth as the optimal time for most postpartum women to start an exercise program.
The benefits of becoming active after giving birth are many, Albright said, including increased self-esteem, getting back into shape, weight control, toning, increased energy, better sleep and stress relief. If exercising with baby, there's the added benefit of bonding.
If exercising with other moms, there is also the bonus of social support.
A mom who makes physical activity a priority provides a good role model for baby.
Whether walking baby with a stroller, hiking with baby in a pack, doing mother-baby yoga or Pilates classes, getting into a pool or simply working out while baby watches, fitness activities can set a good example.
The seriousness of postpartum inactivity is compounded in women who have had gestational diabetes mellitus during their pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes mellitus occurs when women without previously diagnosed diabetes have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. It occurs in 5 percent to 14 percent of pregnancies in the U.S., with Asian-American (particularly Filipinas and Chinese), Sāmoan and Native Hawaiians at higher risk.
Although gestational diabetes mellitus is cured after birth, a woman who has had it is at a 50 percent to 70 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes months or years after the birth of her child.
"It may be years, not months, but they need to manage their weight, watch their diets and exercise to prevent getting type 2 diabetes," Albright said emphatically.
Nā Mikimiki was awarded a grant to target mothers who had gestational diabetes mellitus in their last pregnancy, said Kara Saiki, project manager.
The National Institutes for Health is funding the Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i study.
Nā Mikimiki is looking for women to participate in the study by getting more active postpartum. They offer information, equipment, support, links to groups that can help, and even a small payment for women who sign up for the study (see box above).
For those who have had gestational diabetes mellitus, keeping fit is critical.
For other new moms, it's about being the best you can be for yourself and your baby.