For many women, placing the words postpartum and exercise next to each other equates to one thing: getting back in shape. And, sure, there’s nothing wrong with that. Many women feel the desire to get their pre-pregnancy bodies back, and have every right to strive for that if that;s what floats their boat. Other women, may just want to shed a few pounds as a confidence boost. Either way, exercise can be a great way to improve your health and self-image after giving birth. However, Roma van der Walt, a personal trainer and contributor for Well Rounded NY, claims that it can be more than that.
Recently, Roma van der Walt shared that one of her clients, a new mother, approached her after one of her many postpartum fitness workshops and told her, “This class, every week, is saving my life.”
Initially, Roma took it as a compliment, and figured it was attributed to the new mother’s excitement about getting back in shape. Then, the mom shared that she had recently been diagnosed with postpartum depression. The class was quite literally, as she had claimed, saving her life.
van der Walt claims to have not noticed any symptoms leading her to believe this particular mother was depressed. It appeared that she as spry and normal as any other woman 10 weeks after giving birth.
“She was so engaged during the class, I could have never imagined that she was depressed,” Roma wrote in her article for Well Rounded NY. “But as it turns out, postpartum depression isn’t much different from clinical depression: it is hard to detect the burden that rests on people who not only deal with the condition, but also fight hard to hide it from society.”
For some women, postpartum depression is a symptom of hormonal imbalance. New moms tend to experience a sudden drop in progesterone, estrogen and other hormones after giving birth. But for many more women, the demands of having it all and leaning in trigger postpartum anxiety and feelings of isolation, sadness, and failure — especially for a first-time mom.
That’s where exercise can help assuage the issues. Especially, as Roma van der Walt claims, group classes. “I’ve worked hard to prompt even the most internally driven new moms to work out with others and, in the process, learn that they are not alone in their struggles,” she claims.
“Maybe it’s the intimacy of sweating with one another and feeling like everyone is going through emotional distress, incontinence, leaking breast and hormonal changes to body odor,” suggests van der Walt. “Or maybe it’s the simple fact of working out, which releases endorphins, helps regain a positive image and, in turn, alleviates some of the heaviness of depression. Either way, I have noticed a difference. In my classes, mothers seem to have let go to the point of roaring belly laughs, cathartic crying in savasana, and ending their workouts in hugs.”
Here are some (not all) of the issues that have come up during Roma’s myriad of conversations with new moms:
- Returning to work and having to be away from your baby after only 10 weeks.
- Dealing with the “whisper wars” and judgements that come within the mom community.
- Deciding on sleep training methods.
- Having to pump milk, figuring out how much to pump or when to supplement with formula.
- Introducing a new childcare provider and maneuvering the separation anxiety that baby experiences.
- Re-introducing physical intimacy between the mom and the partner and fearing physical discomfort.
With a healthy dose of exercise, a group encouragement, and empathy from your fitness instructor, moms have what it takes to help aid in the fight against postpartum depression!
New moms, release those endorphins, and get some peace of mind in the process! Don’t let postpartum depression get the best of you.
This piece was originally published by Roma van der Walt on Well Rounded NY.