Post natal Exercise
by Michelle Wright -post natal exercise specialist
Post natal exercise is an art form. If the magazines are to be believed, one of the most important duties of a new mum is to get her body back. For a small percentage of the population this can be relatively easy, after baby they can readily slid back into their pre-pregnancy clothing, without even the mark of a stretch mark. But as a fitness professional who has seen literally hundreds (possibly thousands?!) of women’s tummies – this is a very, very small minority.
For most women after delivering their bundle of joy, regardless of it being vaginal or by C-section, looking down on their postnatal tummy can come as quite a shock. The baby may have gone, but the bump remains – though somewhat doughy and certainly a far cry from what it once was!
Be assured, it takes around 10 months for your tummy to get into that shape – give yourself the courtesy of around 10 months for it to return to you.
Here is my three best post natal advice tips for the first 3 months post birth:
- Rest and recover Your pelvic floor has taken a fair load of your pregnancy and if you had a vaginal delivery will have some soft tissue damage (possibly more if there was any trauma involved). But it is not over once the baby is on the outside. For most mums, holding and nursing their babies for either feeding and or comfort will be a fact of your life, especially in those first months. If you are standing and holding a weight (i.e.: baby) your pelvic floor is still taking the majority of that weight. For any other muscle that had received such a beating, we would allow it to rest and recover. For example if you have a shoulder injury – would you then go to the gym and commence a long upper body work out that focused on shoulders?For every hour that you are settling your baby by holding him or her, take 20 minutes to get a load off your pelvic floor by sitting. Ideally getting your feet up as well. But if this is impossible, try to do jobs like preparing food, folding washing etc while sitting. Nap when your baby naps and makes use of all the well-meaning people in your life. Say yes, you would love an hour to sleep or a pre-prepared meal.
- If we were looking at quickly repairing any other muscle in the body, the sensible advice would be rest, good nutrition, movement and rehabilitation exercises. Why should the pelvic floor be treated any differently?
- It was not that long ago when new mothers were kept for up to a week in hospital and then almost under house arrest as extended families swooped to care for both new baby and mother. In the modern age of super women, (we can do everything, right?) we not only go home the next day after delivery, but we almost carry on as normal and juggle the demands of a newborn baby. For the first few weeks taking every opportunity to rest and get your feet up is vital. Let me explain why.
- Visit a Women’s Health Physiotherapist
A WHP is also able to diagnose if there are any other issues. Be sure to mention if you are suffering any sort of pelvic pain or discomfort.
- Don’t bother with pelvic floor exercises at the lights; good posture is essential for contracting correctly. So stand or sit tall and perform your contractions mindfully. Long and short holds are both important!
- Around 30% of women believe that they are performing correct pelvic floor exercises, when in actual fact they are bearing down. Many WHP’s use Real Time Ultrasound and you can see your pelvic floor contract on screen. This is particularly helpful if you are visual learner.
- Get outside Post Natal Depression is not only common, but also sometimes completely debilitating. However, research has shown that exercise is a major factor in avoiding or improving your mental health. Yes, the washing and dishes may be stacked to the heavens, but including a walk in the fresh air will do wonders for, as my mother use to say “blowing out the cobwebs” Walking with baby in the buggy (as opposed to in a baby carrier) will help with sleeping better and get the circulation going and should pose no threat on your pelvic floor. It can also help settle a fractious baby and give you the mental strength to cope with babies crying (and no matter how perfect your baby is – all babies cry!)
Joining an exercise option with other mothers is also another way to include beneficial exercise – though make sure that it is with a reputable provider, who is qualified and understands the limitations of your body during the first 3 months of your post natal period.