Whilst pregnant with my first born, I had already mapped out my entire fitness plan from the minute I would be cleared to exercise. Needless to say, that schedule went straight out the window once he actually arrived.
The imagination of motherhood rarely tallies up with the reality – this is especially true when it comes to postnatal exercise.
We’ve collated some helpful tips about postnatal exercise that may not already be on your radar. We hope they will help new mothers create a more realistic self care plan
Your abdominals may be separated
Diastasis recti (or abdominal separation) is incredibly common amongst postnatal women. In fact, it’s believed that about 60 percent of women have diastasis recti six weeks after giving birth.
So what exactly is diastasis recti? Doctors diagnose the condition when the distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle (or six-pack abs) is two or more fingers width in distance. This separation is caused by the over stretching of the linea alba, the connective tissue between your rectus abdominis muscles. Even without a diastasis recti, most women are surprised by just how different their core feels once their baby has arrived.
The core is overstretched and the mother is left with a belly that feels weak and different. Combined with a stretched pelvic floor, this can make returning to fitness quite challenging. Exercises that strengthen the transverse abdominis (the deepest muscles in your core that wrap around your centre like a corset) help women to regain strength and stability like planks, sit-ups and medicine ball twists.
You’ll have new aches and pains
Relaxin, the hormone responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth, can linger in the body for up to six months postpartum.
This means your joints remain looser than usual and your body will be more prone to aches, pains, and injury. It’s important to be mindful that the postnatal workouts you choose are safe and not too jerky. This could include yoga, pilates or Mamma Method™ Babywearing postnatal, which is
designed to be low impact and incredibly safe on the joints.
You may wee your pants
Nervous about peeing when you cough? You’re not alone. During pregnancy and birth, the weight of your baby, hormones that loosen your tissues, and
the efforts of labour can all weaken and damage your pelvic floor. In some women, this can then lead to embarrassing leaking of wee or uncontrollable passing of wind.
If your pelvic floor is weak, crunches or general ab work can put too much pressure on the muscle and inhibit healing or even lead to a chance of organ prolapse. It’s, therefore, important to take things slow. Start by incorporating pelvic floor exercises on a daily basis to heal and strengthen the muscles.
Set a Realistic Plan for Yourself
Jumping back into your workout regimen too soon after birth is not a great idea, even for ultra-fit mothers. Your body needs time to heal and if you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you can actually set yourself back from recovery.
Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean that you need to stay in your bed for six weeks. Start slowly by taking short walks. If nothing bleeds, pulls, or aches, slowly start increasing the duration of your walks. After you’ve walked comfortably and safely for a week or two, you can start to incorporate gentle stretching and low-impact exercises.
It takes a lot of support
One important factor most women don’t consider when returning to exercise is the baby. Those days of grabbing your gym kit and heading to a class are gone and the only way to workout is if you pay for childcare, ask your family or a friend to watch your baby, or you bring your baby to a class (such as Mamma Method™ babywearing workouts).
Returning to exercise after giving birth is all about finding your feet and developing a routine that works for you and your baby. The experience will be different for everyone and there are no set rules. It’s just important that you take your time and go gentle on yourself.
Camilla Hollweck is the Co-Founder of Mamma Method™ Postnatal Fitness – the leading babywearing fitness program for new mammas. To book a live daily class that can be enjoyed from your home for £4 or to join Mamma Method™ Online visit: www.mammamethod.com. Follow Mamma Method on Instagram here or via their Facebook here.