In a world fascinated with Instagram selfies and detox teas, it’s no wonder the idea of bouncing back to your pre-baby body has become a popular goal for new moms.

Delivering a baby takes a toll on the body. And once the delivery’s over, you’re left to care for a newborn, which while wonderful and fulfilling, is also hard work on an already overworked body trying to heal.

Of course, exercise has its place in a mother’s life. It can raise energy levels, combat postnatal depression and help the body recover from labour. However, working out to get back to your pre-baby body shouldn’t be the top priority.

In general, labour can cause back pain and bladder issues, which can be extrapolated by exercise. Pregnancy hormones can also affect joints and ligaments for up to six months after birth, leaving a post-baby body more susceptible to injury. Health care professionals typically recommend abstaining from strenuous exercise in the first 12 weeks after birth.

Swimming or water aerobics should be avoided until the bleeding has stopped for at least seven days in a row, or after you’ve been cleared by a doctor. Some non-strenuous exercises that are considered appropriate post-baby include walking, yoga, low-impact aerobics, swimming and water aerobics, Pilates or cycling.

Every new mom should be tested for Diastasis Recti before they begin developing an exercise routine. Diastasis Recti, or abdominal separation, can happen during pregnancy and isn’t dependent upon delivery type. Those suffering from this condition should not perform planks, mountain climbers or any movements that put inversion-type pressure on the abdominal cavity.

If you are aiming to get back to the gym as soon as possible, you need to consult with your doctor regularly to ensure that you aren’t pushing your healing body past its limits.

All mothers experience childbirth and its aftermath completely differently. The type of activity you choose to start with depends on your birthing experience.

Exercising after vaginal birth
You can begin by gently activating the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles as early as a few days after labour.

This doesn’t mean that you need to start doing crunches and Kegel exercises right away. It means that you can start to activate these muscles while doing your daily routines and activities.

It’s always a good idea to start with a gentle walk, and over time, you can begin to increase the distance and pace of your walks. If you feel any pain, you should stop and consult a health care professional.

Exercising after a cesarean section
A cesarean section is a major operation that will take your body at least six weeks to heal. You can start by activating your pelvic muscles as soon as you are able, but you should avoid sit-ups, crunches and abdominal curls as they will put pressure on your scar.

It’s also important to avoid high-impact exercise or lifting heavy weights for three to four months after your cesarean, as your body will be working overtime to heal. When you decide to start incorporating high-impact activity into your daily routine, you should do so with your doctor’s approval and guidance.

Let’s celebrate new moms instead of talking about pre-baby bodies. The health of a new mother isn’t only beneficial for the mom, but also the baby and the entire family unit.

Bodies need time to heal. Every new mom should have a healthy and sustainable view of postpartum fitness—one that allows them to appreciate the beauty, strength and accomplishments of their current body.