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Most of us want to get our bodies back after having a baby, particularly our abdominal muscles. You can, even from Day One, begin gentle exercises that will help you do just that. At six weeks postpartum, you can ease into a more rigorous workout (with your doctor’s OK, of course).
The following moves work the various abdominal muscles and have been adapted from the “Waist Away” program designed by Elizabeth Trindade, a certified personal trainer, mother of three and founder of Strollercize Inc., a postnatal exercise program. (To order a video of “Strollercize Your Waist Away,” call 800-Y-STROLL. The cost is $20, plus $6 shipping and handling; purchase comes with a discount coupon for a Combi stroller.)
6 weeks and after
1. Knee drop Do this move slowly. Lie on your back, knees bent in toward chest, heels close to your buttocks. Extend arms out to your sides at shoulder height in a T position, palms down. Slowly let your knees drop gently to the left, lowering legs as far as you can while keeping your back in contact with the floor. Bring legs back to the center and alternate to the other side. Begin with 10 reps (1 drop to each side is 1 rep), building to 20. Strengthens primarily the obliques.
2. The big lift Lie on your back with your knees in toward your chest, heels off the floor and close to your buttocks. Lift your arms up in the air above your chest as if holding a ball. Keeping your arms in this position, tilt your pelvis and use your abs to lift your buttocks a few inches off the floor, aiming your knees at your elbows. Begin with 10 reps, building to 20. Strengthens lower abs.
3. Crisscross With your knees and arms in the same starting position as in exercise #2, turn your knees on a diagonal toward your left shoulder, and use your abs to lift your buttocks off the floor. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Begin with 5 reps and work up to 20 on each side. Do all reps on one side; then repeat with your knees turned toward your right shoulder. Strengthens all ab muscles.
4. Back roll Sit on the floor with your back erect and knees bent at a 45-degree angle, feet together in front of you. Extend arms out in front of your chest, palms down. Using your abs, begin to roll backward, toward the floor. At the point where you feel your abs really contract, hold this position and rotate your hands over the top of your belly for balance. Continue to roll down; then roll over on your side to sit up, tightening your abs, and repeat. Begin with 5–10 rolls, working up to 20. Strengthens all ab muscles.
5. The rumble Sit on the edge of a chair, knees bent, toes touching the floor. Tighten abs and round your upper back so it’s against the chair. Alternate touching your toes to the floor. Begin with 10 seconds of “rumbling,” building to 20 seconds or more. Strengthens lower abs.
6. Alternate knee lifts Begin in the same position as in exercise #5, but hold your hands out in front of your chest. Alternately, lift one knee up to your chest while keeping the opposite toe touching the ground. Tighten your abs to maintain torso control. Begin with 5 reps (a knee lift on both sides is 1 rep), working up to 10 or 15. Strengthens lower abs.