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Postnatal Postscript
One New Parent's Fitness Odyssey
By Marian Jones   Fox News
  NEW YORK — During the predawn hours of June 28, 2000, FOXNews.com's own Hannah Kinnersley faced down the most grueling fitness challenge of her life: childbirth.

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During her labor, Hannah put to the test some prenatal fitness techniques she reported on earlier in this column. She was able to deliver her baby after just 30 minutes of pushing and five hours of contractions.

Here, we offer a postnatal postscript on how Hannah used the prenatal fitness techniques she learned and how she's dealing with getting back in shape.

Fast Labor

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William Tolan/FOXNews.com
Good for the heart:
mom-baby bonding

Hannah practiced the BAKS method, taught by Julie Tupler of Maternal Fitness in Manhattan, which stands for belly, abdominals, Kegels, stretching and strengthening. It's meant to prepare women for what Tupler calls "the marathon of labor."

Belly breathing relieves tension as it gently "wakes up" the body; ab exercises make labor faster and more effective; Kegels are the famed pelvic-floor squeezes developed by obstetrician Dr. Arnold Kegel in the late 1940s.

Hannah practiced these exercises every day and found they proved an invaluable preparation for her miraculous marathon.

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William Tolan/FOXNews.com
Ella's not heavy — yet

"During labor, you have to push with one muscle and relax with the other, and that's very unnatural," she explains. "It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. But I was used to using my muscles in that way."

Did all the prenatal abdominal exercises help make the pushes of labor more effective?

It may not have been just a physical benefit. "When you go into labor, everything goes out the window. But I was very psychologically confident because I had been doing the abdominal exercises," Hannah says.

New Mom, New Routine

Over the past month, Hannah has been too busy enjoying new motherhood to worry too much about getting back in shape. But she hasn't discontinued her routine completely.

Within several hours of giving birth, Hannah began doing Kegel exercises. These exercises help bring blood flow to the pelvic region, hastening healing of the tissue tears caused by childbirth, according to prenatal fitness experts.

"One second after delivery, you can start doing Kegels again," said Birgitta Gallo, a Beverly Hills, Calif., prenatal fitness instructor and author of Expecting Fitness: How to Modify and Enjoy Your Exercise Program Throughout Your Pregnancy.

They can even be done while nursing. "When you first have your baby, you feel like a feeding station open 24 hours," says Tupler. "But if you can do abdominal exercises and pelvic floor muscles at that point in time, you feel as if you are doing something for yourself."

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William Tolan/FOXNews.com
When Ella's a bit heavier,
she'll become a human free weight

Other light exercises, such as walking, push-ups on all fours and side leg raises, can be incorporated as time goes on. And the baby can be a part of the exercise routine.

"The minute the baby can hold its own head up, you can start using the baby as a weight to do various exercises," Gallo says.

Hannah's initial post-partum exercise plans were a little more ambitious than a few odd exercises.

"I had an elaborate plan worked out that I was going to run and sign up for a marathon next April, and would have a strict regimen every day," she laughs. "But now I would rather just spend time with my baby."