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Your post-pregnancy health questions answered

Your post-pregnancy health questions answered

From when you can have sex again to when you'll lose your mum tum, here are your post-baby questions answered

How soon after birth can I exercise?
'You can go for a walk as soon as you feel up to it,' says A-list trainer James Duigan, author of Clean & Lean Pregnancy Guide. 'After about six weeks, if you feel up to it and your GP doesn't have any concerns, you can start to increase the duration of your walks or even head up and down small hills. Walking with a pram works your bottom, legs, abdominals and pelvic floor muscles. And the fresh air will boost your mood and help your baby sleep.'

When can I have sex after birth?
Most people think it's six weeks, as women have a six-week check-up with their GP. This is also the time when any vaginal stitching, bruising and tears start to heal and when post-birth bloody discharge stops. However, there's no medical reason why you can't have sex before six weeks. Do what feels right for you, and if you're unsure, ask your GP, health visitor or midwife.

Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Yes and no. Breastfeeding can be used as a natural form of birth control, but it isn't entirely reliable. Breastfeeding delays ovulation and when you're exclusively breastfeeding (which means absolutely no formula top-ups) under the age of six months and you're not having periods, this is called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). However, up to 2% of women become pregnant using LAM, so it isn't entirely reliable. When your baby starts to sleep for longer stretches, and when your periods return, or if you give the odd bottle of formula, you can get pregnant. So don't count on breastfeeding as contraception if you don't want to get pregnant again.

When will my periods return?
It varies. If you bottle-feed from birth – or mix feed with both bottles and breast – your periods may return as soon as six weeks after giving birth. If you exclusively breastfeed, your periods may not return until you stop breastfeeding altogether. However, they may return sooner if your baby starts to sleep through the night while you're still breastfeeding.

How long will it take to lose my mum tum?
By the end of your pregnancy, your uterus is around 15 times heavier than it was pre-pregnancy. It then starts to contract to its normal size, but this takes weeks, so you may look pregnant for some time after giving birth. Plus, your stomach muscles will be stretched, and you may have gained weight during pregnancy. 'Don't rush to get back in shape,' says James Duigan. 'Eating a healthy balanced diet and gentle exercise will help flatten your stomach, but take your time, be kind to yourself and respect what your body has gone through.'

By Maria Lally

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